Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Hot 8 Brass Band "Rock with The Hot 8 Brass Band" (4.5*)

Right from the start of What's My Name (Rock With The Hot 8), six and a half minutes of marching band mayhem (check the interjections, this mother must have been cut live in the studio) it’s obvious there’s something that kicks serious ass looming.

While there’ll be elements in this blend of marching brass, traditional New Orleans jazz, Crescent City funk, old style soul and contemporary hip hop beats that won’t be to everyone’s taste, it’s a case of the whole being more than the sum of the parts and there’s the old shuffle button if there’s something that doesn’t quite cut it as far as you’re concerned.

Take, for example, the start to Joseph Williams’ It's Real. You mightn’t like the generic sounding starting rap, but once the brass kicks in there’s no doubt where you are and it’s of a piece with the opening track which is, I gather a cover of a Snoop Dogg number. Click on the shuffle button when the rap comes back in and you’ll miss the exuberant ending that runs nicely into the traditional Fly Away, where the vocal fits comfortably into the song’s gospel roots as the band whoop and holler in the background.

I Got You kicks off in R&B territory before the brass steps in, and you can say much the same about the cover of Marvin Gaye’s Sexual Healing, close to nine minutes of unadulterated fonk complete with an uptempo a capella run through the lyric line (assuming a capella allows handclaps).  The band’s Keith Anderson contributes Jisten To Me, while We Are One is an R&B cover dating back to the early eighties. Both are delivered with the same exuberant verve that runs through the rest of the album, as is the group composition Skeet Skeet, and you don’t need to be Einstein to identify the reggae roots of Rastafunk, credited to Hot 8 member Joseph Williams, shot dead by police in controversial circumstances in 2004.

E Flat Blues sits firmly in traditional territory, and will be working its way up towards Hughesy’s Top 1500 most played, which is more than be said for Ziggly Wiggly’s Skit # 1, a forty second denunciation of tight-fisted parade organisers who fail to cough up for the band. I can sympathise, but it’s going to attract the shuffle button on a regular basis, specifically because it precedes a great Love Don't Live Here, which demonstrates what the Hot 8 are capable of doing to a late seventies chart topper. Finally, Get Up (credited to Hot 8 snare drummer Dinerral Shavers, fatally wounded while driving with his family in 2006) winds things up in suitably upbeat fashion as the band rags, the handclaps, whoops and hollers continue and the second line rhythms run on for close to seven minutes.

Rock with The Hot 8 does a rather wonderful job of delivering a brass band that’s definitely contemporary, and while the hip-hop elements are something I could probably do without taking them out of the mix would detract from what is a very impressive restatement of New Orleans tradition in a twenty-first century setting. If you’re looking to deliver traditional styles to new audiences this, I reckon, is the way to do it.

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