By MIKE CHAIKEN
Sometimes a musical busman’s holiday for a group of musicians with homes in prominent bands sounds like it’s merely a diversion to fill time between projects.
Other times, it feels like a record company’s marketing effort – a musical Fantasy Football game.
And the manufactured aspect of these groups often dooms the effort to a one-and-done musical legacy.
The New Orleans Suspects easily could have fallen into those categories.
Consider the group’s pedigree.
There’s Reggie Scanlan on bass (The Radiators, Professor Longhair Band); “Mean” Willie Green on drums (Neville Bros.); Jeff Watkins on saxophone (James Brown Band, Joss Stone Band); Jake Eckert on guitar/vocals (Dirty Dozen Brass Band); and CR Gruver on keyboards and vocals (Polytoxic, Outformation). And Charlie Wooton (formerly of Royal Southern Brotherhood) is stepping in for Scanlan as the group hits the road.
The New Orleans Suspects come to the Infinity Hall in Norfolk on Thursday, Sept. 29.
But, the New Orleans Suspects have managed to be an ongoing concern.
The group not only has one album under its belt, it has three. The latest effort “Kaleidoscoped,” was just released. And the group finds itself on the road again.
In a phone call, Jake said the fact the group has continued as an ongoing concern three albums in is interesting. And, he said, “It feels good.”
Part of the reason for the band’s longevity, said Jake, is that its construction was not “contrived.”
The members often would find them gigging together at a bar in New Orleans. And they decided to form a group since they already liked working with one another.
So the move to form a group seemed like a natural outgrowth of the existing musical brotherhood, said Jake.
Along the way, he explained, the New Orleans Suspects progressed to the point where they were not only a group, but a business, picking up management and a record label.
One of the dimensions that has helped the New Orleans Suspects, explained Jake, is the chemistry between the members. The chemistry’s doesn’t exist just on a musical level, he said, but it’s on a personal level as well.
“Our lives and careers ran parallel,” said Jake. The opportunity to play as the Suspects arrived at the right as their previous gigs wrapped up.
When you hear the music by The New Orleans Suspects, you can tell it’s the New Orleans Suspects.
Jake attributed this individuality to the unique way each member interprets the sounds of New Orleans music. “The parts are more important than the players,” said Jake.
The process of creating music for the New Orleans Suspects is as varied as the members’ approach to the music of New Orleans, explained Jake. “The formula changes for each song.”
“Sometime you plant a seed and run it through the machine and it takes form,” said Jack.
Sometimes Jeff will offer up a chord progression, said Jake, and he and CR will build the lyrics over that progress.
Other songs take other approaches, said Jake.
The new album also features a couple of special guests including long-time friends of the Suspects, Fred Tackett and Paul Barrere from Little Feat.
Jake said the Suspects and Fred and Paul have been good friends ever since the two groups toured together in 2008. For that tour, each group would take its turn on stage and then they would end the evening performing as together.
When the New Orleans Suspects stepped into the studio for “Kaleidoscoped,” Jake said Tackett and Barrere suggested they record a song they wrote called, “Dixie Highway.”
Jake said the track had “strong symbolism about the road and it leads to nowhere… It’s very Little Feat.” But rather than simply recording the song themselves, Jake said the New Orleans Suspects invited Fred and Paul to be part of the recording.
When the New Orleans Suspects take to the stage, Jake said fans can expect an evening of party music and dance music. The Suspect bring in a lot of musical elements for a completely original sound, said Jake. Fans will find a little Southern rock, a little bit of New Orleans music, and a little bit of second line funk.
Overall, said Jake, “Expect to get a little bit of a New Orleans jazz fest (when the Suspects take the stage).”
The New Orleans Suspects perform at the Infinity Hall, Route 44, Norfolk on Thursday, Sept. 29 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $19, $24, and $34.
For more information go to InfinityHall.com or NewOrleansSuspects.com