Keith Stone with Red Gravy is where Blues guitar and New Orleans piano come together on a solid foundation of Crescent City rhythms.
NEW ORLEANS MUSIC
When Keith Stone started Red Gravy, the cast of characters changed from night to night. That’s the joke about New Orleans musicians: “There’s only one band in the whole town, but it has five thousand members.” In a city where everyone hustles to maintain a busy schedule, you better have a good phone list when a gig comes up, because availability is King.
It was one particular short tour in Florida that Keith assembled a group of premier sidemen; Including Eddie Christmas on drums, Tom Worrell on keys. Playing as a unit for the first time, that night on the beach front stage in Pensacola, it was evident something special was happening. Everyone’s ears were just a little bigger, the grooves a little deeper, and it was a whole lot of fun.
Before they could shake the sand out of their shorts, Keith Stone with Red Gravy had won the New Orleans Blues Society’s local International Blues Challenge, and suddenly, there was work to do, writing new material for the big competition in Memphis. The initial idea of the band, to blend New Orleans Music with the Blues remained the guiding light, following in the giant footsteps of Earl King, Professor Longhair and many others.
IT’S ABOUT GREED, REALLY
When you put together a group of talented, veteran sidemen, and tell them they can do whatever they want, it’s the Keys to the Candy Store. Musicians who know how to make the front man look good suddenly want to make EVERYBODY look good, themselves included. Dynamics are wider. Grooves are deeper. And the musical conversation becomes a Poetry Slam within a Tennessee Williams play.
HONOR THESE MONUMENTS
This is New Orleans. Musically, that means something. Representing New Orleans at the International Blues Challenge was a distinct honor for the band, and as big as those shoes were to try to fill, Red Gravy was up to the task. At writing and arranging sessions, names like Dr. John, Fess, and Earl King become guideposts that everyone understands. When you respect the journey, those “Footsteps of the Giants” become less of a bother than the potholes in an Uptown street.
Keith Stone, Guitar, Lead Vocals
Tom Worrell, Keys and Vocals
Eddie Christmas, Drums
Scott Jackson, Bass and Vocals
Keith Stone with Red Gravy come by their Blues the same way Keith’s Sicilian mama cooked up her beloved sauce; by simmering it in New Orleans spices and spirit.
A first-time visitor to New Orleans looking for directions, finds himself more confused after the explanation than before. The Compass, with its North, South, East and West delineations doesn’t exist here. You have to know the language to find where you’re going. No matter where Keith Stone’s journey has taken him, he’s always found his way home to the Crescent City.
Keith grew up learning to play music on the streets of the French Quarter, from jamming with street musicians, to working his way up to Bourbon Street’s most popular “Show Band,” back when that actually meant something. Jazz Fest appearances, tours, and thousands of gigs honed his guitar playing and singing chops.
The lifestyle of “New Orleans Musician” has left many broken souls in its wake. In 1994, Keith discovered a higher calling, and left the city of his boyhood, and his demons, in the rearview mirror. Soon, Keith was Pastor Stone for a large Church in South Carolina.
And then, in 2005, Katrina hit.
Keith organized the sending of food and supplies into New Orleans, but realizing that he could only do so much from afar, he soon headed for home. Back in New Orleans, he began a non-profit organization that recruited thousands of volunteers and raised millions of dollars for Katrina relief and recovery.
Once home, the old familiar pull of New Orleans music was too much to ignore, and led Keith to sitting in and playing with friends old and new. In 2011, he capped off his ministerial career officiating the funeral of New Orleans icon Coco Robicheaux, and 2015 saw the release of his solo record “The Prodigal Returns.” The disc sounds like an evening stroll down Decatur to Frenchmen Street, and featured cameos by many of the city’s most well respected players, including the great Dr. John.
With Red Gravy, Keith once again pays homage to the city that has given him so much.
In a city renowned the world over for keyboard players, somewhere, at any given moment of the day, chances are that Tom Worrell is playing piano. Whether it’s with Red Gravy or another band, a solo show, a recording session, or a lesson, Tom is not the type to keep his gifts to himself.
Born into a family of New Orleans transplants in Iowa, the rhythms of the Crescent City were never far away, and often as close as the family record player. The idea of Tom becoming a pianist was practically pre-ordained, and family trips back to the French Quarter only strengthened his love for the place and its unique music.
Tom studied music at the University of Iowa, and played and toured with several rock bands. In the late 80’s, Tom landed the gig with the great Solomon Burke, and was with “The Bishop of Soul” when he became one of the first western artists to play in East Berlin after the fall of the wall.
Soon enough it was time for the inevitable, and Tom moved permanently to New Orleans, where like so many other talented transplants, the music community welcomed him with open arms. Since then Tom has performed with Johnny Adams, Deacon John, Marva Wright, Mem Shannon, Walter Wolfman Washington, Johnny Sansone, The Wild Magnolias and Shebe Kimbourgh, and seemingly everyone else in town, too!
Tom’s recording experience includes appearances with the Wild Magnolias, J. Monque’D, and “The Professor Longhair Foundation Presents Piano Night at Tipitina’s” CD. It’s in the studio where not only is his keyboard wizardry is on display, but also his “Producer’s Ear” when it comes to the music of his New Orleans influences.
New Orleans is original, awash with a variety of cultures, and steeped in tradition, and all of this is apparent in the history of New Orleans drumming.
Tradition is defined as the passing of customs, beliefs, or information from one generation to the next in an unbroken line, and when talking about the tradition of New Orleans drumming, no one embodies that better than Eddie Christmas.
Like many, Eddie’s musical career started in Church, where at the age of six, he came under the guidance of some of the city’s most talented Gospel musicians. At nine, he was playing on Frenchmen Street. His school years were full of drums and percussion, leading sections, and winning trophies and accolades in marching and concert bands. Eddie has many stories of being a young man, “seen but not heard” while the elders of New Orleans R&B swapped lies, and he’d fetch whatever libations and recreations they required.
Eddie’s resume proves that whatever you may call you’re genre of music, a groove is a groove, and whether touring with Gerald Levert, The Black Crows, or playing on Jon Cleary and the Absolute Monster Gentlemen “Mo’ Hippa, Live in Australia” record, Eddie plays Eddie. Any given day or night in New Orleans, and chances are you’ll find him playing somewhere, whether it’s with Red Gravy, The Pentones, Billy Iuso, or anyone! During Mardi Gras season he seems to play about twenty hours a day, and still make his Church gig at 7AM.
Tradition is alive and well; Eddie teaches classes and clinics, helping kids develop music fundamental skills and setting them on the right track to becoming great drummers and percussionists. He’s generous with his time and is always encouraging to everyone he meets. When asked by others about his unique sound, Eddie says “Until you had Gumbo, it’s hard to say.” To his bandmates or others around him, this makes perfect sense.