(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Friday, March 25, 2011

CD review - Rebirth Brass Band, Rebirth of New Orleans (2011)

Rebirth Brass Band has a long rich history as ambassadors of New Orleans jazz. With 25+ years as icons on the scene, they continue to maintain a high profile, appearing on HBO'sTremé as well as countless concerts. Their latest album, Rebirth of New Orleans is officially releasing April 12 on Basin Street Records. The title says as much about who they are as it does the state of their home town. Rebirth Brass Band's music is full of life as they run through a mix of old Dixieland, bluesy jazz, and their patented brass funk grooves.

Like any brass band, the interplay between the tightly syncopated percussion section and the sassy horns is the heart of the music. The horns work like vocalists; the phrasing is like a rambunctious conversation. The players have an intuitive feel for their music, sliding from loose anarchy to tight coordination. Phil Frazier's tuba bass lines are incredible. They're deceptively simple, but a closer listen reveals the subtlety, harmony, and bounce. Derrick Tabb's snare work is also strong, anchoring the pulse of the album. The vocals are a little weak, but not to the point of distraction.

The album starts off with a Dixieland style oldie, Exactly Like You. Even though it's not really the style they're most known for, it's a good allusion to the tradition they come from. The beauty of the style is how the chaotic collection of horn parts magically weave together, completing each others phrases. The Louis Prima style vocal fits the feel perfectly and the snare breaks offer a hint of what's to come.

Right on its heels, the next track, I Like It Like That, sets up a tight, call and response brass funk groove. The tuba riff locks in with the rhythm section to lay out the foundation. They set the hook firmly before the spirited vocals kick in. The dance friendly feel and party vibe hits Rebirth's sweet spot. "Gimme some of that good, and none of that bad." Similarly, Do It Again takes a Saints' chant into a dark funky jam, with counterpoint horn stabs and another rich bass line.

The album also delivers some nice Latin beats on The Dilemma and Shrimp and Gumbo among others. This latter track gives the individual horn players room to show off a bit as each takes a few bars before the next one slides in: the trombone is overtaken by the trumpet before it falls in turn to the sax. The fluid runs complement each other; these guys smoothly finish each others musical thoughts. Feelin' Free, a joyous Jermaine Jackson cover gets the NOLA treatment with a more frantic pace and looser swing.

Rebirth of New Orleans showcases a band that's still in full stride.

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