The Story

A Crescent City favorite, keyboardist-singer-bandleader John “Papa” Gros draws on the spirit of Mardi Gras, Big Easy funk and R&B classics and bits of Americana in his genre-bending repertoire. “My last name is pronounced GRO with a silent S, as in grow,” says the New Orleans native. “It's a French thang.” A former member of George Porter Jr.’s Runnin’ Pardners, his formed the funk group Papa Grows Funk in 2000, holding down a weekly Monday night residency at the famous Maple Leaf Bar for 13 years. The band released six albums, including Needle in the Groove, which was co-produced by Crescent city legend Allen Toussaint, and a live record that captured Papa Grows Funk’s last Monday night at the Maple Leaf. After disbanding in 2013, Gros began focusing on a solo career. He comes to the Exit Zero Jazz Festival with guitarist June Yamagishi, saxophonist Jason Mingledorf, bassist Marc Pero and drummer Jeffery "Jellybean" Alexander. 

A proud local who is carrying on the tradition of New Orleans music, Gros honors its past while helping to shape its future. Says the acclaimed keyboardist and Toussaint protege, “As a sideman, I’ve worn a lot of different musical hats, but as a leader I am representing New Orleans culture and adding to legacy laid before me.”

The Sound

Expect the 2011 winner of OffBeat Magazine’s Best of the Beat Award for Best Piano/Keyboardist to roll out the funk on his clarinet-fueled “Crazy,” along with faithful covers of New Orleans classics like “Junco Partner,” Professor Longhair’s “Tipitina’s” and Allen Toussaint’s “Brickyard Blues” as well as engaging originals like “Sugar and Ice,” the Randy Newmanish “River’s on Fire” and the urgent “Cocaine & Chicken Fricassee.”

Where & When: Cape May Brewing Company Hops Pass Club Series, Saturday + Sunday

Michael Kline