LIVE: The Joe Krown Trio @ Red Square, 5/24/11


A joyous Mardi Gras parade strut…
A sad, mournful blues wail in the night…
A heaven-sent gospel call and response…
A spirited, high-stepping brass band funeral march…

Music – in all of its infinite variations – is the lifeblood of a city, and few cities in the world boast as distinctive a soundtrack as New Orleans. It’s not just one particular sound, mind you, but rather all of those sounds blended together, slow-cooked with some bold spices and seasonings, simmering until it all becomes one delicious aural gumbo.

Keyboardist Joe Krown was the musical chef at Red Square in Albany, and it was one mighty tasty evening. Leaning into his Hammond B3 until it squealed, Krown was foundation of the band’s sound, rugged and sturdy. On stage right, Walter “Wolfman” Washington was seated, his cherry red electric guitar cradled in his lap and his pint glass of Jack and Coke on the stage floor at the ready. In between them, Russell Batiste, Jr. sat at his compact drum kit, drumsticks in hand like magic wands.

Together, the three musicians were one glorious, interlocked musical machine, churning out a deep, unstoppable groove that settled into the pocket and rarely varied. Each song seemed to spotlight its own unique hook. Krown’s Hammond whispered and hummed like a desperate lover’s plea on the slow burning soul ballad “Talk to Me.” Washington’s guitar licks tickled and cajoled during the way-past-1 a.m. encore of “Steal Away,” his hoarse, gruff vocals as seductive and dangerous as moonshine.

And despite all of the steeped-deep-in-Crescent City-soul songs and spicey, syncopated instrumentals that the threesome served up throughout the night, some of their most impressive efforts were southern fried re-inventions of pop nuggets, including the Marvin Gaye Motown meltdown “What’s Goin’ On?” and the moody, mystery-laden Bobbie Gentry hit, “Ode to Billie Joe.”

Yes, the sound of New Orleans was blowing through the downtown streets of Albany, and at least for one magical night, it seemed as though Red Square had been transplanted to the French Quarter.

Let the good times roll!

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