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Wednesday, October 21

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Concert Wed Jun 20 2007

Y'all Feel Like Funkin' It Up?

Let's talk about some prototypical "booty bass" stuff, if not about the key ingredients of almost everything that's now considered funky. By that I mean that special punch of the drum and wobble of bass that dutifully informs you that your ass is meant for greater things than just sittin' on. If any city can claim proprietorship over funk, it's New Orleans. That beat was very much there in the Crescent City's insular r&b scene throughout the 1950s and '60s, rooted in early jazz and blues and then reanimated years later via the sampler in hip-hop. And if you've been down there and you went to the right (meaning: local, non-touristy) places where the younger brass bands play, then you know it continues to thrive and evolve and move people to this day.

The native N.O. version of it is unmistakable, as are the moves that go with it. When it starts up, you can pick out the born-and-bred locals by how they automatically respond to the rhythm—instinctively sinking into a stance that involves a certain splay of the feet and crook of the knees, followed by a distinctly indigenous sway and bounce of the hips that intensifies as the band works its way into full swing mode. And while it may be something of an epiphany to some that a tuba (a tuba!) could get a roomful of rumps to shaking, anyone who's experienced any of this first-hand can verify it as fact. That's one of the reasons that the guys in the Rebirth Brass Band call their tuba player Philip Frazier "The Staple."

The other being that Frazier founded the group way back when. Like all such bands in New Orleans, the Rebirth Brass Band came about from a convergence of young street musicians who were looking to make their own contribution to the tradition yet update it and make it their own. They took the new-breed thing over from the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and brought it even closer to the corner, funking the tradition up further by mixing the homebrewed swing with the reconstituted bump of James Brown, The Meters, P-Funk, and the like.

Most of the members were literally kids when the band first started touring and recording, some of them barely into their early teens. (When I first saw them in 1990, the bass drummer's head was scarcely visible over the top of his kit.) It's been nearly 25 years, and the long-term members are all a good bit older, considerably more seasoned as musicians and party-starters, and even more definitive in how they lay it down. And while a good many like-minded brethren like the Soul Rebels and New Birth Brass Bands have since stepped up to follow their lead and give the music their own unique spin, Rebirth remain the standard bearer after all these years. They still kick it freewheelingly loud, loose, and raucous.

The Rebirth Brass Band is in Chicago this weekend to play a pair of shows at Martyrs' this weekend. Friday night's billing looks to be the killer, with the Occidental Brothers Dance Band International filling the opening slot. On Saturday, MWC take the drivers seat first. 3855 N. Lincoln. Friday & Saturday nights, 10pm. Tickets are $15 for each show.

[video]: Rebirth Brass Band - "Live in Coral Gables, FL"
[mp3]: Rebirth Brass Band - "Are You With Me?" (live, with Fred Wesley)

 
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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

Read this feature »

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