« One of those releases that all serious lovers of music should have » by Blues and Rhythm

In the late ’70s I bought a very plainty presented album by the Eureka Brass Band, took it home and, rather perversely, really enjoyed the lack of detail, its poor recording quality and rather mournful music – theses only enhanced the idea thet here was an almost dead tradition, as jazz magazines of the day frequently pointed out that bends such as these now only played for the ‘jazz funerals’ of erderly musicians. I certainly could not have foreseen that four decades later I would be rewiewing  a lively three hours long collection of Crescent City brass bands firmly  rooted in the traditon  but certainly not afraid to step outside it when needed. Since the likes of The Dirty Dozen and Rebirth Brass Bands came along in the ‘80s, the injection into the tradition of a healthy dose of New Orleans r&b has meant that these days many blues lovers sit up and take notice of brass band music. Certainly these collection deserves the attention of anyone who loves the music of The Crescent City in Wathever form. These tirles were recorded for Gary Edwards’ ‘Sounds of New Orleans’ label, beginning with The Tremé Brass Band, inaugurating a ‘New Orleans Street Parade’ series, which ran until 2005 when Katrina did her dirty work. Despite the relative youth of some of theses bands, the first set, with its collection of parade tunes, shows a real understanding of the tradition – and for an excellent vocal blues performance, listen to Satchmo’s ‘Back Of Town Blues’, sung by Lionel Batiste (wich was also on the Tremé’s ‘I Got A Big Fat Woman’ album, also issud by Frémeaux). Elsewhere riffs are occasionally thrown in from old rock’n’roll or gospel numbers, and singer Jackie Tolbert crosses jazz and gospel on the Mahogany’s ‘We’ll Understand It Better’. Certainly many readers would fine plenty to enjoy here, though the second disc has much more of a jazz focus and is more specialised ; ‘I’ll Be Glad When You’re Dead’ is lively enough, ‘St. Louis Blues’ is noteworthy, and ‘When My Dreamboat Comes Home’ is probably from Fats Domino, but some of the other tracks may be a little too close to Dixieland jazz for some of this readership. Then again, a formulaic number such as ‘Down In Honky Tonk Town’ is given such a lively rendering that it is impossible not to crack a smile ! The juxtaposition of The High Steppers Brass Band’s mournful ‘Just A Closer Walk With Thee’ with their ‘Butterbeans’ – the same tune – in also instructive. The third disc is, unsuprisingly, perhaps the most in the line with contemporary tastes. The opening number features The New Apache Mardi Gras Indians, whilst the third track has vocalist Phat2sday rapping with a hint of funk – and still retaining a New Orleans feel (‘Eh là-bas, it’s Mardi Gras time’). Sandwiched between the two is an excellent rendition of Profassrot Longhairs Mardi Gras anthem. For those who were  wondering, the Treme Brass Band version of ‘Wonderful World’ is not the same as the version on the double CD ‘Sounds Of  New Orleans’ set (see B&R 240) – this is an instrumental. Composer credits for the remaining numbers include home town jazz superstar, Wynton Marsalis, Maceo Parker (the very funky ‘The Bird’), Dizzy Gillespie with the venerably and wonderfully lively ‘Oop-Pop-A-DA’, and George Jackson, the latter with Z.Z. Hill’s Big hit, ‘Down Home Blues’, which has trombonist Walter Moore supplying a gritty, confident and assured vocal. It is a nice touch to close with ‘The Saints’, and the treament meted out by trombonist : vocalist Eddie Boh Paris and its crew is pleasingly very traditional ! Once again, one of those releases that all serious lovers of The Big Easy’s music should have. The only exceptions are those who already possess the original releases ! Norman DARWEN - BLUES & RHYTHM