Forecast calls for a storm of funk 

New Orleans jazz-funk combo Iris May Tango took their name from a hometown newspaper, The Times-Picayune. Two hurricanes were set to collide in the Gulf of Mexico, prompting the headline: "Humberto, Iris May Tango." Although the name wasn't chosen for its metaphoric possibilities, the symbolism is perfectly appropriate for the band.

Iris May Tango draw on funk, jazz, hip-hop and rock in equal measure, but while the influences often collide, the result is an amalgamation of interwoven sounds. "None of us took it for granted that we have all these different types of music and influences in New Orleans, and we use it," says vocalist Laurence Harvey, known to his bandmates as Keng. "But our own style is so totally new that it hasn't been defined."

In the fall of 1995, bassist Andy Wolf, guitarist René Dufforc, drummer Kevin O'Day and saxophonist/keyboardist Robert Wagner were developing a new band in loose jam sessions in New Orleans' French Quarter. The quartet considered adding a hip-hop element but couldn't find the right singer. Coincidentally, a hip-hop/R&B vocalist named Reginald Boyd, a.k.a. Chaddy 1 P.U.S., was looking for a band to back his lyrics. A friend recommended he check out O'Day, then playing with the band All That. Impressed by what he heard, Chaddy introduced himself to O'Day, who suggested that the vocalist drop by a rehearsal of his new band, Iris May Tango.

Wagner quickly booked time at a local studio in January 1996. Chaddy brought along his friend Keng, and the lineup was almost complete. "They were just harmonizing so perfectly, it sounded like they'd been singing together for years," says O'Day. "It was so natural."

Since then the band has gigged constantly and have written nearly 100 songs. They also added turntables to their arsenal courtesy of DJ Kamaal. Chaddy feels the world will enjoy the funk hybrid brewed by Iris May Tango. "It encompasses so much. You get all kinds of people at our gigs, people in their '50s and '60s, hip-hop heads, jazz enthusiasts, you get the cute crowd, you get the artsy crowd, you get the young crowd -- we've truly got something for everyone."

More by Alex Oliver


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