September 1st, 2011
Title: Rebirth of New Orleans
Artist: Rebirth Brass Band
Label: Basin Street Records
Catalog No.: BSR 1202-2
Formats: CD, MP3
Release Date: April 12, 2011
The Rebirth Brass Band dates from the early 1980s, but it has gained national visibility in recent years via appearances on the HBO TV series Treme (see my earlier review of the “Treme” soundtrack album). The band is currently comprised of tuba, two trombones, three trumpets, bass drum, snare drum and percussion, and is lead by two founding members, brothers Phil and Keith Frazier.
Rebirth’s sound is a New Orleans original sonic gumbo—second-line street band meets funk meets hip hop. The music is beat-heavy and very danceable. There aren’t many lyrics—this is party music to move and groove to, not concert hall music to sit and contemplate.
According to its Wikipedia entry, the band has played a long-standing Tuesday night gig at the Maple Leaf Bar on Oak Street in the Carrollton neighborhood of Uptown New Orleans, described as “one of the pillars of the New Orleans music scene,” serving as “a reliable introduction to the city’s nightlife for many new arrivals to the city.”
This new album includes 11 toe-tappers, all featuring a battery of horns and a funky but light-footed beat. Most tunes are 4 minutes or less, time to get sweaty on the dance floor but not too long to run out of beer. The tuba bass line is classic NOLA, but very different from typical funk or hip hop. The less funky songs sound somewhat like what the very best historically black college marching bands do during football games. For instance, “Feelin’ Free” reminds one of Grambling’s marching band, but also of the old T.S.U Toronados from Houston (heard backing Archie Bell & The Drells in the 1960s, and on the Stax single “Play the Music Toronados”). This isn’t to say that the Rebirth Brass Band sounds derivative, just to say the music has wide-ranging roots.
Following is the promo video for the album, featuring the track “Do It Again” (courtesy of Basin Street Records):
A likely candidate for frequent rotation, this album is a winner. Also worth mentioning is the excellent sound, recorded by Chris Finney at the Music Shed in New Orleans. A full-tilt brass band puts out a lot of sound pressure, which Finney captured with excitement but without adding distortion.
Reviewed by Tom Fine
Review Genre(s): Jazz