When Keith Richards thinks that you are rock n’ roll cool, you must be doing something right. Such is the case for NOLA icon Ivan Neville, an X-Pensive Wino, a crucial member of his storied musical family The Neville Brothers, and the leader of local funk institution Dumpstaphunk. Like many of the iconic players in the scene, Ivan is a madman with the gig schedule this time of year. Luckily, he had a few moments to check in with Live For Live Music’s B.Getz and drop knowledge on all things NOLA.
Live For Live Music: Well Ivan, Jazz Fest is upon us once again. As usual, so much going on. Let’s start with the Crawfish Festival coming up. Can you tell us about how you got together with Cris Jacobs and the Neville-Jacobs project?
Ivan Neville: We met through a mutual friend of ours. Basically he had a band called The Bridge, and we met on the festival circuit—actually in New Orleans playing during Jazz Fest season, and we kind of hit it off. We ended up getting together a couple of times to collaborate at some gigs here and there. That turned into something pretty special—chemistry—and we started doing stuff, pretty much a record’s worth of material that became the album Neville-Jacobs.
L4LM: So fitting that the relationship started in New Orleans, and then naturally you called your friends. So you have Tony Hall from Dumpstaphunk on bass and drummer Brady Blade also in that band, right?
Ivan Neville: Yeah, Tony Hall and Brady Blade play in it with me and Cris. They also play on the record we made.
L4LM: Cool. In the live setting, do you all play just original material off the record, or do you bring out some covers too?
Ivan Neville: Mostly stuff that we recorded, originals, and we will throw a few covers on there. We are fortunate enough to have Shira Elias from the band Turkuaz singing with us. Also, we have Theresa Anderson coming too, who played violin and sang on the Neville-Jacobs record. It’ll be pretty interesting, pretty fun.
[Dumpstaphunk by FRENCHY]
L4LM: Great, I love Theresa Anderson. Seen her for years down there. And if Shira ain’t badd, then I don’t know who is! That sounds like a solid squad right there for the Crawfish Fest hit. Definitely stoked to hear something different with those ladies in the mix. Moving on, I talked to Shaggy, to Cris, Terence. Just want your spin on that—the music, the crawfish boils, you know, the cultural significance of that in New Orleans.
Ivan Neville: That’s what New Orleans is about. You know, good music, good food, good people, that’s it. The combination is undeniable. And we definitely love to do it with the people. That is New Orleans right there.
L4LM: That’s right. You and Shaggy go back a long way?
Ivan Neville: Yeah, I’ve known Shaggy a long while, ever since he’s been out here doing his thing, the whole idea of New Orleans—that is music and people, and not necessarily in that order.
L4LM: I like that. I like that. I’ve been going to Jazz Fest for a long time and paying attention to what you’ve been doing. One thing I know is that you throw down uptown! Can you tell us about that how that works over at Tipitina’s on the last night of Jazz Fest?
Ivan Neville: Yeah, because it’s basically that we all come out of the family of the leaders in the Neville Brothers, and me and Ian, our last name is Neville, Tony Hall, and Nick Daniels III are alumni of said Neville Brothers. We come from what is New Orleans and what is New Orleans for us. So what better way to close out the Jazz Fest than with Dumpstaphunk. It’s been a tradition for several years now. We got DJ Soul Sister going to lay down the grooves, spinning records in between things, and you know it’s always going to be a fun time. You never know who is going to show up!
L4LM: Yeah, y’all always bring the most random guests out. Whether it’s members of the Original Meters or local legends, you’re always bringing people out. I never want to miss it. Any other gigs you want to tell the people about? Anything you’re doing you want to get the word out?
Ivan Neville: In particular, I got a piano set that’s on Wednesday at the Blue Nile. That’s one of my favorite things to do: the Ivan Neville piano sessions at 9 p.m. at Blue Nile on Wednesday. Other than that, we are just throwing down everywhere. Ian is going to be playing with Dr. Klaw on Friday night as well as myself with some others at the Howlin’ Wolf for Bayou Rendezvous. Dumpsta is playing first Friday at the Wolf. We are going to be mixing it up all over the place.
L4LM: Last question. Besides your gigs, since you are the prodigal son of the Neville Brothers family tradition, and, now to us Jazz Festers, basically the Godfather (laughs), I want Ivan Neville’s opinion on what I can’t miss? Who do people, you know, out-of-towners, who do we got to make to see?
Ivan Neville: I would say always definitely catch the Original Meters if they are playing, and they do play on the first Saturday at Orpheum Theater. Art Neville and all those guys are going to be doing that thing for real. I would also try to go and see Trombone Shorty wherever you can see him, and you definitely need to catch Dumpstaphunk somewhere, whether it’s the first weekend at Wolf or the last Sunday at Tips. Of course at the Fairgrounds, you’re going to see a lot of people out there. One of my personal favorites is my piano gig on the Wednesday at Blue Nile because it’s a different side of me you usually don’t see: Ivan playing piano and singing. Some of it’s funky, but it’s mostly different than what I normally do. But, there’s something to do every night. We are playing every night somewhere. You know, you got the Lettuce crew hanging out all over the place, you got the Dumpsta guys hanging out doing different things. It’s going to be a party everywhere, everywhere you go.
L4LM: I got to say, I saw you your piano sessions on Jam Cruise and that’s a real special thing. Hear that people? Ivan Neville Piano Sessions! And Neville-Jacobs at the Crawfish Fest. And Dumpstaphunk all over town. Thanks Ivan, for your time and all you do and I’ll see you sometime next week.