Always strong and full of fire, McLean never seems to slow down. FIRE AND LOVE accurately describes the vibrant music contained on this disc as well as the altoist himself. Never one to play it safe or dally with fluff, McLean draws from his rich history of hard bop modality and bebop dexterity to produce an album of full-bodied music that possesses both strength and beauty. Always the teacher, McLean employs sidemen, including his son Rene, who have been under his tutelage for some time, a fact that shows in their dynamic performances. The disc's opener, "Mr. E," a quick jaunt with funky bebop horn lines, is the only track penned by McLean himself. His younger sidemen are responsible for the remainder as we are treated to Horace Silver-esque rhythm numbers like "Beautiful Majestic One" and the Latin/bebop explosion of "Rites Of Passage." The arranging skills of this group are at a high level as well. Steve Davis' "Optimism" and Raymond Williams' "The Griot" contain some interesting horn orchestrations with varying textures. Other standout performances include the up-tempo bossa "Excursions" and the very rhythmic "Cryptography." Includes liner notes by Ira Gitler. Jackie McLean Septet: Jackie McLean (alto saxophone, percussion); Rene McLean (tenor saxophone, percussion); Raymond Williams (trumpet, flugelhorn); Steve Davis (trombone, percussion); Alan Jay Palmer (piano); Phil Bowler (bass); Eric McPherson (drums). Personnel: Jackie McLean (alto saxophone, percussion); Rene McLean (tenor saxophone, percussion); Steve Davis (trombone, percussion); Eric McPherson (drums). Audio Mixer: James Anderson. Liner Note Author: Ira Gitler. Recording information: 1997.

Always strong and full of fire, McLean never seems to slow down. FIRE AND LOVE accurately describes the vibrant music contained on this disc as well as the altoist himself. Never one to play it safe or dally with fluff, McLean draws from his rich history of hard bop modality and bebop dexterity to produce an album of full-bodied music that possesses both strength and beauty. Always the teacher, McLean employs sidemen, including his son Rene, who have been under his tutelage for some time, a fact that shows in their dynamic performances. The disc's opener, "Mr. E," a quick jaunt with funky bebop horn lines, is the only track penned by McLean himself. His younger sidemen are responsible for the remainder as we are treated to Horace Silver-esque rhythm numbers like "Beautiful Majestic One" and the Latin/bebop explosion of "Rites Of Passage." The arranging skills of this group are at a high level as well. Steve Davis' "Optimism" and Raymond Williams' "The Griot" contain some interesting horn orchestrations with varying textures. Other standout performances include the up-tempo bossa "Excursions" and the very rhythmic "Cryptography." Includes liner notes by Ira Gitler. Jackie McLean Septet: Jackie McLean (alto saxophone, percussion); Rene McLean (tenor saxophone, percussion); Raymond Williams (trumpet, flugelhorn); Steve Davis (trombone, percussion); Alan Jay Palmer (piano); Phil Bowler (bass); Eric McPherson (drums). Personnel: Jackie McLean (alto saxophone, percussion); Rene McLean (tenor saxophone, percussion); Steve Davis (trombone, percussion); Eric McPherson (drums). Audio Mixer: James Anderson. Liner Note Author: Ira Gitler. Recording information: 1997.


Album Notes
If you find that your musical and cultural diet has felt a little bland lately and been wondering where you might spice it up, well search no more—you won’t want to miss the master musical chefs of the Jambalaya Brass Band! These seasoned New York purveyors of authentic American ‘roots’ music play a delightful spicy musical gumbo of New Orleans fare from the likes of Buddy Bolden, Jelly Roll Morton and Louis Armstrong straight through to the heights of their own modern sounds which incorporate elements of R&B, Gospel, Funk, Zydeco, Latin, Hip-Hop and Be-bop. This tight and tasty ensemble is the ultimate in New Orleans party bands which is amply demonstrated in their new CD release It’s a Jungle Out There.
The Jambalaya Brass Band is a group of seasoned musical pros from a variety of impressive previous musical settings as diverse as the Duke Ellington Orchestra to the Lounge Lizards,* yet they have a knack for integrating these disparate musical experiences into one dynamic setting. They embody the history of the best American music of the last hundred years while at the same time suggesting a prescient trajectory of America’s musical future. Some of the Band’s arrangements are traditional, and many are original and innovative while the playing is precise and spontaneous at the same time, yet all is conceived with imagination and wit. Because after-all, let’s face it, this is New Orleans party music and, if anything, the Jambalaya Brass Band is a joyous and exuberant musical celebration as they have proven on many occasions. From the Warner Bros. film Where the Wild Things Are, to the Britney Spears Super Bowl Party in New York City at Planet Hollywood, to the half-time Mardi Gras show for the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden this group of talented musical revelers has literally made the party.
Jambalaya’s foundation is provided by Chauncey Yearwood’s bass drum and cymbal; Washington Duke’s snare drum and cymbal; and Ron Caswell’s tuba—and this rhythm section cooks with a flavor as driving as it is subtle! Adding the spice on top is the trombone, vocals and percussion of Curtis Fowlkes; the trumpet, vocals and percussion of Walt Szymanski; and the tenor sax, vocals, percussion of leader and founder Ric Frank, who has worked with the Ellington Orchestra. In addition, the group is commercially flexible and viable in that they can provide a unit of five to nine players in a live setting—and what accomplished players these guys are!
It’s a Jungle Out There is a rollicking musical journey and a great celebration of American music while at the same time an appetizing preview of what this group is capable of live. Putting on It’s a Jungle Out There at a party is a sure bet, but seeing these talented players live really brings the party directly home to you.

