Hot 8 Brass Band ‘Vicennial – 20 Years of the Hot 8 Brass Band’ 2LP/CD/Dig (Tru-Thoughts) 4/5

hot-8-brass-bandThe musical heritage of New Orleans is where the Hot 8 Brass band are at and this release celebrates the collective as at once a living and breathing formation. Both new compositions and re-workings of some of their most loved numbers feature here and this is both a well thought out and tastefully executed album. If it is old school blues with a funky beat that you are searching for, then ‘Royal garden blues’ should fit the bill, and with a marching drum beat intro and collective brass thrown in, this is New Orleans to the core and the kind of composition that one might expect either of the Marsalis brothers to attempt. Soulful hues are in evidence on the reworking of a Motown classic that is very much in-demand at present (see previous Christian McBride review), ‘Papa was a rolling stone’. Of interest here is the Brazilian style percussion with the bones taking over the original’s bass line duties, and joint lead vocals from Frank Woricks and the falsetto of Lawrence Harvey. Just as creative is a reading of Marvin Gaye’s seminal 1983 song, ‘Sexual Healing’, which is sung here by joint male leads with some gorgeous horn phrasings. Elements of the Washington go-go beat can be heard on ‘Get up’ and this is a band that effortlessly soaks up influences from the rest of the United States, the Caribbean and further beyond. Adding some welcome variety is a leisurely mid-tempo version of the Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong classic, ‘Just my imagination’, and this is a most lyrical interpretation. New Orleans and Kingston, Jamaica, meet up for a jam session on ‘Rasta funk’, and this has something of a Stevie Wonder ‘Master blaster jammin’ feel to it. The band have performed with a variety of musicians including the Dixie Cups and the Blind Boys of Alabama and it is the gospel influence that can be heard on ‘We shall walk through the streets of the city’, with the notable vocal participation of Ms Betty Williams and jazzy embellishments on trumpet and saxophone. Matters end on an uplifting high note with a rousing rendition of ‘New Orleans, after the city’, with fine individual soloing. Band leader and sousaphone player Bennie Pete is to be commended for the inventiveness and sheer excellence of the arrangements. An extensive tour that kicked off in late October, and that has included the Cork Jazz Festival in Ireland, continues through to 10 November.

Remaining tour dates:
5th November 15 – The Wardrobe, LEEDS
6th November 15 – O2, SHEFFIELD
7th November 15 – La Belle Angele, EDINBURGH
8th November 15 – The Cluny, NEWCASTLE
10th November 15 – The Garage, LONDON

Tim Stenhouse