Rebirth Brass Band
The Chicago Jazz Festival has long enjoyed a special relationship with New Orleans. It has presented such distinguished Crescent City artists as Doc Cheatham, Alvin Batiste, Henry Butler and Ellis Marsalis (not to mention his sons Wynton and Branford), and younger attractions from Gumbo City including Evan Christopher and Doreen Kitchens. The fest also has greeted early-comers with strolling New Orleans brass bands. Today, one of the very best of those units, Rebirth Brass Band, takes to the main stage to close out this year’s fest with its exuberant blend of sass and grit.
Formed as a street band in 1983 by the brothers Frazier, bass drummer Keith and tuba player Phil, along with Kermit Ruffins (who left RBB in 1994), this octet takes brass band tradition by the horns and shakes it to high-stepping effect with reggae, rap and James Brown-inspired funk. Rebirth, wrote New York Times critic Jon Pareles, “has perfected the blend of structure and improvisational anarchy that makes a great brass band sound like it’s making up every song — even the cover versions — on the spot.”
Nearly 35 years after Rebirth’s founding, the youthful uppityness of the Fraziers has given way to a more polished product. But such is the built-in abandon and bountiful spirit of their music, don’t look for them to be easing into any rocking chairs. As they say in one of their song titles, “Rebirth Makes You Dance.” The band also includes snare drummer Derrick Tabb, trombonists Stafford Agee and Gregory Veals, trumpeters Chad Honore and Glenn Andrews and saxophonist Vincent Broussard. Laissez les bons temps rouler!