Album Notes If you find that your musical and cultural diet has felt a little bland lately and been wondering where you might spice it up, well search no more—you won’t want to miss the master musical chefs of the Jambalaya Brass Band! These seasoned New York purveyors of authentic American ‘roots’ music play a delightful spicy musical gumbo of New Orleans fare from the likes of Buddy Bolden, Jelly Roll Morton and Louis Armstrong straight through to the heights of their own modern sounds which incorporate elements of R&B, Gospel, Funk, Zydeco, Latin, Hip-Hop and Be-bop. This tight and tasty ensemble is the ultimate in New Orleans party bands which is amply demonstrated in their new CD release It’s a Jungle Out There. The Jambalaya Brass Band is a group of seasoned musical pros from a variety of impressive previous musical settings as diverse as the Duke Ellington Orchestra to the Lounge Lizards,* yet they have a knack for integrating these disparate musical experiences into one dynamic setting. They embody the history of the best American music of the last hundred years while at the same time suggesting a prescient trajectory of America’s musical future. Some of the Band’s arrangements are traditional, and many are original and innovative while the playing is precise and spontaneous at the same time, yet all is conceived with imagination and wit. Because after-all, let’s face it, this is New Orleans party music and, if anything, the Jambalaya Brass Band is a joyous and exuberant musical celebration as they have proven on many occasions. From the Warner Bros. film Where the Wild Things Are, to the Britney Spears Super Bowl Party in New York City at Planet Hollywood, to the half-time Mardi Gras show for the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden this group of talented musical revelers has literally made the party. Jambalaya’s foundation is provided by Chauncey Yearwood’s bass drum and cymbal; Washington Duke’s snare drum and cymbal; and Ron Caswell’s tuba—and this rhythm section cooks with a flavor as driving as it is subtle! Adding the spice on top is the trombone, vocals and percussion of Curtis Fowlkes; the trumpet, vocals and percussion of Walt Szymanski; and the tenor sax, vocals, percussion of leader and founder Ric Frank, who has worked with the Ellington Orchestra. In addition, the group is commercially flexible and viable in that they can provide a unit of five to nine players in a live setting—and what accomplished players these guys are! It’s a Jungle Out There is a rollicking musical journey and a great celebration of American music while at the same time an appetizing preview of what this group is capable of live. Putting on It’s a Jungle Out There at a party is a sure bet, but seeing these talented players live really brings the party directly home to you.

The first US signing to Tru Thoughts is this authentic New Orleans brass band. The real deal, walking the streets of New Orleans and playing their tunes. They are something special!!!

“Hot 8 music is feel good music…music with a message. It’s life music.” – Band leader, Bennie Pete

New Orleans’ Hot 8 Brass Band was founded in 1995 by tuba player Bennie Pete, Jerome “Bay Bay” Jones (trombone) and Harry “Swamp Thang” Cook (bass drum) to play brass band music professionally. Although many of the current members began playing together in high school, over time the line-up has inevitably shifted and changed, and continues to do so. But any incarnation of Hot 8 Brass Band will boast eight or nine players of the highest rate, bringing the passion and noise through a bevy of trombones, saxophones, trumpets, snare and bass drums, all buoyed up by the immense tuba basslines of band leader Bennie Pete. These musicians over the years have been inspired by artists such as Tuba Fats, Leroy Jones, Louis Armstrong, JJ Johnson, Stevie Wonder and Jackie McLean, and have variously recorded and performed with some of those mentioned and more. They also continue to cite each other as influences.

