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Music

Summer Music Update: Brass Bands

As second line season winds down, GoNOLA rounds up your best options for hearing New Orleans brass bands during the summer.

Beneath clusters of dark clouds on a recent summer Sunday Uptown, members of the Single Ladies and King of Kings social aid and pleasure clubs rolled out one by one in shades of lavender, pink, and purple to the beat of the Hot 8 Brass Band’s thumping groove. Twirling, shuffle-stepping and showing off their hottest moves, they fell into formation in the street as the Hot 8 kicked up the tempo.

A crack of thunder served the crowd a warning about the weather, and when the sky opened up a few moments later, the Hot 8 – and the TBC Brass Band in front of them – played on.

Second line season in New Orleans wraps up on June 28 with the Uptown Swingers’ parade. And while acts like the Kinfolk Brass Band use the downtime to tour or get some much-needed rest after a busy year of performances, others maintain regular gigs around town or balance out their schedules with a little studio time.

Here, we’ve rounded up some of the best spots to catch brass bands outside of second line season, along with updates about a few of the new recordings brass band fans should keep an eye out for.

Hot 8
Hot 8. (Photo courtesy Joseph Yoon)

HOT 8

Boasting some of the tightest horn lines in town, parade veterans Hot 8 rock the Howlin’ Wolf Den, a smaller venue next door to club’s main space, every Sunday night. The weekly gig has become one of the city’s top showcases for the Grammy-nominated crew, and regularly packs the house.

REBIRTH BRASS BAND

Rebirth Brass Band.
Rebirth Brass Band. (Courtesy photo)

For more than two decades, Tuesday nights in New Orleans have belonged to Rebirth, whose weekly Maple Leaf shows have become one of the city’s most-loved musical institutions. The Phil and Keith Frazier-helmed group has tour plans that will take them across the country, from New York to Chicago to Los Angeles and beyond. But their home-base shows on Oak Street – particularly in the summer, when the club-going demographic skews heavily local – remain the best way to experience the group that engineered the modern New Orleans brass band sound. In addition to their hometown gigs at the Lead, Rebirth performs June 10 at the free Wednesdays at the Point series in Algiers. They’ll head back into the studio next year to work on a follow-up to 2014’s Move Your Body.

Young Fellaz
Young Fellaz. (Courtesy photo)

YOUNG FELLAZ

Sam Jackson’s Young Fellaz have consistently upped their game since releasing their powerful “Danziger Bridge” album in 2013. The group makes regular appearances on Sunday second lines as well as at festivals around town, but they’re best known for lighting up the corner of Frenchmen and Chartres Streets with music – they play for tips most nights between 8 and 11 p.m. This month, the group is back in studio, working on a new album that they hope to release by Mardi Gras 2016.

PRES HALL BRASS

There was a time at Preservation Hall when brass band music flourished, thanks to regular Sunday night performances by Harold “Duke” Dejan’s Olympia Brass Band, one of the most influential ensembles in the history of the genre. Today, PresHall Brass has been tasked with carrying on that tradition.

PresHall_Brass
PresHall Brass Band. (Photo courtesy Zack Smith)

Featuring trumpeters Will Smith and Kenneth Terry and drummer Kerry “Fat Man” Hunter, the group plays a varied repertoire based on standards like “Lord, Lord, Lord” infused with the energy and rhythms of modern New Orleans brass band music.

They’re currently writing and arranging material for their first album, which they hope to begin recording in the late summer and early fall. When they’re not on the road, PresHall Brass performs Friday nights at (where else?) Preservation Hall.

The Original Pinettes
The Original Pinettes. (Photo courtesy Original Pinettes Brass Band on Facebook)

THE ORIGINAL PINETTES

The all-female, 10-piece Pinettes Brass Band blends tight, ensemble playing, and clever arrangements of pop tunes with groove-heavy unison chants. In 2013, the Pinettes were crowned “Street Queens” at Red Bull’s Street Kings Brass Band Blowout, a win that earned them a few days of studio time in New York with Manny Fresh and their longtime pal, Trombone Shorty. Bullet’s Sports Bar hosts the city’s reigning brass band queens every Friday night.

Jennifer Odell is a freelance music writer. Her work appears regularly in DownBeat, Jazz Times, Offbeat and the Gambit, among other publications, and she leads the New Orleans chapter of the Jazz Journalists Association. In her spare time, she enjoys second lining to the Hot 8 or TBC, costuming, and eating all of the crawfish.

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