If you want to have the New Orleans Jazz Fest experience in Philadelphia, a Philly Gumbo show is your best bet. Philly Gumbo’s distinctive blend of New Orleans R & B, blues, reggae and soul has made it a unique and popular presence on the Philadelphia music scene for thirty years. Over the years the band has been recognized by Philadelphia Magazine in their annual “Best Of Philadelphia” issues and by The Philadelphia Music Foundation as well as having played most of the top venues in the area and such major events as Jambalaya Jam, Jam On The River, WRTI-FM’s Groovin’ In The Park, the Media Blues Stroll, The West Oak Lane Jazz & Arts Festival and many more. Philly Gumbo has opened for such legends as Dr. John, Buddy Guy & Jr. Wells, Rick Danko & Levon Helm of The Band and Mutabaruka. Having pioneered the live music scene at the legendary South Street venue Bacchanal, Philly Gumbo was often joined by such special guests as Todd Rundgren, David Lindley, Teddy Royal of Fats Domino’s band, members of Harold Melvin & The Blues Notes’ band and others. One Philadelphia City Paper critic captured the appeal of Philly Gumbo by noting that the band delivers “a personal pastiche of rhythm and blues, rock and reggae that’s not just irresistible but transcendent.”
“Philly Gumbo’s long-term popularity has come from two things,” notes founding member Randall Grass: “an ability to play an authentic and unique mix of New Orleans funk, reggae, blues and soul, and the presence of great singers, such as Brenda Smith, Walt Taylor, Jeannie Brooks Richard Johnson, and current lead vocalist India Rex.” Formed in late 1980, the band quickly developed a following at the Germantown club Takers Café with a unique mix of music reminiscent of New Orleans group The Neville Brothers. As such, the group pioneered the popularity of New Orleans music in Philadelphia, with a celebrated weekly gig at Bacchanal for nearly a decade. The band released its debut single “Holy War b/w Mardi Gras” in 1984 and contributed the original song “Xmas In New Orleans” to the Seasons Greetings Philadelphia benefit CD in 1999.
Four members of Philly Gumbo—drummer Tim Hayes, bassist Bert Harris, guitarist Pete Eshelman and keyboardist Randall Grass--have been the core of the band since the beginning while saxophonist C.C. Crabtree has played with group for fifteen years and vocalist extraordinaire India Rex, is the latest in a long line of exceptional vocalists. A Philly Gumbo performance makes a great listening experience, with it’s ever-shifting mix of New Orleans R & B, blues, jazz, funk, reggae, soul and even African music, but is equally suited for dancing. In fact, it is difficult to resist getting up and shaking your groove thing to Philadelphia’s greatest groove band!