'Zigaboo' Modeliste Says Debut Features Dance Grooves, Message Songs

Some of legendary New Orleans drummer's former Meters bandmates appear on Zigaboo.com.

Joseph "Zigaboo" Modeliste — founding member of '70s R&B quartet the Meters and legendary New Orleans master drummer — describes his solo debut, Zigaboo.com (JZM Records), as a groove record with a message.

"That's basically where I write from," the singer/songwriter and drummer said. "The music part of it is dance music, and the other part is public service."

"Funky Nasty Cigarettes" (RealAudio excerpt) is one of the latter, he said.

"That tobacco thing is a bad trip all the way around, so, in a humorous way, I wanted to stress a point but not be too serious about it," he said.

The album, recorded in New Orleans and the San Francisco Bay Area — Modeliste currently lives in Oakland, Calif., — features Modeliste's songwriting and producing, along with his legendary drum licks. He also sings on a few funky numbers, including "Shake What You Got" (RealAudio excerpt), "Standing in Your Stuff" (RealAudio excerpt) and "Gonna Have a Party" (RealAudio excerpt).

The swinging instrumental "Zig Me" (RealAudio excerpt) is a collaboration with former Meters bassist George Porter Jr. Other tunes on the disc include "Tea Pot" (RealAudio excerpt) and "K9" (RealAudio excerpt), featuring past (Mic Gillette) and present (Norbert Stachel) members of the Tower of Power horn section.

The musicians Modeliste gathered for the album include bassist Nick Daniels (formerly of Wild Magnolias and the Neville Brothers); guitarists Ray Obiedo, Stevie Gurr and Renard Poche (Dr. John); keyboardists David Torkanowsky (Astral Project), Dale Ockerman (Doobie Brothers); and Jon Cleary (Bonnie Raitt) on keyboards.

Two Modeliste performances bookended the recent New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival at the city's Howlin' Wolf club. The first, his record-release party, occurred on the evening before the first day of Jazz Fest; his annual "Krewe of Zigaboo" party was held the evening after the festival's final day.

At the latter performance, his band hit the stage around 3 a.m., playing to a packed house of dancing, sunburned revelers. Modeliste and company spent the next three hours working their way through the new material and playing some Meters tunes, including, "People Say," "Funkify Your Life," and "Pocky Way."

Some of the members of Lenny Kravitz's band were in the house and sitting in with the band were a handful of guests: Ivan Neville, Jon Cleary, Merl Saunders, Cyril Neville and George Porter Jr. They wound down with a funky version of Prince's "1999" a little after 6 a.m., just as the sun was warming up.

"I'm in a great space these days," Modeliste said later. "Being able to play when I want, what I want and for who I want to — those are the three important things to me."