No members of the Doors were exhumed for this sweaty jazz-soul celebration. Mark Ronson’s team-up with Erykah Badu, New Orleans funk legend Zigaboo Modeliste, and members of the Dap-Kings last night on Late Night With David Letterman came about as part of the same documentary that brought you Skrillex teaming up with Jim Morrison’s former backing band for the deplorable “Breakin’ a Sweat.” But the quality of this performance of their “A La Modeliste” (via Yardie) is on a whole other planet.
Modeliste, the founding drummer for the hugely influential NoLa band the Meters, rules the stage from behind the kit like a benevolent monarch, as hearty chunks of piano, guitar, bass, and horns stir up against each other in a tribute to the city’s rich jazz tradition. Gumbo might be an over-used comparison, but it’s a thematically appropriate one in this case. Badu is wonderfully loose and earthy as she sings about a mom with no drawers “cookin’ that Yukon gold” — the goosebump-raising howl from Badu, no stranger to dropping drawers herself, is a clear highlight. The main thing missing is the rapper formerly known as Mos Def, who appears on a previously unveiled version of the track.
The RE:GENERATION documentary was sponsored by Hyundai, but Ronson and friends’ Letterman gig might be more successful as an ad for the Meters’ hugely worthwhile back catalog, for the Daptones’ ongoing jazz-funk revival, for Badu’s otherworldly voice, for Ronson’s spectacular red blazer, and of course, for Yukon Gold. And also for one more group of people: “This is for everybody in New Orleans,” Badu exclaims. Who dat think they gonna beat Erykah Badu?