“After the storm, it came back; I decided to just go for it, again,” says soulman and guitarist Ernie Vincent in this week’s episode of OffBeat’s Look-Ka Py Py Podcast of his post-Katrina decision to return to the stage following a decade spent working almost entirely behind the scenes as a producer. Vincent and his band, the Top Notes, Inc. is most widely recognized for its 1972 soul-funk nugget “Dap Walk,” a groovy strut often heralded as one of the period’s finest. These days, the New Orleans icon shepherds a spry group of musicians half his age, once again touring and recording in a revitalized version of Ernie Vincent and the Top Notes. In 2010, the group released the concert album Party on the Bayou: Live at d.b.a., and more recently they cut Louisiana Magic, their first proper studio album. To Vincent, age and era have no bearing on his musical purview: He takes a bit of blues, a bit of funk, mixes in a soul-boogie kick and goes for a ride. Those hip enough to take the trip are welcomed to strut alongside him. “It’s almost like a deja vu thing,” he says of his late-career resurgence.
Next week, Vincent will lead the Top Notes at OffBeat’s Best of the Beat Awards Show in set featuring Lifetime Achievement honorees Clarence “Frogman” Henry, Jean Knight, Al “Carnival Time” Johnson, Frankie Ford, Robert Parker and the Dixie Cups. Through the years, Vincent has shared the stage on several occasions with each of these performers — some dating back to his earliest music endeavors. “I used to go to [Jean Knight's] house and rehearse with her,” he says, describing the practice sessions that a then-green he and Knight held as they sought to realized their dreams of making it in the music business. Some 50 years removed from those soul-searching sessions, Vincent’s eager to reconnect with his old pals, rekindle some of his fondest memories and share a timeless moment with them on the Best of the Beat stage. Take a listen to discover what he has in store: