He was the second oldest member of one of the all-time great family groups, and his saxophone drove many of their biggest hits. Charles Neville of The Neville Brothers passes away at age 79. Neville died after a long battle with pancreatic cancer.
Neville’s famous brother Aaron posted of the death on Twitter: “My dear brother Charlie the horn man, just want you to know that if I would’ve had the choice of picking my brothers, I would definitely choose you. You were a great brother. You’ll always be in my heart and soul, like a tattoo”
With his brothers Art, Cyril and George, The Neville Brothers band was formed in 1976, in New Orleans. They got together to take part in the recording session of The Wild Tchoupitoulas, a Mardi Gras Indian group led by the Nevilles’ uncle, George Landry (“Big Chief Jolly”).
Art Neville reached out to Paul Howrilla (personal manager for Dr. John) and told him that he always wanted to do something with his brothers. Paul Howrilla created Neville Productions, Inc., serving as president and CEO with all four Neville brothers as members of the board of directors. The newly formed business covered the entire Neville family, designed to protect them from the music business abuse they had previously endured in their individual careers.
This experience led them to form the group the following year. Their debut album was released from Capitol Records in 1978. In 1988, the group released Uptown from EMI featuring guests including Branford Marsalis, Keith Richards, and Carlos Santana. The following year saw the release of Yellow Moon from A&M Records produced by Daniel Lanois. The track “Healing Chant” from that album won best pop instrumental performance of the Grammy Awards.
In 1990, the Neville Brothers contributed “In the Still of the Night” to the AIDS benefit album Red Hot + Blue produced by the Red Hot Organization. Also in 1990, they appeared on the bill at that year’s Glastonbury Festival. This also was the year they recorded “Sons and Daughters” on their Brother’s Keeperalbum.
Their version of “Bird on the Wire” was played over the closing credits of the 1990 film, Bird on a Wire.
Due to the health problems of Art Neville, the band kept low profile in the late 1990s onto the early 2000s. They made a comeback in 2004, however, with the album, Walkin’ In The Shadow Of Life, from Back Porch Records, their first newly recorded effort in five years.
All brothers except Charles, a Massachusetts resident, had been living in New Orleans, but following Hurricane Katrina in 2005 Cyril and Aaron moved out of the city. They had not been performing in New Orleans since Katrina hit the city, however, they finally returned to perform there at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival in 2008, being given the closing spot which had been reserved for them for years.
Infrequently, Ivan Neville, Aaron’s son (keyboards) and Ian Neville, Art’s son (electric guitar), both of the band Dumpstaphunk, have played with the band in recent years. The group formally disbanded in 2012 but reunited in 2015 for a farewell concert in New Orleans.
Charles Neville is survived by his wife Kristin Neville, daughter Charmaine, sons Talyn and Khalif; sister Athelgra Neville Gabriel, and brothers Art, Cyril and Aaron.