Papa Grows Funk
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 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 the Old Point Bar on Algiers Point has blossomed into one of New Orleans' most successful funk bands. In 2001, the Monday night residency moved Uptown to the Maple Leaf Bar, where it has continued to this day. Without the help of a record label or distribution deal, the group has sold an impressive 30,000 combined copies of their four albums. Over the years, the band has accumulated a huge fan base through extensive touring averaging about 100 shows per year and producing fresh, original music.
Papa Grows Funk's all-star lineup features New Orleans' finest musicians and funkiest characters, all of whom have deep roots in New Orleans music. Anchored around the slinky Hammond B3 grooves of band leader John Gros (George Porter, Jr. and Runnin' Pardners) is internationally renowned June Yamagishi (Wild Magnolias) on guitar, Marc Pero (Smilin’ Myron) on bass, Jason Mingledorff (Galactic) on saxophone and Jeffery “Jellybean” Alexander (Jon Cleary), who replaced Russell Batiste, Jr. in 2005, on drums. Influenced by Dr. John, the Meters and the Neville Brothers, Papa Grows Funk are the guardians of New Orleans funk. PGF continually stretches the bounds of New Orleans music, turning ears and shaking hips wherever they perform.
As the Hammond B3 growls and Jellybean's cymbals ripple in the background, lead singer John Gros entices the crowd with the question, “can you feel the music?” Just as natural as breathing, the band transitions to another groove as Pero's knee-dropping beats hammer through Mingledorff's wailing saxophone. June's guitar riff signals another dynamic shift. 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 New Orleans music tradition, PGF keeps its music unbelievable tight and its beats syncopated but greases it up with loose, jazzy improvisation.
In 2011 Papa Grows Funk will begin 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 with 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."