The first US signing to Tru Thoughts is this authentic New Orleans brass band. The real deal, walking the streets of New Orleans and playing their tunes. They are something special!!!

“Hot 8 music is feel good music…music with a message. It’s life music.” – Band leader, Bennie Pete

New Orleans’ Hot 8 Brass Band was founded in 1995 by tuba player Bennie Pete, Jerome “Bay Bay” Jones (trombone) and Harry “Swamp Thang” Cook (bass drum) to play brass band music professionally. Although many of the current members began playing together in high school, over time the line-up has inevitably shifted and changed, and continues to do so. But any incarnation of Hot 8 Brass Band will boast eight or nine players of the highest rate, bringing the passion and noise through a bevy of trombones, saxophones, trumpets, snare and bass drums, all buoyed up by the immense tuba basslines of band leader Bennie Pete. These musicians over the years have been inspired by artists such as Tuba Fats, Leroy Jones, Louis Armstrong, JJ Johnson, Stevie Wonder and Jackie McLean, and have variously recorded and performed with some of those mentioned and more. They also continue to cite each other as influences.

 Sousaphonist Kirk Joseph puts his solitary mark on the hard-driving opener, “Backyard Groove.” He and guest, saxophonist Donald Harrison, who lays down his own distinctive stamp, engage in some fine bobbing and weaving with solid riffing by the horns of trumpeter Raymond Williams and saxophonist Sherik Akbar. Drummer Kevin O’Day is just all over this tune. Expect the unexpected on this package from the sousaphone master as the next voice—and piano—up is Dr. John, on the aptly titled “Laid Back.” It’s a natural to slide right into the good doctor’s easy frame mind on this relaxed number. Here, guitarist Hironari Mano gets some well-utilized solo time. Throughout the disc, there’s a bunch of mixing it up with various musicians and styles. For instance, rap meets brassy funk on “A Walker’s Groove” and a tropical sway brushes “Thinking of Her” with “Mean” Willie Green on wickedly wonderful percussion. Of course, funk is the main ingredient at the barbecue though Joseph takes advantage of the presence of Dr. John and Harrison at the roast and allows some quiet time as he thoughtfully backs them on the ballad, “I Can’t Get Started.” The Bonerama horns turn up for “Blackout” and later Theresa Andersson brings her violin and voice to join an array of other guests on the skanking “No Meat.” There’s plenty on the grill to select from this Backyard Groove bash.                        
                                                                                                                         Release Date: 2005
Recording Date: 2005

1. Laid Back (7:24)
2. Can't Get Started (7:48)
3. Shit Straight (4:29)
4. Blackout (4:38)
5. Backyard Groove (3:58)
6. Thinking Of Her (6:58)
7. Not Yet Son (5:43)
8. No Meat (5:29)
9. A Walker's Groove (3:38)

 

FEATURING:
Dr. John - lead vocals, piano - #1-2
Raymond Williams - trumpet #1, 3-9
Hiro Mano - guitar all tracks, solo #3,7,9
Chris Mule - guitar all tracks, solo #1,5
Rasheed Akbar - sax #3,5,9
Donald Harrison - sax #2, 5 6 solo
Skerik - tenor sax #5, solo #6
Raymond Jenkins - sax #1
Bonerama Jones - vocals #4
Brian O'Neill - solo
Charles Joseph - trombone #9
Bruce(Ayanyemi) Jackson-Axtion - congas, talking drum all tracks
Kevin O'Day - drums, percussions all tracks
Willie Green - drums, floor toms - #9, 6
Theresa Andersson - violin, background vocals #8
Chaddy 1 P.U.S. - lead vocals #7
Venessa Joseph - background vocals #8
Kirk Joseph Jr. - percussions, background vocals
Henry Petras - background vocal/tamborines #1, 8
Kirk Joseph - sousaphone, vocals, percussions all tracks

Sousaphonist Kirk Joseph puts his solitary mark on the hard-driving opener, “Backyard Groove.” He and guest, saxophonist Donald Harrison, who lays down his own distinctive stamp, engage in some fine bobbing and weaving with solid riffing by the horns of trumpeter Raymond Williams and saxophonist Sherik Akbar. Drummer Kevin O’Day is just all over this tune. Expect the unexpected on this package from the sousaphone master as the next voice—and piano—up is Dr. John, on the aptly titled “Laid Back.” It’s a natural to slide right into the good doctor’s easy frame mind on this relaxed number. Here, guitarist Hironari Mano gets some well-utilized solo time. Throughout the disc, there’s a bunch of mixing it up with various musicians and styles. For instance, rap meets brassy funk on “A Walker’s Groove” and a tropical sway brushes “Thinking of Her” with “Mean” Willie Green on wickedly wonderful percussion. Of course, funk is the main ingredient at the barbecue though Joseph takes advantage of the presence of Dr. John and Harrison at the roast and allows some quiet time as he thoughtfully backs them on the ballad, “I Can’t Get Started.” The Bonerama horns turn up for “Blackout” and later Theresa Andersson brings her violin and voice to join an array of other guests on the skanking “No Meat.” There’s plenty on the grill to select from this Backyard Groove bash.

