FUNK FOUNDATION: A Portrait of The Meters
by Francis X. Pavy
It's appropriate that the artist whose surreal rendering of the Neville Brothers (JF97), showing them - literally - in a new light that became an instant classic, be called upon to depict the very origins of funk a decade before the Brothers formed their band. The Nevilles included the original Meters keyboardist / vocalist Art Neville, so we asked Francis Pavy to take us back even earlier and reunite the 1966 supergroup of Art, George Porter, Jr. (bass), Joseph “Zigaboo” Modeliste (drums) & Leo Nocentelli (guitar), immortal - and still performing - as The Meters. Pavy responded with a visual bravado as muscular as the band’s performances are rare.
A master of South Louisiana iconography, Pavy leverages stage lighting in this imagined portrayal of America's pioneering funk band performing at the old Municipal Auditorium half a century ago, manipulating light in a manner last seen in his swaggering portrait of Jerry Lee Louis (JF07). He sets the stage with an undulating burgundy velvet curtain embroidered with French Quarter buildings descending from a moonlit graduated midnight sky filigreed with cloud puffs. The formal, majestic yet surreal setting perfectly counterpoints the tight, driving funk his subjects propel from the stage. Their sinewy postures make these four uniquely inventive musicians visually audible. From the soul of his fingers through his mind's heart, Pavy delivers eternal verity. This Cajun sure can paint, cher, as noted by his collectors including: Capitol Records, The New Orleans Museum of Art, Ron Howard, Lorne Michaels, Paul Simon and Jimmy Buffett (JF11) to name drop but a few. We're lucky that his 10-year appearance cycle coincided with our honoring The Meters.
Musicologists know The Meters as one of the founding fathers of funk; New Orleans’ down-home parallel to the more urban sounds of Sly Stone and James Brown. They were the house band for Allen Toussaint (JF09) and his record label (behind Lee Dorsey, Earl King, Ernie K-Doe (CS14) and Toussaint himself, among others) beginning in late 1966. In 1969 they released "Sophisticated Cissy" and "Cissy Strut," which became Top 10 R&B chart hits. Zigaboo’s syncopated percussion knits behind Leo’s guitar and Art’s organ grooves to create a unique sound that earned them a cognoscenti cult following, furthered with their playing behind Dr. John, Betty Harris and Biscuit Boy.
In 1975 The Meters released “Fire on the Bayou,” an album that included the Top 40 hit "Hey Pocky A-Way." The band opened for the Rolling Stones’ 1975 and 1976 tours. Also in 1975, they worked on the Wild Tchoupitoulas project with Art's uncle George Landry (“Big Chief Jolly”). In 1977, after eight studio albums, The Meters disbanded. It took until 2000 for the band to reunite in a blow-away performance at the historic Warfield Theatre in San Francisco, California that was repeated at Jazz Fest in 2006 and 2015. This rare event will be resurrected to close out the 2017 Festival. Don’t even think of missing it.
Those fortunate enough to hear them live experience an extraordinarily powerful band. While they never broke into the widest mainstream, their sound powered much of the funk and hip-hop created since the 1980’s. Perhaps you’ve heard of some of the folks who sampled them into their works: 2Pac, Aaliyah, Timbaland, Nelly Furtado, Ice-T, Black Eyed Peas, Salt-N-Pepa, Wu-Tang Clan, Queen, Sugar Ray, Big Daddy Kane, Captain Murphy, Run-DMC, Queen Latifah, LL Cool J, Beastie Boys, Musiq, NWA, Cypress Hill, EPMD, Public Enemy, A Tribe Called Quest, Naughty by Nature, Tweet, Eminem and, oh yeah, even Michael Jackson, Miles Davis and Whitney Houston. The Meters' music were the main loops for Amerie’s “1 Thing,” which was nominated for two Grammy’s and was #1 on the R & B Charts. Their songs powered films including "Two Can Play That Game,” “Jackie Brown,” “Drum Line,” “8 Mile,” “Hancock,” “Red” and “Legend,” and commercials including Nike and Google among others. Who d’at? Now ya know.
8,500 Numbered prints on archival paper, 20” x 32”; $69
1,600 Artist-signed & numbered prints on 100% rag paper, 21” x 33”; $239
450 Artist signed and pencil remarqued by Pavy and signed by Art, George, Zig & Leo, numbered Remarque prints on 100% rag paper, 23” x 36”; $595
300 Artist-overpainted, signed by the artist and The Meters & numbered C-Marque canvas screen prints, 25" x 39" (unstretched size); $895
Poster specifications & digital image may vary slightly from actual print.
Image ©2017 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival Foundation, Inc. / Text ©2017 ProCreations Publishing Company.