I've seen many iterations of this band over the years. It's my understanding that the original Runnin Pardners were the original members of Papa Grows Funk. Then, sometime before Jazzfest 02, George fired them because he felt they were spending too much time on PGF and not enough on his band. The other guys were bummed about it at the time, although I think it's a non-issue today and probably soon after. It was fascinating to me as I was just starting to travel toand I was amazed at how close knit the community is down there. It really is a huge family.
I did see George's brand new version that year. I was thrilled to see any music in NOLA, so I was happy. It was downstairs at the Rock and Bowl and the manager was going through a seamless set transition phase. Rebirth played and when they were done they were supposed to call George up and keep playing something while George's band took the stage and started playing. The only thing was, George didn't hear the call and so Rebirth had to keep playing "She's a Bad Mamma Jamma" until they got George and had the seamless transition. It was awkward, but a lot of fun for me.
I liked the saxophone player George had, he was a little different. Still, the band was a quartet and a little disappointing. I asked someone where the guitar player was and was told "he couldn't get a guitar". Huh. That's actually happening on Treme right now - a little over a year later post Katrina and Antoine doesn't have many options for guitar players. If you think about it, it's another thing that sets NOLA apart. They have an obscene amount of horns, and an abundance of drummers and organs. They certainly have some phenomenal guitar players - Renard Poche, Jun Yamaguchi, Steve Masakowski, Anders Osborne. Then there's Twangorama. Yet, compared to the plenitude of musicians in that town, guitar isn't as prominent as in other places. Interesting.
There was definitely a weird vibe around George Porter Jr. & the Runnin Pardners that year. The next time I saw them was maybe 5 years later, the only time I went to Hall. That was completely different people and a bunch of bands. It was OK. I really didn't like the venue - too big, too much light, too warehousey. There were a lot of horns in George's band then and no one I recognized.
I don't remember seeing them again until now. Given my history with them, I wasn't expecting much. It was a whole other quintet with good musicians. They started off with a drum solo, which is always a plus for me. He had me dancing right away. The guitar was good and funky. The sax was phenomenal. George said they were lucky to have him for this one time. They were indeed! The 2 keyboards were good. I remember thinking "George Matters!" a lot as they played. I also remember it kept popping up on my there "George is the funkiest one on town". I was very happy when they did "Funkify Your Life". After that, they were playing for 1/2 hour and things were feeling more Meters-ish than previously. Before, I felt that George was freshening up the Meters tunes and this wasn't another Meters cover band. I took it as an opportunity to get out of there and get some sleep.
From the listing:
Today after a great run with Porter Batiste Stoltz, Porter is back at home with a smaller Runnin’ Pardners Band five down from seven pieces, todays income wont take care of the lager band. Runnin’ Pardners today will be Brint Anderson/guitar, Michael Lemmler/ keyboards, Khristopher (Khris) Royal/sax & keys and new kid on the block Terrance Houston/Drummer. This line-up is and will keep up with what Porter has always brought too the table nothing but funk and fun.