Release Date: 2005

Recording Date: 2005

  1. Laid Back (7:24)
  2. Can't Get Started (7:48)
  3. Shit Straight (4:29)
  4. Blackout (4:38)
  5. Backyard Groove (3:58)
  6. Thinking Of Her (6:58)
  7. Not Yet Son (5:43)
  8. No Meat (5:29)
  9. A Walker's Groove (3:38)

FEATURING: Dr. John - lead vocals, piano - #1-2 Raymond Williams - trumpet #1, 3-9 Hiro Mano - guitar all tracks, solo #3,7,9 Chris Mule - guitar all tracks, solo #1,5 Rasheed Akbar - sax #3,5,9 Donald Harrison - sax #2, 5 6 solo Skerik - tenor sax #5, solo #6 Raymond Jenkins - sax #1 Bonerama Jones - vocals #4 Brian O'Neill - solo Charles Joseph - trombone #9 Bruce(Ayanyemi) Jackson-Axtion - congas, talking drum all tracks Kevin O'Day - drums, percussions all tracks Willie Green - drums, floor toms - #9, 6 Theresa Andersson - violin, background vocals #8 Chaddy 1 P.U.S. - lead vocals #7 Venessa Joseph - background vocals #8 Kirk Joseph Jr. - percussions, background vocals Henry Petras - background vocal/tamborines #1, 8 Kirk Joseph - sousaphone, vocals, percussions all tracks

Swedish-born Anders Osborne has made the city of New Orleans his own, immersing himself in its idiosyncratic ways. Certainly one of the most unique subcultures in the city is that of the Mardi Gras Indians. Osborne has teamed up with one of the best-known Mardi Gras Indians of them all, Monk Boudreaux, to create this CD with its appropriate title of Bury the Hatchet. The songs on the album are a mixture of Mardi Gras Indian tunes and Osborne originals. The recording starts right in with Boudreaux announcing, "I Am the Big Chief," which, of course, he is. Formerly performing with longtime friend Bo Dollis and his Wild Magnolias, Monk Boudreaux is now chief of his own tribe, the Golden Eagles. The listener will hear songs from the street tradition, including the obligatory "Meet de Boys on de Battlefront," as well as "Dive in That Gumbo" and "Smoke It Right." The sonorous voice of Boudreaux is accompanied by fancy guitar and banjo work by Osborne, as well as some outstanding contributions by piano wizard David Torkanowsky and Kirk Joseph on the saxophone. The album also contains some folksier tunes by Osborne, such as the evocative "Summertime in New Orleans" and the pensive "Letters From Rome." The aggregation performs an interesting cover of Neil Young's "Ohio," as if to say that they know all is not right with the world. But they have not forgotten the party spirit for which the Crescent City is renowned. A rousing rendition of "Junco Partner" extols the virtues of excess in a way that would make Dr. John and James Booker proud. Fans of Anders Osborne will appreciate the lyrical qualities of their man on the CD. Perhaps the exposure will bring some new fans to the fantastic Mardi Gras Indian tradition that well deserves it. ~ Rose of Sharon Witmer 7th Rel;W/Monk Boudreaux Recorded at Sound Services, New Orleans, Louisiana. Includes liner notes by Randall Grass. Personnel: Anders Osborne (vocals, guitar, banjo, piano, organ, percussion, background vocals); Big Chief Monk Boudreaux (vocals, chant, tambourine, background vocals); Tim Green (saxophone); Charles Joseph (trombone); Kirk Joseph (sousaphone); David Torkanowsky (piano); Doug Belote, Herman V. Ernest III (drums); Chris Boone, Rueben Williams, Brian Stoltz (background vocals). Audio Mixer: Marc Hewitt. Liner Note Author: Randall Grass. Recording information: Sound Services, New Orleans, LA. Photographer: Syndey Byrd. Personnel: Anders Osborne (vocals, guitar); Monk Boudreaux (vocals); Dave Easly (pedal steel guitar); Brian Stoltz (guitar, background vocals); Tim Green (saxophone); Raymond Williams Sr. (trumpet); Charles Joseph (trombone); Kirk Joseph (sousaphone); David Torkanowski (piano); Doug Belote, Herman Ernest (drums); Chris Boone (background vocals).

