The Big Easy meets Africa: Charles Neville and Youssoupha Sidibe take fusion to the 'Fox

By Myles Cochrane Grammy Award-winner and soul-master Charles “Horn Man” Neville of the Neville Brothers has teamed up with famed West African harpist and vocalist Youssoupha Sidibe to front a high-energy New Orleans-meets-Africa band. Exhibiting a sound like no other, The Mystic Rhythms will back the dynamic duo with their reggae-tinged drum and bass during their tour stop at the Red Fox Tavern in Eureka on Friday night. ”I first met Youssoupha in Western Massachusetts before he moved to California about seven or eight years ago,” said Neville, a saxophone virtuoso. “We talked about the musical connection between Africa and America and the African influence in jazz. We experimented some with the sound of the kora (West African harp) — a traditional voice of African music — and the saxophone, a traditional voice of American jazz. As we played together we found that the two voices blended pleasantly and magically.” Their debut album together, 2010’s “Tree of Life,” is the result of their proposed fusion. ”I enjoy it when people thank me for bringing the African tradition to this country and sharing it in particular with the African-American,” Sidibe said. “This collaboration means a lot to me ’cause I have been learning a lot with Charles who has done a lot in music and still keeps on going.” Neville helped the Neville Brothers win a Grammy award in 1988 for Best Pop Instrumental Performance and has performed with legends like Ray Charles, James Brown, B.B. King, Santana as well as The Grateful Dead. ”From playing with great artists and entertainers, I’ve learned that musical and artistic education goes on and on,” Neville said. “You never stop learning.” Sidibe also has quite a list of noteworthy achievements: he was Grammy-nominated, received a gold record for his work with Matisyahu on the reggae-rocker’s 2007 album “Youth” and has collaborated with greats like Michael Franti, Bela Fleck, String Cheese Incident and more. ”Matisyahu gave me one of the greatest opportunities a musician can have,” Sidibe said. “Playing with him is like having a very deep conversation with a good friend. We both come from a very different background but still can understand each other and come together and make beautiful music.” With more beautiful music in mind, Neville and Sidibe plan to head back into the studio after their current tour this spring to work on their sophomore LP. The band taking the stage at the Red Fox Tavern will feature Neville on saxophone, Sidibe on kora and vocals, Luis Garcia on bass and Bennie Murray on drums. Local soul-funk stars The Speakeasy Saints will open. Tickets can be found in advance at the usual local outlets. ”My last time in Humboldt County we played for a very appreciative audience — as is usual in that area,” Neville said. “We’re hoping that The Mystic Rhythms will have everyone dancing and trancing to our special blend of spiritual sounds.” ”I would like to invite everybody in Humboldt County to come support us and have a beautiful time together,” Sidibe added. If you go What: “Horn Man” Charles Neville and Youssoupha Sidibe When: 9 p.m. Friday Where: Red Fox Tavern, 415 Fifth St., Eureka Admission: $12 (advance), $15 (door), 21+
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