New Orleans Suspects will bring a gumbo of a show to Canyons
Band will play July 1
Keyboardist C.R. Gruver said New Orleans Suspects will bring a little bit of the band’s hometown to the Canyons Village Stage on July 1.
“New Orleans was the biggest port city of the country for many years and ships would bring in many different influences from different countries in Africa, South America, Europe,” Gruver said during a phone call from his New Orleans home. “People who came to New Orleans added their own little flavor, so you have funk, jazz, old-school rhythm and blues and other styles. The music of New Orleans is an infusion of all of those elements that creates this danceable, high-energy sound.
“One word that best describes the music is gumbo. Gumbo is like a stew with a lot of different ingredients. There’s rice, sausage, shrimp and spices. Everyone’s gumbo is different. It’s like an art form.”
The band — Gruver, drummer “Mean” Willie Green, bassist Eric Vogel, guitarist Jake Eckert and saxophonist Jeff Watkins — will play its delicious music at 5:15 p.m., sandwiched between Tony Holiday & the Velvetones and John Nemeth.
Like the music scene in New Orleans, Gruver’s band is a sum greater than its parts.
“There are three people in the band who are not actually from New Orleans, and we brought in our own flavors,” Gruver said. “Jeff played with James Brown, who was from Georgia.
Jake came from Georgia, where Southern rock ruled. I come from Philadelphia, a place that has it’s own funk and soul.”
New Orleans Suspects came together casually nine years ago, when the musicians were in different bands.
Original bassist Reggie Scanlan was in the Radiators. Eckert was the lead guitarist for the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. Green was drumming for the Neville Brothers. Watkins, after leading the late James Brown’s Band, including the group’s induction in the Rock and Roll hall of Fame, became an engineer, and Gruver cut his teeth in groups such as Outformation and Polytoxic before touring with Angie Aparo.
“There is this bar called the Maple Leaf down here and we all lived in the neighborhood,” Gruver said. “Every now and then the owner, Hank Staples, would call around for musicians, whom he called ‘the usual suspects,’ to fill a spot if a band didn’t show up. So we came together like a pick-up band that played a couple of gigs under that circumstance.”
The musicians felt a special chemistry during these shows.
“Jake had, and still has, a studio in his back yard and every now and then he’d get a new piece of equipment and we would test it by recording a song,” Gruver said. “Before you knew it, we had six or seven tunes recorded.”
In 2011, the Radiators had broken up and the Neville Brothers stopped touring.
“At that time Jake was ready for a change, so we all decided to make a run at it and Reggie brought in management and a booking agent,” Gruver said. “Now, here we are four records later and many miles under our belts.”
Last fall, the band released its most recent album “Kaleidoscoped.”
“We have gotten better as a band, not only in the writing process, but the recording process, so I would say ‘Kaleidoscoped’ is the most cohesive sounding record that we have done,” he said.
It also helped that in the past six years, Eckert, who is also an recording engineer, has won two Grammy Awards, Gruver said.
Playing on keyboards is something Gruver has always done. He actually started tickling the keys when he was 3 years old.
“My parents listened to a lot of records, and we had a piano,” he said. “I would pick out melodies I heard on these records, and my parents realized that I had some kind of aptitude for music.”
When Gruver was 9 he began taking lessons from his church organist.
“I was taught classical music and music theory,” he said. “And that led me to where I am now.”
Gruver said he is looking forward to the Park City show.
“We’re ready to play our high-energy music for everyone,” he said. “We want to get people up and dancing. And don’t worry. We don’t have any ballads. I don’t think we’ve ever tried to play one.”
New Orleans Suspects will play at 5:15 p.m. on Saturday, July 1, at Canyons Village. The concert is free and open to the public. For information, visit http://www.neworleanssuspects.com or follow the band on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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