Sweet harmony, grooves, blues, funk: Nevilles bring it all to Mills Park
With more years in the music industry than anybody’s bothered to count, the Neville Brothers — Charles, Art, Cyril and Aaron — bring harmonies and music that defies pigeon-holing to Mills Park Pavilion Friday as the Capital City Music Series comes to a close.
The show begins at 7:30 p.m. with pianist Bob Malone.
Touring since 1955, Charles Neville attributes the longevity of the brothers’ solo and collaborative careers to being true to themselves.
“I think the integrity of the music and that we’ve always done the music we feel expresses what’s in our spirit and in our hearts is the answer,” he said. “We don’t record to make hits, and that comes across to the audience who realize ‘Oh, they’re expressing themselves and sharing themselves with each of us.'”
The brothers have seen more change in the industry than most groups.
“It goes beyond how business has changed,” Neville said. “I have experienced the evolution of music before the days of rock and roll.
“It started with gospel, jazz and blues, then we had rhythm and blues, doo-wap, be-bop, modern jazz and then came rock and soul and new jazz.”
The Nevilles were in New Orleans, adding these influences to the mix.
“We loved reggae and put some of that into the music. But when Jim Cliff came (to the United States from Jamaica), he said they had been influenced by what the New Orleans music scene was doing.”
Neville added that while, in the beginning, the saxophone — his instrument — was the basis for much of early rock and roll, the guitar became the pre-eminent instrument, primarily because of Jimi Hendrix. The Beatles and Elvis Presley were also part of that change.
The greatest change was that of “rock and roll coming through the ’60s, where bands like Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young; Chicago; Electric Flag and the many other groups of the time, combined elements of folk with psychedelic with rock and so on.”
Music today, Neville believes, falls short of its potential because most artists, at the directive of their record labels, amplify just one aspect of music. This has created a dilution and the disposable forms of music heard on radio.
“Young people believe that what they hear on the radio or what is shown on MTV is all there is,” he said. “Young artists take one element of what’s gone before, and we see that in the performance.
“Do you know there are black kids out there who don’t know who B.B. King is? When we released ‘Sister Rosa’ (a song about civil-rights pioneer Rosa Parks), I went to (Washington) D.C.’s main black radio station and was told the song couldn’t be added to the play list.”
Neville was told that, according to the station’s format, “black music was gangsta rap, rap, hip-hop and urban contemporary.”
“What is that?” he said. “I do a lot of work in schools, and all the time I meet little black kids who don’t know about Billie Holiday and Charlie Parker. All they know is what they’re exposed to. And it’s that way all across the U.S.”
But he doesn’t see the situation as hopeless.
“I give a lot of credit to (documentary filmmaker) Ken Burns for making people aware of the old guys who really contributed to the scene,” he said.
Neville ran into Joshua Redman, the son of his friend and legendary jazz saxophonist Dewey Redman, who had made more money in one year than his dad had made in a lifetime.
Thanks to Burns’ documentary “Jazz,” clubs are now “hiring these old guys” again.
“Someone realized the value in the old songs and standards and of course knew if they repackaged them and made them new gain, there would be a whole new audience and money to be made,” Neville said.
Touring for the better part of each year, the Nevilles are “touring animals.”
Many of their dates include their sons Jason, Ian, Omari and Ivan Neville.
It’s this infusion of “young energy,” that is to a degree, driving the brothers’ return to the studio, where they’re recording a CD set for release in 2004.
The recording was spearheaded in large part by Aaron Neville’s son, Ivan.
But whether recording independent or family projects, Charles Neville feels it’s all the same.
“I like it, no matter what,” he said. “People ask me sometimes if being on the road all the time doesn’t get old or ask ‘Don’t you get tired?’
“I tell them, ‘Man, I’ve had worse jobs.’ I get to do what I love, and a majority of people in the work force don’t ever get to do that.”
The Nevilles’ concert if presented by the Upstage Center Theatre and the Brewery Arts Center, in conjunction with the Carson City Redevelopment Authority and the Carson City Convention and Visitors Bureau.
For tickets and information, go to http://www.carsoncitymusic.com, call toll free (800) 216-0891 or 887-3688.