Arts & Entertainment
February 25th, 2012
By John Burnett
It is said of Shannon Powell that he’s part of New Orleans’ musical DNA — that he knows things only local drummers know.
Powell, 49, is the A-list drummer in town. He’s played with Dr. John, Harry Connick Jr., Nicholas Payton, R&B guitarist Earl King and Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.
He got his start as a teenager with the legendary banjo player and guitarist, Danny Barker. Powell has also toured with jazz vocalist Diana Krall and jazz musicians John Scofield and Marcus Roberts. Currently, he fronts a contemporary jazz band called Powell’s Place, with Jason Marsalis, of the Marsalis dynasty, on vibes.
Sitting at the drums in his shotgun house in the Treme neighborhood, Powell demonstrates the basic New Orleans beat: “New Orleans drummers accent on the four. One-two-three-four.” He’s playing what he’s saying: “one-two-three-four.”
He switches to a seductive samba beat. “African rhythms, Brazilian rhythm, calypso,” he says. “It’s all related.”
Perhaps that’s the genius of Shannon Powell: It’s all related.