Their collective résumé is very impressive: The Radiators, The Neville Brothers, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, James Brown’s band and Outformation.
The New Orleans Suspects, who are playing Ace’s tonight (March 14), is a supergroup that formed by accident, says Reggie Scanlan, bassist for 34 years for the now-defunct Radiators.
“We all hang out at the Maple Leaf, a neighborhood bar in New Orleans,” Scanlan says. “Everybody plays there, but the owner likes to have a pool of about 15 musicians he can always count on if a band is a no-show. When that happens, he says ‘I’m gonna call all the usual suspects.’
“One night, he called me, Jake (Eckert of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band) and C.R. (Gruver of Outformation) and asked if we could play. We played, and it was great. We thought, ‘Let’s do this again.’ ”
They did, and they added to their numbers drummer “Mean” Willie Green of the Neville Brothers andsaxophonist Jeff Watkins, who played with James Brown.
“The Radiators were done, so I said, ‘Why don’t we just do this?’ and we started laying the foundation for a solid band,” Scanlan says.
Because of their pedigrees, it was easy to get people out to their shows and even snare a spot at the famed New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. But they had to fight off assumptions that they were a one-off supergroup.
“It’s our history, all those bands we were in. You can’t deny it,” Scanlan says. “We do songs from our old bands, but we don’t dwell on it. We’re a real band. We’re committed to this 24/7. When we’re not on the road, we’re in the studio recording or rehearsing. That’s the rule for us.
“I hate to fall back on old sayings, but this really is like a gumbo. It’s all a recipe. We are all based in New Orleans traditions — we’re all coming from the same place.”
It also feels like they’re all starting over again. There are no more planes to take them from gig to gig, like in their former bands.
“We’re back in the trenches again,” Scanlan says. “You don’t get your own hotel room anymore. We’re back on the bus. I don’t mind, you just use that as something to build on. Our big thing is to develop our own identity.”
The band’s second album, “Caught Live at the Maple Leaf,” was released late last year, and they’re halfway finished on their follow-up.
“The third album is going to be all original material, and we hope to get it done after touring this summer,” Scanlan says.
“As long as we stay focused, if we can do it, that’s the secret to sticking around in this crazy business.”