So if you haven’t ever really felt connected to classic New Orleans music, there are only two reasons for this: 1) you’ve never been to New Orleans; or, 2) you’ve never watched Treme. I know, because it wasn’t long ago I qualified for both reasons. But no longer—I’ve been and I’ve watched. The music now sparkles and shimmies in a new way; it fires up my feet and my heart.
The big party may be over down there—it’s Ash Wednesday now, after all—but in many real ways, the party never quite ends in that strange, troubled, and magical place. So here’s a bit of post-Mardi Gras stomp, courtesy of the forthcoming Rebirth Brass Band album. What I love now, so much, about this music is how simultaneously casual and disciplined it is. But for the sax solo in the middle, it’s all ensemble work, and note the happy-hearted looseness about the playing, the way each melody line, enforced by the group playing it, continually frays around the edges by the sloppy-tight way the individual instruments blend together. This is even true with the vocals, which themselves become another instrument in the blend, half-melodic and half-percussive. Note too how the beat is at once strong and pliable—you can feel it even when the instruments are playing everywhere but the beat. Take the trumpets’ signature moment, that slinky I-V-IV-VI melody we hear first at 0:30: the emphatic blasts on the V and VI notes come entirely off the beat, yet this is exactly what makes you want to move your body.
Founded in 1982, Rebirth remains a fixture on the NOLA music scene, and continues to be notable and relevant for its signature blend of classic New Orleans brass band music with funk and soul and bop and hip-hop. “Do It Again” is from the album Rebirth of New Orleans, due for release next month on Basin Street Records. MP3 via the band’s site.