Swedish-born Anders Osborne has made the city of New Orleans his own, immersing himself in its idiosyncratic ways. Certainly one of the most unique subcultures in the city is that of the Mardi Gras Indians. Osborne has teamed up with one of the best-known Mardi Gras Indians of them all, Monk Boudreaux, to create this CD with its appropriate title of Bury the Hatchet. The songs on the album are a mixture of Mardi Gras Indian tunes and Osborne originals. The recording starts right in with Boudreaux announcing, "I Am the Big Chief," which, of course, he is. Formerly performing with longtime friend Bo Dollis and his Wild Magnolias, Monk Boudreaux is now chief of his own tribe, the Golden Eagles. The listener will hear songs from the street tradition, including the obligatory "Meet de Boys on de Battlefront," as well as "Dive in That Gumbo" and "Smoke It Right." The sonorous voice of Boudreaux is accompanied by fancy guitar and banjo work by Osborne, as well as some outstanding contributions by piano wizard David Torkanowsky and Kirk Joseph on the saxophone. The album also contains some folksier tunes by Osborne, such as the evocative "Summertime in New Orleans" and the pensive "Letters From Rome." The aggregation performs an interesting cover of Neil Young's "Ohio," as if to say that they know all is not right with the world. But they have not forgotten the party spirit for which the Crescent City is renowned. A rousing rendition of "Junco Partner" extols the virtues of excess in a way that would make Dr. John and James Booker proud. Fans of Anders Osborne will appreciate the lyrical qualities of their man on the CD. Perhaps the exposure will bring some new fans to the fantastic Mardi Gras Indian tradition that well deserves it. ~ Rose of Sharon Witmer 7th Rel;W/Monk Boudreaux Recorded at Sound Services, New Orleans, Louisiana. Includes liner notes by Randall Grass. Personnel: Anders Osborne (vocals, guitar, banjo, piano, organ, percussion, background vocals); Big Chief Monk Boudreaux (vocals, chant, tambourine, background vocals); Tim Green (saxophone); Charles Joseph (trombone); Kirk Joseph (sousaphone); David Torkanowsky (piano); Doug Belote, Herman V. Ernest III (drums); Chris Boone, Rueben Williams, Brian Stoltz (background vocals). Audio Mixer: Marc Hewitt. Liner Note Author: Randall Grass. Recording information: Sound Services, New Orleans, LA. Photographer: Syndey Byrd. Personnel: Anders Osborne (vocals, guitar); Monk Boudreaux (vocals); Dave Easly (pedal steel guitar); Brian Stoltz (guitar, background vocals); Tim Green (saxophone); Raymond Williams Sr. (trumpet); Charles Joseph (trombone); Kirk Joseph (sousaphone); David Torkanowski (piano); Doug Belote, Herman Ernest (drums); Chris Boone (background vocals).

APRIL 2008
Blind Boys of Alabama
Down in New Orleans
Time-Life
By Geoffrey Himes

At the 1990 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, the hometown’s top gospel act, the Zion Harmonizers, was doing its customary second-Sunday set in the Gospel Tent, when the group’s leader Sherman Washington called up a guest from the grassy backstage. Aaron Neville climbed the wooden steps in white slacks, a red-knit shirt and shades, seized the mic and sang Sam Cooke’s “He’s So Wonderful” in a honeyed tenor that fluttered up into falsetto scatting as if Neville were Cooke himself and the Harmonizers were the Soul Stirrers.

200804_075_span9
Shannon Brinkman
The Blind Boys of Alabama

It was a thrilling moment, and it reminded everyone that black gospel music has always been lurking behind the jazz and R&B that New Orleans is best known for. The city is, after all, the birthplace of Mahalia Jackson, and the jazz funerals where most of the local horn players and drummers cut their teeth are religious ceremonies. Neville, like many local singers, found himself pulled between gospel and R&B, as much as Cooke ever did. New Orleans deserves its reputation as a capital of hedonism, but if the greasy dance rhythms of its funk and Dixieland weren’t countered by the earnest ache of gospel, the city’s R&B and jazz wouldn’t carry as much weight as they do.

So the new album from the Blind Boys of Alabama, Down in New Orleans, is more than just another gimmick to bring the aging singers one more payday. It makes obvious the usually hidden relationship between New Orleans’ churches and nightclubs. The Blind Boys, formed in 1938 at Alabama’s Talledega Institute for the Deaf and Blind, were major players in the “quartet” style of black gospel singing in the 1950s, but until this project they’ve had little to do with Crescent City music. As they make the adjustment to swampy syncopation, they reveal the crucial differences between mainstream gospel and New Orleans gospel. And as the Louisiana musicians back up the Alabama singers, it becomes obvious how much those players have always been influenced by the church.

Backing the Blind Boys, a septet these days despite its “quartet” style of singing, is the New Orleans trio of keyboardist David Torkanowsky (from the city’s terrific fusion band Astral Project), Harry Connick Jr.’s former drummer Shannon Powell and Roland Guerin, ex-bassist for Marcus Roberts and Mark Whitfield. Joining on two or three tracks apiece are the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Allen Toussaint and the Hot 8 Brass Band. Thus we get to hear gospel colliding with a modern-jazz trio, the legends of Dixieland, an R&B master and a street-parade group.

The album begins with a swell of Torkanowsky’s B3 organ, backed by Powell’s and Guerin’s push-and-pull. The raspy voice of Jimmy Carter, the Blind Boys’ senior member since Clarence Fountain’s retirement, takes up the traditional hymn, “Free at Last,” forever associated with Martin Luther King Jr. but never before funked up like this. The groove lends a lively playfulness to the declaration of liberation, but the song’s sentiments also lend some substance to the party music. Both sides benefit, and Torkanowsky overdubs a nifty jazz-piano solo in the middle of the gospel-soul arrangement.

No one combined playfulness and substance better than Earl King, the best songwriter to ever come out of New Orleans. When King asks us to “Make a Better World,” he’s asking not only for an end to war, poverty and discrimination, but also for a beginning to hip-swiveling dancing. If the Blind Boys’ old-school church harmonies are perfect for the former wish, the Hot 8 Brass Band’s raucous horns and drums are perfect for the latter. When the Preservation Hall Jazz Band backs the Blind Boys on a swinging arrangement of “Uncloudy Day,” the simultaneous shouting of the horns, not unlike the Hot 8’s, bears an unmistakable resemblance to “quartet” singing.

“If I Could Help Somebody,” one of the two Mahalia Jackson numbers on the album, is an unaccompanied duet between Carter’s tenor and Toussaint’s piano. Carter is not the singer he was 50 years ago and Fountain’s lungpower is sorely missed, but Carter’s fierce commitment to the song is undeniable. And the way Toussaint reworks the standard gospel changes with hints of jazz substitutions and classical quotes suggests Cyrus Chestnut’s similar bridging of gospel and jazz.

It’s not a perfect recording. None of the current Blind Boys is a standout singer, and producer Chris Goldsmith keeps the musicians from venturing very far from the given melody and changes. But the Blind Boys’ personal connection to an older strain of gospel singing gives their performances an imposing weight, and the musicians’ reined-in jazz chops give their playing a nervous tension.

Jazz lists its birthplace as New Orleans, and the local gospel tradition there must be acknowledged in the genealogy. Perhaps the new music was an illegitimate offspring, for both jazz and gospel have been reluctant to admit their kinship, but the evidence is there for everyone to hear on Down in New Orleans. And both sides of the family are better off for it.

APRIL 2008 Blind Boys of Alabama Down in New Orleans Time-Life By Geoffrey Himes

At the 1990 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, the hometown’s top gospel act, the Zion Harmonizers, was doing its customary second-Sunday set in the Gospel Tent, when the group’s leader Sherman Washington called up a guest from the grassy backstage. Aaron Neville climbed the wooden steps in white slacks, a red-knit shirt and shades, seized the mic and sang Sam Cooke’s “He’s So Wonderful” in a honeyed tenor that fluttered up into falsetto scatting as if Neville were Cooke himself and the Harmonizers were the Soul Stirrers.

200804_075_span9 Shannon Brinkman The Blind Boys of Alabama

It was a thrilling moment, and it reminded everyone that black gospel music has always been lurking behind the jazz and R&B that New Orleans is best known for. The city is, after all, the birthplace of Mahalia Jackson, and the jazz funerals where most of the local horn players and drummers cut their teeth are religious ceremonies. Neville, like many local singers, found himself pulled between gospel and R&B, as much as Cooke ever did. New Orleans deserves its reputation as a capital of hedonism, but if the greasy dance rhythms of its funk and Dixieland weren’t countered by the earnest ache of gospel, the city’s R&B and jazz wouldn’t carry as much weight as they do.

