New Orleans Suspects Celebrates Quixote’s Anniversary in New Location

:: Quixote’s True Blue ::
:: (new location at 13th and Grant) ::
:: November 23 and 24 ::

By Timothy Dwenger

To say that the music of New Orleans is rich with history and cultural influences would be an understatement of epic proportions. While the city is widely considered to be the birthplace of jazz, its influence on today’s musical landscape stretches far beyond that one genre. With thriving jazz, blues, funk, rock, and R&B scenes, bands come and go in the Crescent City like tourists passing through for a weekend of music fueled fun. While many of these groups and side projects never see the light of another city, occasionally one will fall into a groove that is undeniably worthy of attention outside of the hallowed musical city.

The New Orleans Suspects are one of the bands that has fallen into a groove and made it out of New Orleans and they are rapidly working their way into the consciousness of educated music fans around the country. With a sound that’s familiar enough to be welcoming and yet challenging enough to please the most critical of purists, The Suspects are putting their own spin on the music of New Orleans as they layer boogie-woogie piano, soulful blues guitar, and jazzy horns on top of funky bass lines and complex rhythms. The result is a wildly infectious sound that pays tribute to everyone from James Booker and Bobby Charles, to The Meters and Galactic.

“The New Orleans Suspects are a supergroup, and while they are a New Orleans supergroup, they go far beyond New Orleans,” said Jay Bianchi, the owner of Quixote’s True Blue, during a recent interview with The Marquee about Quixote’s 16th anniversary party that The Suspects are headlining. “For me, The Radiators and The Neville Brothers and all those bands just say ‘New Orleans,’ but The New Orleans Suspects are in a different category. They are like the quintessential American band; they’re not a Southern band, they’re not a California band, they’re not a Colorado band, they’re a band that represents all of America.”

Featuring members of The Radiators, The Neville Brothers, and The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, The Suspects have close ties to New Orleans music royalty, and with the addition of Jeff Watkins, who spent twelve years on saxophone as the leader of James Brown’s band, and CR Gruver, who founded Denver’s own Polytoxic, the group truly embodies the “super-group” moniker that’s been bestowed upon them.

With everyone focused completely on The Suspects as their full-time job, the band has had the opportunity to develop musically and push each other to be the best they can be. While drummer Willie Green (Neville Brothers), guitarist Jake Eckert (The Dirty Dozen), bassist Reggie Scanlan (The Radiators) and Watkins have all put time in playing with some of the biggest names in the business and came to the table with well publicized resumes, Scanlan calls Gruver the band’s secret weapon. “I met him on the first gig that we ever did,” Scanlan said while chatting on the phone with The Marquee over lunch at a New Orleans cafe on a beautiful afternoon. “He was totally off my radar and when we started playing and I was like, ‘Whoa! This guy’s on a totally different level from most of these other piano players around here. He’s not skipping through notes on “Big Chief” or any of that stuff, he’s actually playing ‘em all.’ So he really impressed me that first time.  I was expecting somebody who was confident and could make a good showing and be a good player, but I wasn’t expecting anything on the level of what he actually is. He’s really good at coming up with arrangement ideas and he’s written some cool songs. He’s totally over the top.”

Obviously, his bandmates in The Suspects agree, as Gruver’s playing and singing is featured all over the group’s self-titled debut album that was just released in October. The album features original tunes written by Gruver, Eckert, and the rest of The Suspects, alongside covers inspired by Taj Mahal, James Booker, and Ry Cooder. It’s a rollicking record and they had such a good time making it that they are already working on the follow-up, which they expect to be released in time for next year’s New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival (a.k.a. Jazz Fest).

While The Suspects’ sound definitely highlights the fun, party atmosphere of New Orleans, things haven’t all been fun and games for the band over the last eight months. Back in March, Scanlan got the heartbreaking news that he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and was going to have to go through a pretty intense surgery. But, fortunately, Scanlan is doing miraculously better. “I feel absolutely terrific and as far as my scans show, I’m totally cancer free right now,” Scanlan revealed. “I have to say I am really lucky. My operation was sixteen hours long, and most people six, eight months down the line can’t even keep food down. I’m eating just about anything I want right now. I’m doing really well and I feel extremely lucky to be able to say that.”

While Scanlan is without a doubt extremely lucky, his attitude through the whole ordeal was extremely upbeat. He wasn’t going to let cancer slow him down more than it had and even played a gig at Jazz Fest with The Suspects just three days after getting out of the hospital. Sure, it wiped him out, but in his words, “It was actually more therapeutic than staying at home. You know, I could have stayed at home and rested, which my doctors would have been happy with, but at least I was doing something that was keeping me mentally healthy.”

Now that he is mentally and physically healthy, Scanlan is looking forward to coming back to Colorado for Quixote’s 16th anniversary party. He’s played at Bianchi venues several times over the years and raved about the scene here in the Mile High City. “We always have a great time playing up there, because we all have roots up there with former bands,” Scanlan said. “For some reason there’s a huge New Orleans connection in Colorado. I don’t know how it happened but people in Colorado seem very connected to New Orleans music. They seem to really like it, they get it, they know a lot of it, and they know a lot of people who play it. It’s hard not to like a place like Colorado too, you get up there and it’s like total eye candy land.”

The Suspects have played at Quixote’s on Lawrence Street location a couple of times now, but when they return for the Anniversary Party, the venue will have relocated to its fifth location in 16 years. The new space will be where Bender’s Tavern has been for the past nine years at 13th and Grant, and Bianchi is excited about the move. “It is a really cool space,” he said. “I’m actually really excited about it and I feel like it’s got the best of Quixote’s with the two stages while it’s also got the best of Sancho’s.”

That description should whet a lot of appetites for the new venue (which is scheduled for a soft opening on the weekend of November 9­­) and Scanlan’s philosophy about playing live will only help to build anticipation for what is sure to be a raucous anniversary weekend. “If you’re gonna have someone pay fifteen, twenty five, thirty dollars for a ticket,” he said, “then your responsibility is to deliver something, and not some half-assed, half-baked show.”

 

:: New Orleans Suspects ::

:: Quixote’s True Blue ::

:: (new location at 13th and Grant) ::

:: November 23 and 24 ::

 

Recommended if you Like:

• Allen Toussaint

• Dr. John

• The Radiators

 

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