A&E » Arts

Galactic out of this world

New Orleans band cooks up a raucous concoction of jazz, brass, funk and ‘bounce’ on newest album



Who: Galactic

When: Thursday, Feb. 25, 2:10 p.m.

Where: Village Square Stage

Cost: Free!

What do you get when you throw jazz, brass bands, funk and "bounce" hip hop into one big pot and stir it up? A big ol' bowl of "Ya-Ka-May" noodle soup.

At least that's what members of one well-known New Orleans band have discovered.

The roots of the New Orleans music scene run deep. Galactic, with Stanton Moore on drums, Robert Mercurio on bass, Ben Ellman on saxophone and harmonica, keyboard player Richard Vogel and Jeff Raines on guitar, is known as one of the quintessential modern bands of the region.

Galactic has just released a groundbreaking new album, Ya-Ka-May, which features a mixture of traditional New Orleans genres - jazz, brass band and funk - with the up-and-coming underground phenomenon known as "bounce."

Galactic just kicked off the North American tour for the new album a few days ago with a show at the Tipitina in New Orleans, travelling with Cyril Neville, the youngest of the Neville Brothers, who will be filling in the vocal parts of most of the tracks from Ya-Ka-May.

Vogel had just stepped off the band's tour bus as it rolled into St. Louis for a show on Thursday evening.

The band had been talking about making a contemporary New Orleans record for years, one that involved the legends of the New Orleans scene, names that are known and associated with hits from the '50s, '60s and '70s. Finally, the time seemed right to make the project a reality.

They've featured a wide range of vocalists on the album, including legendary performers like the Rebirth Brass Band, Irma Thomas, Big Chief Bo Dollis, Allen Toussaint, Trombone Shorty, Corey Henry, John Boutté, Josh Cohen and Scully, Glen David Andrews and Walter "Wolfman" Washington. They've been featured alongside some emerging underground artists like Cheeky Blakk, Big Freedia, Katey Red and Sissy Nobby. The end result in an undeniably funky fusion of music that is out of this world.

"These folks like Irma and Allen, who are elder statesmen of New Orleans music in a way, and we wanted to get that, but mix it up with some of the things that are going on around town right now that we think are exciting and kind of rawer and represent a little bit more of what's happening on the street-level today. Because that's really what New Orleans is about," Vogel said.

They named the collaborative album after a beloved regional, Asian-inspired noodle dish that has been adopted by the people of New Orleans as their own.

"The noodle dish is called many different things," Vogel laughed. "...It's one of those kind of real neighbourhood, corner store kind of Asian but New Orleans, dishes."

So far on the tour, crowds definitely seemed to be diggin' their vibe. And just as importantly, the artists who entrusted their contributions to Galactic are pleased with the way their sounds have been infused into the project.

"I think they expected us to do something a little different with it and place them perhaps in a little different context than they had been before. And I think they were kind of intrigued by that possibility, to be honest!"

Galactic will bring a little piece of New Orleans to the stage in Whistler Village Square.

"We're excited," Vogel said of their Whistler show. "We kind of don't really know what to expect, except for I'm sure it will be one of those situations where it's crowded and logistically crazy, like Mardi Gras or something!"