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Published: 2004/06/30
by Brian Ferdman

5PM Breakfast – The Rockin’ Jake Band

Zuluzu Records 1003

"Who the hell is that?" Those were the words that came out of my mouth as I approached the Louisiana Music Factory on the Thursday before Jazz Fest. The who in question was none other than New Orleans' own harmonica ace and showman Rockin' Jake. Over the next several minutes, he led his band through a spirited set that had the venerable music store a-shakin'. The performance was capped by a lengthy but rousing solo that featured Jake using a wireless mic to parade throughout the store, jump off the counter, and dance in the street to the delight of the gathered onlookers.

Undoubtedly, the man and his band have a powerful connection with a live audience, and they've captured this energy on their newly-released album, 5PM Breakfast. Recorded during a frenzied 2003 New Year’s Run at The Green Parrot Bar in Key West, the crowd was clearly into the show and the CD accurately documents that enthusiastic spirit. Nearly every element of the concert is present on the disc, right down to the band’s choreographed sales pitch for their hot sauce, although medium limitations do prevent the recreation of Jake’s parading through the bar.

The tone is set from the get-go with an energetic run through a medley of "Shake Your Hips," "One Way Out," and "Baby What You Want Me To Do," the latter being a clever, fist-pumping amalgamation of the Jimmy Reed classic with Black Sabbath's "Sweetleaf." With a slight second-line influence, nimble drummer Sammy Neal propels the band forward, while Randy Ellis' ripping guitar provides the perfect foil for Jake's extensive and frenetic solos. Renen Barrett's smooth bass is the glue that keeps everything together, enabling Jake to seemingly play for incredibly long stretches without taking a breath. This tight ensemble shows its diversity on the iconic Big Easy standard, "Zydeco Boogaloo," the twelve-bar blues of "Hit The Highway," and the romping combination of "Turn On Your Lovelight" and Rebirth Brass Band's "Do Whatcha Wanna." The Funky Meters' guitarist Brian Stoltz even makes a guest appearance on the wah-wah drenched Wild Magnolias' composition, "(Somebody Got) Soul, Soul, Soul."

In today's scene, so many bands are rushing to perform multiple genres of music. Everyone wants to be the next group to take on a combination of funk, bluegrass, techno, reggae, jazz, etc. That is not the case with Rockin' Jake. He and his band are aptly named because they flat-out rock and they know it. Rather than trying to constantly shift genres, they use their solid footing in the world of rock as the basis for their roux. Spices in the form of blues, zydeco, and New Orleans soul are carefully added to the mix, creating a rich gumbo that never forgets its roots. If the elated response from the audience is any indication, 5PM Breakfast is one helluva meal.

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