When your last name is Neville, you’re essentially born into funk royalty. Ivan Neville continues to do his part for the sound, serving as an ambassador for his hometown of New Orleans and as a stalwart champion of the funk. With an expressive organ style and a gruff, soulful voice, Ivan Neville is truly a master entertainer. Splitting time between his main band Dumpstaphunk and any number of side projects, including the Chris Robinson Soul Revue at Fool’s Paradise or the Neville-Jacobs band at NOLA Crawfish Festival, Neville never fails to bring the noise.This weekend sees Neville performing a series of intimate “Piano Sessions” at the Blue Note Jazz Club in New York, NY (tickets available here), and we caught up with the master to chat about all of his ongoing work. Read Rex Thomson’s exclusive with Neville below:Live For Live Music: You’re in New York this weekend for a series of your intimate “Piano Sessions.” Until now these have primarily happened down in New Orleans. How did you end up bringing them to the biggest city in the world?Ivan Neville: Well, the opportunity presented itself. Someone was interested in hearing me do them up here in New York, and I thought it was a great idea. I had the idea, I did the first piano set on Jam Cruise. It went over, and I started doing it ever year, I think, the last four years or so. Then I started like three years ago at the Blue Nile during Jazz Fest, the Wednesday in between weekends at Jazz Fest. But tonight I’m in New York.L4LM: No one wants to miss your piano sets on Jam Cruise. How does it feel to see people packed in and hanging over the rails to hear you tell stories and play?IN: Y’know, I truly appreciate that people are interested in seeing me play and do my stuff. I’m absolutely humbled and honored to have the chance to do that stuff.L4LM: You’re pretty much synonymous with the city of New Orleans, but with a career as long as yours, you must have spent a good chunk of time in New York over the years. Like the shirts, do you love New York?IN: Yeah, I do love New York. I’ve spent a lot of hours hanging out with my friend Keith Richards playing music and…stuff… (laughs). One time, I was in New York, and Keith was working on his latest solo project that came out this past year and I was honored to be a part of that project. Sometimes that’s how things go down.L4LM: The stories you tell during these shows are just as important as the songs you play during these sessions. Do you put any thought into what you’re gonna talk about before a show, like write an anecdote set list?IN: Nah…it’s all spontaneity. There’s certain songs linked to certain times, and there’s usually some sort of story attached. It just kinda comes as I go. None of that stuff is planned. L4LM: At the start of next month you’re gonna be playing Fool’s Paradise, hosted by Lettuce. What do you think of the direction they’re taking their brand of funk?IN: Lettuce? Aww man, them boys is stupid. They got some real stuff goin’ on. I like how they just keep going, Keep stretching the bounds, you know? They doing it right. They’re also stretching the style, doing new variations, like with the EDM and things of that nature. They’re expanding the audience, they’re expanding the reach of funk music. It’s reaching some of the younger kids and some people that are into other stuff and may not be getting exposed to the funk. And that’s a good thing.L4LM: They’re definitely keeping the funk alive.IM: Yes, most def!L4LM: Any chance you’ll end up sneaking out during Lettuce’s set and joining them for a song or two?IN: I’m not sure, you never know. Time permitting…if it works out like that, it’s very likely, it’s very possible. Let me say that…it’s very possible. You never know.L4LM: The set you’re playing at Fool’s Paradise is with an all star cast lead by Chris Robinson. Who else do you have playing that gig with you?IN: Yeah, I’m playing with Chris Robinson, yeah and Kraz and I think Nikki Glaspie and a few others. I think George Porter is on it…it’s somewhat of a “Super Band.”L4LM: In a situation where so many people are coming from so many different places, do you get to rehearse at all?IN: Sometimes, but we usually talk about it before. We may sit down and talk about stuff, about what we’re gonna play and talk through it. I don’t know that there’s actually going to be a chance to rehearse, I’m not sure. I’m not sure the layout and how it’s gonna go down. We will dial some things in, we will talk more and we have talked already. There are songs that have a female on it, and it’s up to us to prepare. It’s gonna be slammin’!L4LM: You’re very in-demand for these super jams. Have you ever wished you could make one of those line ups into a permanent band?IN: (Laughs) Oh yeah, that’s definitely a thought. That thought crosses your mind at these things. But let me tell ya, you know, sometimes these things are killin’. But they’re not always a fucking shoo-in to be some slam dunk shit. It’s like spontaneity, the chemistry…there are nights where the shit is killin’, and there’s nothing like it. But there are some nights where you’re like “Okay…this ain’t goin’ as great as I thought, let’s hope we hit a groove, let’s hope this shit swings.” But for the most part it’s killin’. You look at the people onstage and you look at who you’re playing with you think “Yeah, I could do this a few more times.”When it is hitting, it