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Taking the music to the streets, New Orleans-style

21st October 2013   ·   0 Comments

By Geraldine Wyckoff
Contributing Writer

Horns Lock at the Red Bull Street Kings Competition

Last year, Walter “Whoadie” Ramsey led the Stooges Brass Band to victory at the Red Bull Street Kings Brass Band Blow Out competition. For this edition, the trombonist, tuba player and Stooges leader will be among the judges to select this year’s winner from the four finalists – the New Breed, New Creations, Pinettes and the To Be Continued (TBC) brass bands.

“I’m very competitive so I want to see these bands come with a competitive edge in every aspect – dress, playing, performance,” declares Ramsey of the contest that takes place “under the bridge” on N. Claiborne Avenue between St. Ann and St. Philip streets beginning at noon on Saturday, October 26. “I want to see who’s really going to bring it.”

NEW BREED BRASS BAND Photo by Jafar M. Pierre

NEW BREED BRASS BAND
Photo by Jafar M. Pierre

While the Pinettes and TBC are veterans on the scene, the other two finalists were both formed in 2012.

Snare drummer Jenard Andrews, 22, leads the New Breed Brass Band, a group that while recently assembled, includes many musicians familiar to the streets. “All of us really came from other bands,” explains Andrews, who is the son of trumpeter James Andrews and the cousin of Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews.

NEW CREATIONS BRASS BAND Photo by Jafar M. Pierre

NEW CREATIONS BRASS BAND
Photo by Jafar M. Pierre

Like several of his bandmates, he previously worked with the Baby Boyz Band, first as a trombonist, then as a bass drummer and finally landing on snare drum. “I fell in love with the snare so that’s where I’ve been,” he declares.

The seven members, ranging in age from about 18 to 27 years old, include another of Andrews’ cousins, Travis “Trumpet Black” Hill, who is primarily recognized as a member of trombonist Corey Henry and the Tremé Funktet. The trumpeter began his association with his cousin’s young group as a mentor but now, says Andrews, “he’s really a part of us and most of the time, our schedules work out with his so it’s cool.”

Another member, trombonist Caleb Windsay, also comes from a musical family. His grandmother is vocalist Topsy Chapman.

Considering New Breed’s roots, it’s no wonder that Andrews has been told that the band boasts a “Tremé style.” “That’s what camp we came up under,” says Andrews mentioning groups like the ReBirth and Lil’ Rascals brass bands. “Now we’re trying to take that sound and bring in some new stuff and expand it. We’ve been trying to get a different song for every different genre.”

The New Breed has played a bit around town, most notably as the opening act at a recent Harvest the Music show and hitting at clubs like the Blue Nile and Tipitina’s. Though all of the members have played in bands for the Sunday afternoon social aid and pleasure club second lines, they will make their first appearance as a unit on November 17 at the Nine Times anniversary parade.

Since the New Breed has already begun working on its first album, the prize of going into Red Bull’s New York studio and recording under the direction of Trombone Shorty would be right on time.

“We can’t wait,” Andrews says of competing for the Red Bull Street Kings title.
“It’s a new breed of music that we’ll be bringing to this culture and we’ve got a new shirt to put on for the city.”

The New Creations Brass Band’s first big gig was playing for the 2012 Mardi Gras Indian Super Sunday parade. The group was invited back to participate in the 2013 edition of the event.

“We like to think of that Super Sunday second line as our birthday second line,” says saxophonist Kyle Gancayco, who acts as co-leader of the “democratically” run group with trumpeter Thomas Watson. “That parade kind of sealed the deal of who was playing with us.”

The members of the New Creations didn’t take the traditional New Orleans route of playing in high school bands and then jumping into the brass band scene. For instance, Gancayco arrived in this city from California just three years ago to attend the University of New Orleans in the jazz studies program. The core members of the 10-piece ensemble – Watson, trombonists Royce and Ronald Lockett and tuba player Wayne Harris – were all in the Sarah T. Reed High marching band under the direction of Wilbert Rollins. After graduation, they laid down their instruments and went their separate ways. Fifteen years later, they were back in the city and when Royce Lockett came across some instruments, the inspiration came to them and they said: “Let’s start a brass band!”

So they began playing along the Mississippi near the Riverwalk Marketplace and started earning some tips. “We would just kind of fantasize about what it would be like if we were to become a popular brass band,” Gancayco remembers. He also recalls that after last year’s Street Kings competition, they talked about the possibility of someday being a part of the contest if it was held again.

“It’s really like a dream come true,” Gancayco exclaims of the New Creations actually being among the finalists.

Stylistically, the saxophonist says that the band is true to its name. “We want to keep that second line, brass band feel but still try to integrate other styles of music – reggae, Caribbean, funk, traditional and even a little dubstep {electronic dance music}.

Gancayco credits drummer Shannon Powell, who lives next door to Royce Lockett, for mentoring the group in practical matters such as presentation and business. “He’s seen us from the time when we were just crawling out of the mud,” the saxophonist says with a laugh.

The band, which likes to think of itself as a “big band on the move,” has been practicing and brainstorming in preparation for its appearance at the competition and promises a few surprises.

“This band pulls off a whole lot of miracles,” Gancayco observes. “It’s been crazy.”

Winning last year’s Red Bull Brass Band Blowout competition gained the Stooges Brass Band further recognition both locally and nationally. “One of the great things about it was that it gave us more exposure,” Ramsey acknowledges.

Let the best band win…

Wendell Eugene Continues His 90th Birthday Celebration

“I’m old too, you know,” trombonist Wendell Eugene humorously declared while sitting just offstage at trumpeter Lionel Ferbos’ 102nd birthday party in July at the Palm Court Jazz Cafe. Eugene, a New Orleans native who on October 12 celebrated his 90th birthday at the Decatur Street traditional jazz mecca, continues the festivities as he closes out the ever-popular, free Sunday evening, Nickel-A-Dance series on October 27. Showtime at Frenchmen Street’s Maison club is 4 p.m.

Born in New Orleans in 1923, Eugene has been playing the ‘bone professionally since 1938 performing with such legendary musicians as trumpeter Papa Celestin, clarinetists Willie Humphrey, Louis Cotrell and George Lewis, drummer Paul Barbarin and more. In other words he was among the creators. His brass band credentials also rank high having blown with the likes of the Olympia, Tuxedo and Onward bands.

The thing about Eugene, who is often heard alongside Ferbos or having some great musical conversations and good times with trumpeter Wendell Brunious, is that his blowing remains classic New Orleans in its mixture of great technique, innovation and the essential element of fun. Don’t miss the legends.

This article originally published in the October 21, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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