Groovin’ With Modeliste
They’re often considered one of the quintessential rhythm sections in New Orleans music — or perhaps in funk. Period. Whether backing numerous roots, rock, and R&B artists or in their own amalgamation of The Meters, the dynamic duo of Zigaboo Modeliste in tandem with bassist George Porter Jr. wove complex rhythms and layered a mighty earthen groove both sturdy and compliant for all that lay above.
Porter’s own career has spanned over 30 years and includes stretches with Robbie Robertson, David Byrne, Harry Connick Jr., and Tori Amos, working with some fine drummers including Russell Batiste Jr. (Funky Meters), Johnny Vidacovich, and Manu Katché.
With these latest run of Meters reunion dates, the two came together again to re-create the magic. So how was it working with Zig after all these years? “We are resetting the lines and the way we talk to each other musically,” Porter explains. “In the past, we just knew where each other was at all times. I didn’t have to think about it. Today, I have to listen more, but that is my job, to make the drummer's groove a pocket. But Zig is Zig. There’s no special techniques, just great hard grooves. And that makes my job easy.
“When you talk about Zig, it’s what he brings to the table. He doesn’t overplay, and he doesn’t underplay. He just always seems to have the right amount of what’s needed for the piece of music being played. I’m not sure if there’s any way better to say that. Anytime that I’ve ever played with him, I’ve never walked away wishing that he had played something else. Without trashing all the other drummers out there I have to work with, they all bring something to the table … and a lot of them like to play like Zig. The only thing is: Zig built the table.”
By Brad Schlueter
Zigaboo Modeliste owns the patent on snaky second-line funk grooves. His percolating swamp patterns have influenced countless funk drummers including Johnny Vidacovich, Herlin Riley, Richie Hayward, David Garibaldi, and Stanton Moore.
On The Meters tune “Live Wire,” Modeliste plays around with snare accents, creating a strong pulse on the and of 2 and count 4. He opens his hi-hat periodically at those points to magnify the effect.
On “Look-Ka Py Py” the drums have a light swing, a bit like a heartbeat, that just feels perfect. The first line of music shows his basic groove and a variation on it. The next line begins with the crescendo buzz roll he uses to bring us into his first drum break of the song. In it, he layers some unusual bass drum notes beneath his snare strokes that most drummers would never think of playing, and that make his style unique.
Click here for a transcription of Zigaboo Modeliste’s classic drum part from the Meters’ biggest hit “Cissy Strut.”