The Neville Brothers at the Rogue Theatre
It may or may not be true that all music stems from New Orleans, but the Nevilles certainly did. And one thing that's never changed since the brothers got together as a band more than 30 years ago in the Big Easy is that it's about family.
Family brought Art, Charles, Aaron and Cyril together in 1976 for the recording session of "The Wild Tchoupitoulas," a Mardi Gras crew led by their uncle, who was known as Big Chief Jolly.
Family led them to form the group the following year, to release their debut album from Capitol Records in 1978, and to rock audiences with some of the funkiest music ever — sometimes drifting apart, but always coming back together again — for the past three decades.
The Nevilles will return to the Rogue Valley at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 9, for a show at the Rogue Theatre in Grants Pass.
Art, the eldest Neville, is a singer and keyboardist who grew up admiring New Orleans legend Fats Domino. Charles, at 70 one year Art's junior, is the saxophonist. He left home at 15 and played with everyone from the Rabbit Foot Minstrels to B.B. King as "The Boy Wonder of Sax."
With his distinctive, angelic voice, Aaron ranks with Sam Cooke and Marvin Gaye as one of the seminal soul singers. Cyril is the baby of the family, almost a generation younger than Art and Charles, and his fiery rhythm and blues is a bit edgier than that of his elders. These days Ivan Neville, Aaron's son, often plays keyboards with the band.
The brothers were going strong in the late 1980s, recording with guests such as Branford Marsalis, Keith Richards and Carlos Santana, touring heavily, and in 1989 releasing "Yellow Moon" on the A&M label with the track "Healing Chant," which won a Grammy for best pop instrumental performance.
But Art Neville had health problems, and the band went into a long eclipse in the 1990s. A comeback album, "Walkin' In The Shadow Of Life" (Back Porch Records), in 2004 was their first newly recorded effort in five years.
The album's 13 tracks mixed contemporary funk with socially aware lyrics and featured a redo of the Temptations' 1970 Motown hit "Ball of Confusion." In addition to Ivan on keyboards, Art Neville's son Ian played guitar, making the disc another family affair.
Then came Katrina. Except for Charles, who lived in Massachusetts, the brothers were living in New Orleans when the hurricane hit in 2005. All suffered damages, and Cyril and Aaron moved out of the city.
After not performing in New Orleans for several years, they finally returned to perform at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in 2008, in the closing spot which had been theirs for years.
The present tour will take the brothers from Southern California through San Francisco to Oregon and Washington, and eventually to Florida.
Tickets are $45, $55 and $75. See roguetheatre.com or call 471-1316.