Magazine article Guitar Player

Renard Poche: On Accompanying Piano Players

Magazine article Guitar Player

Renard Poche: On Accompanying Piano Players

Article excerpt


THE PIANO REMAINS CENTRAL TO New Orleans music due to masters such as Mac Rebennack (a.k.a. Dr. John), Art Neville, Allen Toussaint, and Henry Butler. They all owe a debt to Professor "Fess" Longhair, whose legacy looms large at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. At this year's event, it dawned on me that I often see the same guitarist accompanying these piano giants--Renard Poche.--Jimmy Leslie

What was your first gig accompanying a piano legend, and how did you ensure more calls?

I was playing funk in Blackmale when we got the call to back up the Neville Brothers and Professor Longhair on a tour in 1977. I was familiar with Art Neville's playing because I loved the Meters, but I was unfamiliar Fess' music, which was more traditional. When he called "Tipitina" or "Big Chief," I stuck to the backbeat or something else similar to the drum pattern. That turned out great because you need to leave space for an instrument with so much harmonic range and rhythmic capability. The way Leo Nocentelli cops the snare drum rhythm on the Meters' "Hey Pocky A-Way" verse groove is a good example. I'll take that concept as far as transferring the kick drum and hi-hat patterns to the guitar. You can do all that with one chord if you break the strumming pattern into pieces, and choke and release with your fretting hand.

What kind of instruction did Professor Longhair offer?

Not much. He was a loose cat like Mac. Actually, Mac once told me to either play right along with the piano, or play something totally opposite yet complementary. …

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