Everyone knows all the cool kids are in band, but if you needed proof this album is it. 24 or more active musicians from New Orleans traditional jazz scene jam together in diverse brass band styles, creating a uniquely jazzy flavor with a lot of solo wow factor. It’s an addictive and inspiring album, one that anyone on your gift list currently in a marching band will appreciate and learn from.
Despite this style of play commonly being called Balkan Brass “Acin Cocek”, deep into the album, is the only Eastern European traditional. The rest have a Spanish Caribbean favor. “Cumbia de los Kiss” is Colombian and “Evacuation Ska” is essentially a slow jam on “Ghost Town”, a top song for UK Ska band The Specials in 1981. “Ghost Town” has been covered recently by another NOLA group, The Hot 8 Brass Band, and it fits the local sound remarkably well.
Though the majority of the titles are Spanish, and there is certainly a latin brass tradition, most of the popular versions I found for them were in other styles with prominent guitar or vocal elements. The versions created here have a strong New Orleans rumble. These musicians have absorbed their environment, and it’s for the good. A bouncing groove is maintained throughout to keep them dancing in the Second Line.
Despite the large ensemble individuals shine and Shaye Cohn’s trumpet is a highlight. The playing is well rehearsed yet spontaneous where it needs to be. As a band that has made some live appearances, even a trip to Maine, their book doesn’t seem to be much larger than the cuts on this album.
This is the kind of project that isn’t meant to be economically viable, or even sustainable. The band began as a Marching Krewe, and in the spirit of many similar groups in the city before it, that spontaneous energy has spun off something truly special. Fortunately for us it was captured in the studio.
This video captures the spirit of the band.
There isn’t much to see here musically but it puts them in context as one of a long line of fun-loving New Orleans marching Krewes that stumble into becoming truly remarkable bands.
You can see their full concert in Maine here:
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