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Porter Batiste Stoltz with Kyle Hollingsworth Owsley's Golden Road Denver, Colorado March 17, 2009
It was another funk marathon Tuesday night in Denver as Porter, Batiste, Stoltz got their New Orleans groove on for St. Patrick's Day. This isn't a 90-minute-set-and-gone band; how about two 90 minute sets? Actually, that's a little bit of an exaggeration, their first set was only 80 minutes; and it started at 10:30. With a break between sets, it was after 2 A.M. by the time the band wrapped it upon a Tuesday night.
The power/funk trio was actually a quartet that night because they were joined by Kyle Hollingsworth on keyboards. Hollingsworth is from String Cheese Incident, a band known more for hula hoops and fairy wings than for funk, but he fit right in. He spent most of his time on the Hammond B-3 but also worked on a Rhodes electric piano and a couple synthesizers. PBS is a pretty tight, well-rehearsed unit, so most of the time his contribution was adding to the foundation with some tasty B-3 ruminations. Of course, the band made room for numerous keyboard solos throughout the evening. The highlight of Hollingsworth's contributions came when guitarist Stoltz strolled across the stage, got right up close to the B-3, and the two traded some hot licks over the top of Porter's and Batiste's incessant grooves. Porter played some keyboard in his past, and he couldn't resist stepping up to the closest synthesizer and play around a little bit, even though the keyboard was upside down from his perspective.
There's no doubt these guys like to play. Tuesday night they kicked off with what might as well be their theme song, "All We Wanna Do (Is Get Funky For You)." That one has a guitar lick so infectious the Health Department is investigating. Other originals included "I Get High" and "Bring the Flood." They also covered Buddy Miles' "Them Changes" and Hendrix' "The Wind Cries Mary." Many of their tunes are instrumentals, but each band member sings, adding another dimension to their music. No one will confuse any of the vocals with Sinatra, but they're adequate. It's the instrumental playing that puts this band at the head of its class. George Porter, Jr. is one of the top groove-merchants on bass on the scene today. Russell Batiste, Jr. started playing drums at age 4 and, from the sound of his playing, hasn't spent much time away from the drum kit since then. Brian Stoltz on guitar scratches, syncopates, throws down intense solos, often using pedal effects and writes many of the band's songs.
Owsley's is a stand up-joinwhich is just as well considering that the grooves these guys pump out are the kind that grab you by the lapels (even if you're not wearing any) and demand some movement, any kind of movement. That's why it didn't seem to be much of a problem to stay up with guys until past 2 A.M. on a Tuesday night. They're sonic Red Bull.
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.