So the new album from the Blind Boys of Alabama, Down in New Orleans, is more than just another gimmick to bring the aging singers one more payday. It makes obvious the usually hidden relationship between New Orleans’ churches and nightclubs. The Blind Boys, formed in 1938 at Alabama’s Talledega Institute for the Deaf and Blind, were major players in the “quartet” style of black gospel singing in the 1950s, but until this project they’ve had little to do with Crescent City music. As they make the adjustment to swampy syncopation, they reveal the crucial differences between mainstream gospel and New Orleans gospel. And as the Louisiana musicians back up the Alabama singers, it becomes obvious how much those players have always been influenced by the church.

Backing the Blind Boys, a septet these days despite its “quartet” style of singing, is the New Orleans trio of keyboardist David Torkanowsky (from the city’s terrific fusion band Astral Project), Harry Connick Jr.’s former drummer Shannon Powell and Roland Guerin, ex-bassist for Marcus Roberts and Mark Whitfield. Joining on two or three tracks apiece are the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Allen Toussaint and the Hot 8 Brass Band. Thus we get to hear gospel colliding with a modern-jazz trio, the legends of Dixieland, an R&B master and a street-parade group.

The album begins with a swell of Torkanowsky’s B3 organ, backed by Powell’s and Guerin’s push-and-pull. The raspy voice of Jimmy Carter, the Blind Boys’ senior member since Clarence Fountain’s retirement, takes up the traditional hymn, “Free at Last,” forever associated with Martin Luther King Jr. but never before funked up like this. The groove lends a lively playfulness to the declaration of liberation, but the song’s sentiments also lend some substance to the party music. Both sides benefit, and Torkanowsky overdubs a nifty jazz-piano solo in the middle of the gospel-soul arrangement.

No one combined playfulness and substance better than Earl King, the best songwriter to ever come out of New Orleans. When King asks us to “Make a Better World,” he’s asking not only for an end to war, poverty and discrimination, but also for a beginning to hip-swiveling dancing. If the Blind Boys’ old-school church harmonies are perfect for the former wish, the Hot 8 Brass Band’s raucous horns and drums are perfect for the latter. When the Preservation Hall Jazz Band backs the Blind Boys on a swinging arrangement of “Uncloudy Day,” the simultaneous shouting of the horns, not unlike the Hot 8’s, bears an unmistakable resemblance to “quartet” singing.

“If I Could Help Somebody,” one of the two Mahalia Jackson numbers on the album, is an unaccompanied duet between Carter’s tenor and Toussaint’s piano. Carter is not the singer he was 50 years ago and Fountain’s lungpower is sorely missed, but Carter’s fierce commitment to the song is undeniable. And the way Toussaint reworks the standard gospel changes with hints of jazz substitutions and classical quotes suggests Cyrus Chestnut’s similar bridging of gospel and jazz.

It’s not a perfect recording. None of the current Blind Boys is a standout singer, and producer Chris Goldsmith keeps the musicians from venturing very far from the given melody and changes. But the Blind Boys’ personal connection to an older strain of gospel singing gives their performances an imposing weight, and the musicians’ reined-in jazz chops give their playing a nervous tension.

Jazz lists its birthplace as New Orleans, and the local gospel tradition there must be acknowledged in the genealogy. Perhaps the new music was an illegitimate offspring, for both jazz and gospel have been reluctant to admit their kinship, but the evidence is there for everyone to hear on Down in New Orleans. And both sides of the family are better off for it.

Hot 8 Brass Band’s second album, ‘The Life And Times Of… The Hot 8 Brass Band’, is out 12th November on Tru Thoughts, announcing the emphatic return of New Orleans’ premier purveyors of roof raising, jazz infused, funk and hip hop fuelled marching band music, straight from the heart and fresh from the second line parades.

This is Hot 8 Brass Band’s first new material since their acclaimed debut (2007’s ‘Rock With The Hot 8’, featuring their famous cover of “Sexual Healing”) put them on the global stage. In the years since - alongside their regular US headline shows, parades and community projects - the group have supported the likes of Mos Def, Lauryn Hill and Mary J Blige live, and played several international tours taking in Glastonbury festival, Roskilde and more. Highly respected among fellow musicians, they have guested on albums by the Blind Boys of Alabama and Basement Jaxx. Having appeared in Spike Lee’s original post-Katrina documentary When the Levees Broke, Hot 8 also featured in the follow-up, When the Creek Don’t Rise; and HBO recently included their remarkable story in the hit Treme television series.

