John “Papa” Gros
River’s On Fire
In a city renowned for producing brilliant piano players- Fess, James Booker and of course Allen Toussaint- John “Papa” Gros made a name for himself as the leader of Papa Grows Funk, who disbanded in 2013 after six albums and a long-time residency at the famed Maple Leaf Bar. River’s On Fire is the second solo outing from Gros, and it’s a slice of NOLA that will make you long for a Po Boy and a Sazerac.
Funk is a dish best served live, but River’s On Fire captures that “2 AM Frenchman Street” vibe, in part due to the presence of legendary New Orleans guitarist Brian Stoltz. Stoltz – who was an integral part of The Neville Brothers band, as well as currently touring with George Porter, Jr and Art Neville in the Funky Meters – complements the keyboards of Gros on such grooves as “Crazy” or “Sugar and Ice” with a master’s touch.
It’s not all uptempo funk, as Gros shows he can slow it down on “Two Little Angels” or “Her Love Can’t Be Denied”, that illustrates he learned well from his association with Toussaint, who produced Needle in the Groove for Papa Grows Funk. And it wouldn’t be a New Orleans record without a bit of partying- and food, right? Gros serves up “Cocaine and Chicken Fricasse”, which I’ll have to sample the next time I’m in NOLA- well, the chicken, anyway. No need for the happy powder when John “Papa” Gros is playing, and he’s most definitely on with River’s On Fire. Yes, yes.