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It’s all about the locals

24th June 2013   ·   0 Comments

By Geraldine Wyckoff
Contributing Writer

Hot 8 Brass Band
Tombstone
(TruThoughts)

The Hot 8 Bras Band has been through a lot and it’s not afraid to say so. On Tombstone, the group pays sorrowful yet celebratory tribute to each of the individuals the ensemble has lost through its 18 years of existence. There’s no way that the losses – four musicians in all – are anything but a terrible tragedy. Yet the band’s optimistic rap on “We Goin’ Make It” tells of the group’s forward thinking attitude.

The album opens gently, with soft notes that draw the listener in. Then the history of the band is delivered in a poetic spoken-word commentary by Al Huntley set to a warm groove. “It’s a brotherhood like no other hood,” he soulfully relays.

To make the point that the street party goes on, the Hot 8 jumps into a riffin’ go-getter, “Wolf Burger,” that as on many cuts is complete with handclappin’ and enthusiastic vocal shout outs by the band members.

Tombstone is a story album, that remembers such artists as the young Joseph Williams, the Hot 8 trombone player, better know as Shot Gun Joe for whom the song is named. The tune jumps just as it would when the Hot 8 passes by North Robertson Street and St. Philip Street where he was shot numerous times by New Orleans police officers. The trombonist is still remembered at the spot but not necessarily with a traditional dirge but often with a hot second-line dance beat that Williams loved.

This album, a “sister” of last year’s release, The Life & Times of…, boasts all original Hot 8 material. The band has proved that it doesn’t have to go outside of itself to offer essential diversity. “Take It to the House” involves the whole group from the ensemble singing, an essence throughout the album, to some some serious, finely tuned saxophone, trumpet and trombone solos. Those are the kinds of nuances that one might miss on the street as, the band sings, “Roll, roll, roll….”

Groove is definitely central to Tombstone as is rap, funk and riffin’ that is core to what makes the Hot 8 rule the streets. That remains true even when it comes to thinking about those who passed as heard on the pumpin’ “Homies.” On “Shot Gun Joe” there’s something comforting when the trumpeter goes old school quoting Dizzy Gillespie’s “A Night in Tunisia.”

The Hot 8 Brass Band has soul. The members sing and play from their hearts. You can hear and feel their vibrations of sorrow and love of celebration and agony and their New Orleans way of dealing with both.

This album Tombstone lives up to its label’s name, TruThoughts. It delivers with the authenticity of the Hot 8’s many years of kickin’ it hard leading second line parades and of the members’ life – and death – experiences. Some may find Tombstone a rather somber name for such a joyful album. The Hot 8 carries out the New Orleans tradition of paying tribute to those who have passed by musically remembering the spirit of their lives. As the final rap on this strong album explains, “We just Hot 8-in’…”

Love Alive

Valentine Bemiss Williams, a true devotee to the spirit of gospel music, brought together a community group of singers back in 1987 that was then known as the “100 Children in White.” Her summer programs that included many youngsters became heralded as the Love Alive Choir. Bolstered by the enthusiasm of its members, the ensemble, which always triumphed at its mighty Jazz Fest performances, grew. On Friday, June 28, the Love Alive choir, which merged in 2009 with the late, great organist/choir director Sammy Berfect’s Dimensions of Faith, celebrates its 26th anniversary at the New Hope Baptist Church, 1807 LaSalle Street. The evening will be a “Praise Celebration Musical” that begins at 7 p.m. and is free and open to the public.

There Are Times…

There are times when the music is so overwhelmingly great that one regrets that everyone from everywhere didn’t have the opportunity to hear it, to rejoice in it. Two shows this past week were of that standard. Saxophonist Rick Margitza, who was a regular on the New Orleans jazz scene while he was a student at Loyola University, put on an explosive set at Snug Harbor with the French group the Moutin Reunion. Because it was so downright awe inspiring, it’s difficult to describe except that the level of musicianship and the evident happiness lifted the obviously, well-informed audience. But you didn’t really need to know a thing to appreciate the great talent on the stage and the dynamics that awed the crowd. Superb.

A recent show at Snug Harbor cemented a combo of New Orleans artists guitarist Brian Seeger, saxophonist Ed Petersen and drummer Simon Lott. Each could be described as individualistic in their style and their pursuit of the music. Together they were dramatically humorous and dynamically driven to the point where novices to eccentricities were drawn in to the musical theater. It’s cool to check out what you might not know – do it!

This article originally published in the June 24, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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