What I learned from George last night , or a common characteristic of great musicians

One of the beauties of working in the New Orleans scene is that I get to play a lot of different music. I have the pleasure of playing with a great bunch of musicians in the city’s growing adventure jazz/improv scene, I get to play with the Louisiana Philharmonic occasionally, and I get to work with some of the legends of the New Orleans r&b/funk scene. Last night fell into that latter category.

I had the honor of playing with George Porter Jr. and Runnin’ Pardners. George is the bass player in The Meters. He is a New Orleans music legend, and a big influence on much of modern funk.

The gig was a wedding. The kind of gig that many people would have phoned in. We had to do “What a Wonderful World” for one of the bridal party dances. While that is a classic tune, it is pretty far from the band’s normal repertoire. George joked that he learned it the night before, then put on his glasses and squinted at the lyric sheet on his stand.

Then he sang one of the most deep, soulful, honest renditions of that song that I have ever heard. It sounded like it had been his song all along.

That’s when I realized that great musicians are always in touch with the music inside of them. Here is a man that is known as one of the world’s greatest bass players and groove masters, yet he is singing a wedding standard, and it still becomes a personal musical statement. George is always George, no matter what the music is, and we can always hear that soul pouring out.

We should all strive to let our musical souls be available at all times. That’s what I learned from George last night.