Their time has come at last. After spending years, even decades, providing some of the greatest backline support New Orleans music has heard, the brilliant sidemen George Porter Jr., Russell Batiste Jr., and Brian Stoltz, (Porter Batiste Stoltz) are ready for their close-up. “It’s now time to focus all of our efforts on this, right here, right now,” says Porter Jr. “This is where we want to be. We might be walking away from some decent projects but we believe in this and in each other.”
Everyone else who hears Porter Batiste Stoltz believes, too, which is why the prospect of a new album from the group is reason to get excited. There’s no denying the trio’s pedigree, and their chops are miles wide and oceans deep. Porter is the original bass player for the Meters, a group that virtually defined New Orleans rockin’ funk, while Batiste and Stoltz joined Porter in the latter day incarnation of that band, the Funky Meters.
“We all come from old school New Orleans,” says Stoltz. “I grew up listening to the Beatles and Hendrix, but we still have that deep New Orleans background.”
A few years ago, when Funky Meter Art Neville opted to go back to the band bearing his family’s name, Porter Batiste Stoltz saw opportunity, not disappointment. Rather than continue on with the measured but explosive Meter-like grooves, Porter Batiste Stoltz decided to explore a little, to tinker with the foundation of their funky sound.
The result of that tinkering was a debut album, the aptly titled Expanding the Funkin’ Universe (2005). “The stuff we do together can only happen with the three of us,” says Batiste. “We have a deep respect for the groove. We sound like Porter Batiste Stoltz and only Porter Batiste Stoltz, that’s what’s so special about this band.”
All the tracks on the new album begin with a great idea, and improve from there. “It’s more like a funk rock kind of thing with a strong pocket,” says Porter, “a bass line that connects with the drummer and allows for the rhythm stuff and the lead chords to do whatever.”
The rhythms are inimitable, as only first-call New Orleans players can lay down. But they’re also real songs. Stoltz, who has a songwriting background, adds greater dimension to the PBS collaborations, casting the melodies of classy pop and rock into the rawness of great R&B. “There’s a big difference in our approach,” says Stoltz. “We work very fast in Porter Batiste Stoltz, with the grooves coming first and finding topics to sing about later. There’s more intuition and less thinking, which makes it really fun.”
While their debut album offered funk, groove, fusion, rock, hyphenated style freakout, the new album, says Porter, promises to feature more focus and less wild-eyed indulgence. “We’ve taken a real step forward in the groove and we learned some things from the first record that’s made this next one really special.”
Batiste, accustomed to the more spontaneous approach in the studio, agrees: “To me it’s better because we’re more unified. The constructions on this album came from jams, right off the top of our heads. Now we’re talking grooves!” Stay tuned for information on the next album release by Porter Batiste Stoltz.