is the most magical thing. The that spontaneity that happens. Unplanned. A lot of music moments happen that are absolutely unplanned, no pre-thought involved. The shit’s just happening. That’s where the magic happens.L4LM: You’ve led these jam sessions in the past, you’ve played in them and you’ve planned them. Have you picked up any tricks or insights on playing with musicians you’re unfamiliar with?IN: Well, basically it’s all about listening. Listen. Listen to other guys who are up there playing. Listen. That’s my philosophy. Listen. Let the music take you where you weren’t supposed to go.L4LM: Beautiful. Speaking of music taking you places, in just a few short weeks it’ll be time for people across the nation to go to New Orleans for Jazz Fest once again. Do you even manage to sleep at any point in those two weeks?IN: I do, I do. I’ve changed. I got a few times where I am playing at 2 am and shit like that, but I got some nights that are like normal. I always take one day off, and this year I took Saturday, the second Saturday of Jazz Fest, completely off for me. And I’m gonna keep it like that. (Laughs) I got one day where I can do nothing.L4LM: You’re bringing one of your more rare side projects, Neville-Jacobs, to the NOLA Crawfish Festival. Can you talk a little about this collaboration is gonna sound?IN: Me and my man Cris Jacobs, he had a band called The Bridge. He’s from Baltimore. He and I had crossed paths on a few occasions, on the scene, on the festival scene and what not. And I happened to run into him playing poker in New Orleans. I was like “That’s Cris Jacobs” and he was like “Oh yeah, Ivan Neville.” So we started talking and sat down and played cards together. We both like to play poker. We ended up reconnecting a couple more times, and we ended up writing some songs together. The shit turned out pretty good, so we were like “Let’s go somewhere with this.” We ended up doing a whole records worth of stuff. We got a whole record in the can, and we’ll see what happens with it. We got a cool group, we pulled in Tony Hall from Dumpstaphunk, Brady Blade who plays with Anders Osborne, and myself and Cris Jacobs. It’s a cool little group, a cool little combo. It’s gonna be killer.L4LM: Once again you hosted Jam Cruise’s Texas Hold ’em tournament every year. Is Hold ’em your game?IN: Oh yeah, when I play poker that’s what I’m talkin’ about. (Laughs)L4LM: Have you managed to win your own tournament?IN: I have never won. (Laughs) I have never won that particular one, no.L4LM: Playing with friends and fans can be hard on friendships. Do you leave all emotion behind when the chips are down?IN: Oh no, I get pissed off! I wanna win, I wanna win that shit, you know. I just haven’t done so…yet. (Laughs) One of these years I’m gonna bust that shit.L4LM: We interviewed Shaggy the other day and he said you were one of his biggest fans. Is it true they’re paying you in crawfish?IN: Naw, he ain’t payin in fish…he can give me some crawfish though. (Laughs) I always…Shaggy’s my man! I’ll call Shaggy up and say “Where you at?” and he’ll be like “I’m just doing this boil for these people, c’mon out.” I’ll go act like I’m one of his helpers or something, and he’ll hook me up with some crawfish. (Laughs) That’s my man, Shaggy’s my man. He’s a music lover, and he does a great job boiling that crawfish, and I love some food. That shit goes hand in hand. That’s what New Orleans is about. The music and the food and people, y’know?NOLA’s Crawfish King Is Cooking Up A Whole New FestivalL4LM: Any tips for folks visiting Nawlins who’ve never been?IN: The advice I would give any one is to pace yourself. Don’t try and do everything you wanna do all in one day. There’s a lot to go around. There’s a lotta music to be heard, a lot of food to be eaten and a lotta partying to do, if that’s your thing. Yeah, I would say pace yourself and enjoy the ride.L4LM: How about for any folks who’ve never eaten a crawfish before?IN: Aw man…if you’re standing next to me you’ll learn pretty quick or else I’ll eat all the crawfish you would have been eating if you were faster. You may eat two crawfish and I’ll eat ten. L4LM: The music of Dumpstaphunk has a very positive message about overcoming adversity and letting go of negativity. Would you say your music has an overall message you want people to hear?IN: I mean…we try and say stuff like that when we have a chance. I mean, when you have the opportunity to say something…if you’re part of creating something, and you get to say something…to have a voice…you might as well say something positive.L4LM: Got time for a quick “Funk” lightning round?IN: Sure.L4LM: Which one is your good foot?IN: It’s the one that’s on the floor.L4LM: “Get on up,” or “Get Down, get down?”IN: Oh shit…Get on up! Get on up!L4LM: Well, thanks for taking a few minutes out to talk with us sir. It sounds like you have a lot of fun and funk in you future.IN: Thank you. Appreciate it.Tickets for Neville’s shows tonight, tomorrow and Sunday at the Blue Note Jazz Club are available at the door, and more information can be found here. For tickets to Fool’s Paradise in St. Augustine, FL with Lettuce, GRiZ, Vulfpeck and the Chris Robinson Soul Revue ft. Ivan Neville and more, head to the official website. Finally, for a chance to belly up to the crawfish table next to Ivan Neville at the inaugural NOLA Crawfish Festival, head here.