Papa Grows Funk
"…one of THE best, one of THE hottest and most important funky bands in New Orleans, we couldn't be prouder." -Quint Davis, producer of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.
Step into New Orleans' Maple Leaf Bar on a Monday night and through the smoky atmosphere emerges Papa Grows Funk. There are no playlists, no rehearsals; the only constant is the free and easy spirit of the Crescent City. Papa Grows Funk embodies the soul of New Orleans—fun, funky, unpredictable and energetic. From sultry summer nights, to the Mardi Gras revelry, to the heart pounding Jazz Fest weekends, New Orleans follows PGF whether it is at their regular gig at the Maple Leaf Bar or Club Quattro in Tokyo, Japan.
What started as an all-star jam session eight and a half year ago on a Monday night at Algiers Old Point Bar has blossomed into one of New Orleans' most successful funk bands selling. PGF now has a regular Monday night gig at the Maple Leaf, which has been a regular gig for the band for over eight years. Without the help of a record label or distribution deal, the group sold an impressive 30,000 copies combined of their four albums. Over the years, the band has accumulated a huge fan base due to extensive touring averaging about 100 shows on the road per year and producing fresh, original music.
The group consists of musicians who have deep roots in New Orleans music. Anchored around the slinky Hammond B3 grooves of band leader John Gros (George Porter, Jr. and the Runnin' Pardners), Papa Grows Funk's all-star lineup features New Orleans' finest musicians and funkiest characters, including internationally renowned June Yamagishi (Wild Magnolias) on guitar, Marc Pero (FuncHause) on bass, Jason Mingledorff (Galactic) on saxophone and “Jellybean” Alexander (Jon Cleary), who replaced Russell Batiste, Jr. in 2005, on drums. Influenced by George Porter and the Running Pardners, Dr. John, the Meters and the Neville Brothers, Papa Grows Funk are the guardians of New Orleans funk. PGF never imitates but only continually stretches the bounds of New Orleans music, turning ears and shaking hips wherever they perform.
As the Hammond B3 purrs and Jellybean's cymbals ripple in the background, lead singer John Gros asks the crowd, “can you feel the music?” Just as inherent as breathing, the band transitions to another tempo as Pero's knee-dropping beats hammer through Mingledorff's wailing saxophone. June's guitar riff signals another shift in tempo. What is in store for the crowd is an evening of New Orleans classics, original material, spontaneous jams and hip shaking, funky music that is Papa Grows Funk.
Locally, Papa Grows Funk's memorable Maple Leaf shows are held in as high regard as the famous cuisine from Galatoire's. All the requisite ingredients for an ear-tickling musical gumbo are here: steaming Hammond, chinky guitar, wailing sax, and, of course, a rhythm section heavy enough to keep one anchored to the dance floor. Following the footsteps of the legendary Meters, PGF keeps its music unbelievable tight and its beats syncopated but greases it up with loose, jazzy improvisation.
In 2009 Papa Grows Funk will produce a fifth album and thus a new chapter for the band. The band will promote their fifth album and continue to bring the spirit of New Orleans funk at every performance. They have a loyal fan base and have earned respect from so many musicians. Russell Batiste, Jr. says it best about the band's future: “[Papa Grows Funk has] so much music waiting in the wings that people will have to hang around a long time to hear it. There's no limit to how far this group can go."