HOT 8 BRASS BAND-THE LIFE AND TIMES OF.

HOT 8 BRASS BAND-THE LIFE AND TIMES OF.

New Orleans has always been a city with a rich musical heritage, whether it be Dixieland, jazz, R&B, rock ‘n’ roll, funk, Afro Cuban or the city’s brass bands. Back in New Orleans in 1995, Bennie Pete, Jerome Jones and Harry Cook decided to merge two existing bands into a band steeped in the city’s musical traditions, but with a twist. A merger of the Looney Tunes Brass Band and the High Steppers Brass Band resulted in the Hot 8 Brass Band. During the next eleven years, they’ve continued to fuse the sound of New Orleans brass bands,’ hip hop, funk and jazz. While their music gradually found a wider, appreciative audience, the lives of the Hot 8 Brass Band were touched by tragedy,

Indeed, tragedy repeatedly revisited the members of the Hot 8 Brass Band. Three members of the Hot 8 Brass Band died violent deaths. Trumpeter Jacob Johnson died in 1996, trombonist Joseph Williams in 2004 and drummer Dinerral “Dick” Shavers in 2006. This included A gangland-style execution, a controversial and disputed shooting by police officers and a possible case of mistaken identity. Despite this tragedy and controversy, the Hot 8 Brass Band never gave up. 

In 2005, the Hot 8 Brass Band decided to independently release their debut album Rock With the Hot 8.  Sadly, the album never found the wider audience it deserved. Instead, with a lack of publicity, and no record label to tell the world about their music, the Hot 8 Brass Band were back where they started. Thankfully, their perseverance and patience was rewarded. Twelve tumultuous years after they formed, 2007 saw a change in fortune for the Hot 8 Brass Band

Their luck changed in 2007, when they signed to the British label Tru Thoughts. Since then, they’ve released two albums. Their 2005 debut album Rock With the Hot 8 was rereleased by Tru Thoughts in 2007. A year later, the Hot 8 Brass Band featured on The Blind Boys of Alabama 2008 album Down In New Orleans. Now five years after the rerelease of their debut album, the Hot 8 Brass Band have released their sophomore album. The Life and Times Of was released in November 2012. Was the five year wait for the Hot 8 Brass Band’s sophomore album The Life and Times Of, worth the wait? That’s what I’ll now tell you. 

Opening the Hot 8 Brass Band’s sophomore album The Life and Times Of is Steaming Blues written by Joseph Williams. A growling tuba, hollers and percussion aplenty join drums, creating a sound that’s New Orleans through and through. Blazing horns, pounding drums and handclaps drive the track along, as the Hot 8 Brass Band get the band started and swinging New Orleans’ style. Jazz, Afro Cuban, brass band and funk unite. It’s an irresistible fusion of influences and musical genres, that showcases New Orleans’ rich musical heritage,

Fine Tuner sees a moody tuba, percussion, drums and guitars influenced by old R&B combine, before a feisty, sassy vocal enters. It’s almost a rap. Growling horns, a myriad of percussion, thunderous drums and chiming guitars join the fun. As the vocal drops out, the Hot 8 Brass Band kick loose. They fuse influences and genres seamlessly. It’s as if they’ve been immersed in the city’s music and culture and decided to create a six-minute track that encompasses its eclecticism and variety. This is does, but with a sassy swing.

It’s funny how a cover version of a track you’ve previously disliked changes your opinion. Previously, I never liked Bingo Bango, but given a makeover by the Hot 8 Brass Band it’s a different song. Energy and soul are injected into the track. There’s a combination of Afro-Cuban, brass band, jazz and funk mixed up in the musical melting pots. Braying horns, frenzied percussion, drums and handclaps give the track a joyous, uplifting sound. 

Given the Hot 8 Brass Band’s role in promoting the suffering caused by Hurricane Katrina, it’s no wonder they use The Life and Times Of to promote their city’s rebirth and musical heritage. New Orleans (After The City) almost bursts into life, hip hop, jazz and New Orleans’ brass band sound combining. Pounding drums, grizzled horns, percussion and a vocal full of enthusiasm and energy convince you that, as the lyrics say: “New Orleans is the place for me.” 

There’s a poignancy to Can’t Hide from the Truth, a song that deals with the controversial killing of band member Joseph Williams. Listening to the lyrics, the anger, bitterness and hurt run deep. Not knowing what really happened eats away at the band. They use their music to get across their belief that the person responsible “Can’t Hide from the Truth.” All their anger, hurt and bitterness comes out in the music. Drums are pounded, horns blown with emotion, the heartfelt vocal delivered with anger. It’s as if the members of the Hot 8 Brass Band decide to lift their game. Not only do they unleash all their emotions in act of protest, but in tribute to one of their former members.

Like the original version Bingo Bango I was never a fan of the original version of Ghost Town. The Hot 8 Brass Band saw New Orleans post Hurricane Katrina as a Ghost Town. They transform the track, mixing moodiness, melancholia and an almost menacing sound. Later, horns growl and rasp, drums roll and thunder as percussion and handclaps give the track a defiant, sometimes joyous sound. It’s as if they’re saying we may be down, but we’ll neither be beaten nor defeated. After all the Hot 8 Brass Band have been through, they may have been down, but with music as defiant and joyous as this, they’ll never be defeated.

Let Me Do My Thing opens to growling horns, handclaps, drums and percussion combining with joyous, gospel tinged vocals. Soon, the vocal changes, taking on a feisty, sassy sound. Harmonies respond to the call, responding hopefully and joyously as the song swings. Soul, jazz, hip hop and even reggae are all mixed as one of the real highlights of The Life and Times Of comes to a close. So good is the track, all you want to do is press play again.

Skit does what it says on the tin, a skit of the Hot 8 Brass Band shooting the breeze in the studio. I don’t know why it was included, as it seems out of place. I’d rather have seen another track like Let Me Do My Thing included.

Closing The Life and Times Of is War Time, where the Hot 8 Brass Band burst into life. It’s not an explosion of music. Blazing horns, percussion, drums, hollers and handlclaps are combined, as the track reveals its secrets, subtleties and surprises. It’s as if they’ve been keeping the best until last. The horns are played with a similar passion and emotion as on Can’t Hide from the Truth. Percussion gallops along, while hollers, whoops and handclaps add to the infectiously catchy, good-time sound. It’s a glorious fusion of jazz, R&B, funk and Afro-Cuban music, that leaves you wanting more. It seems the Hot 8 Brass Band have closed The Life and Times Of on a real high, with the highlight of the album.

The Hot 8 Brass Band’s sophomore album The Life and Times Of is a genre-sprawling album, which showcases New Orleans’ rich musical heritage and much more. There’s everything from Dixieland, jazz, R&B, rock ‘n’ roll, funk, Afro Cuban to the unique sound of New Orleans’ brass bands. Add to that hip hop and Latin music and the result is an album chock full of musical influences and genres. This includes six new songs penned by the Hot 8 Brass Band, plus and a skit entitled Skit. Then there are cover versions of Basement Jaxx’s Bingo Bango and The Specials’ Ghost Town, which breath new life into the originals. These nine tracks, are an emotive and often, joyful roller coaster journey through musical genres. During that journey, the Hot 8 Brass Band showcase their considerable skills and musical versatility. It’s an album that’ll get any party started and in totally unique. Not only that, but it’s one that tells the story of the Hot 8 Brass Band’s The Life and Times Of. Standout Tracks: Steaming Blues, Steaming Blues, Can’t Hide from the Truth and Let Me Do My Thing.

HOT 8 BRASS BAND-THE LIFE AND TIMES OF.

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