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Starting off New Orleans’ music stylings for 2013…

7th January 2013   ·   0 Comments

By Geraldine Wyckoff
Contributing Writer

Hot 8 Brass Band
The Life & Times Of…(Tru Thoughts)

The Hot 8 Brass Band riffs on the streets as one of the most popular and most called on groups for the weekly social aid and pleasure clubs’ anniversary parades. The ensemble, formed in 1995, gets things goin’ with their loyal followers second lining to the rollin’ beats.

Recorded in a studio setting, The Life & Times Of…, offers the opportunity to get to know the Hot 8 a little better; to understand the big heart that beyond leader Bennie Pete’s tuba drives the group. The losses that the band has endured, including the senseless shooting of trombonist Joseph “Shot Gun Joe” Williams by New Orleans police and the equally senseless death by the gunfire of thugs who took the life of snare drummer Dinerral Shavers, remain deeply entrenched in the consciousness of the band’s music. Meanwhile, like we tend to do in New Orleans, the Hot 8 celebrates life and carries on.

The Hot 8 Brass Band members

The Hot 8 Brass Band members

The disc opens with Williams’ composition, “Steamin’ Blues” that stylistically is reminiscent of the Dirty Dozen’s approach with lots of jazz improvisation delivered by the horns and a sophisticated, warm groove.

The Latin tinge of “Bingo Bango,” a cover of the Basement Jaxx tune, suits the band and New Orleans well. Guest Shamarr Allen spices this number up with some piercing trumpet. The other non-original on the album and another good choice is The Specials’ “Ghost Town,” a rather exotic number that rocks and sways.

More typical of Hot 8’s sound on the streets is “New Orleans (After the City),” that includes the chant “We represent 504…” that always results in a response — “504” — echoing from any local crowd. Before Katrina who could have imagined that a telephone area code could mean so much to a community? It remains in the shared psyche even now and the song has become an anthem in remembrance of that time.

The album second lines out in a finger snappin’ mode with Dinerral Shavers’ and Jerome Jones’ “War Time.” Guest John “Prince” Gilbert offers a fine saxophone solo on this nicely understated, soulful, well-executed melody. It hits with a soft punch.

Strikingly, photographs of graffiti artist and political activist Banksy’s drawings and paintings that turned up on buildings post-Katrina fill the disc’s pull-out. His images and the Hot 8’s music make a good marriage.

The Life & Times Of… The Hot 8 Brass Band is full of heart and a social consciousness that makes the music both fun and meaningful.

Neal Caine Leads an All-Star Band

At times, the description “all-star” can be an exaggeration of a reality. When it comes to the musicians that bassist Neal Caine hand-picked for his Tuesday night gig, January 8, at Snug Harbor, it’s not stretching the truth.

Caine, a native of St. Louis who played heavily on the New Orleans jazz scene when he arrived here in 2001 to study at Tulane and the University of New Orleans, didn’t fool around. He enlisted saxophonist Ed Peterson—a heavyweight to be sure—who is a professor at UNO and blows folks away as a member of Irvin Mayfield’s New Orleans Jazz Orchestra. He’s teamed on the front line with fellow reedman Derek Douget, an outstanding musician often heard with pianist Ellis Marsalis. Pianist Victor Atkins also teaches at UNO and honed his Latin chops with the group Los Hombres Calientes while digging hard into the finer aspects of jazz improvisation. It’s difficult to say enough about the creative juices surging in drummer Herlin Riley a native New Orleanian from the great Lastie family who makes every appearance special.

Caine, who regularly travels bet­ween New York and his adopted city of New Orleans, is in town to record with pianist/vocalist Harry Connick Jr. with whom he’s been playing and recording for some dozen years. Having been recently working on Broadway productions, Caine has again put his jazz hat on teaming with Big Apple-based musicians such as trombonist Wycliffe Gordon, guitarist Mark Whitfield and our own pianist Jonathan Batiste.

“I like to keep it (the music) very loose and open with in-the-moment choices,” says Caine of his ap­proach when fronting a band. For Tuesday’s sets the exceptionally able group will work primarily on Caine’s free-spirited, self-penned tunes much like those he displayed on his 2005 CD, Backstabbers Ball.

The gig, he says is “full of great high-level, sophisticated musicians who listen to each other performing on original material. We’ll walk on the musical high wire.”

Heritage School Auditions

Auditions to participate in the Don Jamison Heritage School of Music are being held for students ages 11 through 17 on at 10 am on Saturday, January 12, 2013 at Dillard University. There are three levels of classes offered for beginner, intermediate and advanced young musicians. Beginners must have had completed one year of prior music instruction and except for pianists and drummers are required to bring their own instruments. Complete details for other levels and further information about the auditions are available at

The Heritage School of Music, founded by saxophonist/educator Edward “Kidd” Jordan in 1998, holds classes each Saturday from 10 am until 1 pm and is open to young musicians from throughout the greater New Orleans area. For answers to other questions call (504) 558-6100.

This article was originally published in the January 7, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper

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