Hot 8 is a band with stories to tell. Neither fairytales nor melodramas, but simple, often hard truths: the lives and the times of the band’s eight full-time members, who have seen more than their share of tragedy, not least the violent and untimely deaths of several of their number, and the hurricane devastation and aftermath in their city. In addition to their lifelong affinity with their instruments, Hot 8 Brass Band boast a rare depth of vocal talent to illuminate their tales, and ‘The Life And Times Of…’ finds them exploring this further; switching from commanding, funky lead vocals, to rapped verses laid down with passion and skill, to melodic hooks and harmonies - that range from emotive, gravelly baritones through instinctively whooped falsettos - with abandon.

‘The Life And Times Of…’ is itself the first part of a two album project; showcasing the party side of the band, it is packed with joyful grooves to get feet moving. The next instalment – to follow in Spring 2013 accompanied by live dates in the UK and Europe - will be more reflective, an emotional tribute to fallen band members and the funeral parades which centre on this music. “These two records will celebrate the times we have had both before and after the storm. Burying our dead and letting their spirits soar, celebrating our city and the lives that our band mates have lived individually and collectively as Hot 8,” explains band leader and tuba player Bennie Pete.

Hot 8 Brass Band’s second album, ‘The Life And Times Of… The Hot 8 Brass Band’, is out 12th November on Tru Thoughts, announcing the emphatic return of New Orleans’ premier purveyors of roof raising, jazz infused, funk and hip hop fuelled marching band music, straight from the heart and fresh from the second line parades.

This is Hot 8 Brass Band’s first new material since their acclaimed debut (2007’s ‘Rock With The Hot 8’, featuring their famous cover of “Sexual Healing”) put them on the global stage. In the years since - alongside their regular US headline shows, parades and community projects - the group have supported the likes of Mos Def, Lauryn Hill and Mary J Blige live, and played several international tours taking in Glastonbury festival, Roskilde and more. Highly respected among fellow musicians, they have guested on albums by the Blind Boys of Alabama and Basement Jaxx. Having appeared in Spike Lee’s original post-Katrina documentary When the Levees Broke, Hot 8 also featured in the follow-up, When the Creek Don’t Rise; and HBO recently included their remarkable story in the hit Treme television series.

Hot 8 is a band with stories to tell. Neither fairytales nor melodramas, but simple, often hard truths: the lives and the times of the band’s eight full-time members, who have seen more than their share of tragedy, not least the violent and untimely deaths of several of their number, and the hurricane devastation and aftermath in their city. In addition to their lifelong affinity with their instruments, Hot 8 Brass Band boast a rare depth of vocal talent to illuminate their tales, and ‘The Life And Times Of…’ finds them exploring this further; switching from commanding, funky lead vocals, to rapped verses laid down with passion and skill, to melodic hooks and harmonies - that range from emotive, gravelly baritones through instinctively whooped falsettos - with abandon.

‘The Life And Times Of…’ is itself the first part of a two album project; showcasing the party side of the band, it is packed with joyful grooves to get feet moving. The next instalment – to follow in Spring 2013 accompanied by live dates in the UK and Europe - will be more reflective, an emotional tribute to fallen band members and the funeral parades which centre on this music. “These two records will celebrate the times we have had both before and after the storm. Burying our dead and letting their spirits soar, celebrating our city and the lives that our band mates have lived individually and collectively as Hot 8,” explains band leader and tuba player Bennie Pete.

‘Tombstone’ is Hot 8 Brass Band’s third LP. The second instalment in a two-album set, it closely follows sister album ‘The Life & Times Of…’ (Nov 2012), which gained four and five star reviews including The Observer, MOJO, Metro, Songlines and The Big Issue, and widespread major UK and international radio support.

This new music comes hot on the heels of a three week sold-out tour of the UK and Ireland in March, in which the roof-raising New Orleans band treated audiences to the first live performances of hits from ‘The Life & Times Of…’ such as “Ghost Town”, as well as upcoming nuggets from ‘Tombstone’. Having always attracted attention for their music and their story (including featuring in Spike Lee’s documentary When the Levees Broke and the recent HBO series Treme), on this visit Hot 8’s ever-growing appeal led to their most diverse slew of media appearances yet, with sessions for Guardian Music, Cerys Matthews (BBC 6Music), BBC 1Xtra Breakfast, Loose Ends (BBC R4), Monocle 24, BBC World Service; and feature interviews for Craig Charles (BBC 6Music) and The Sunday Times.

‘Tombstone’ is a counterpoint to the straight-up party side of the band showcased on ‘The Life & Times Of…’. Thematically a more sombre, emotional record, it presents another chapter in the history of the Hot 8 Brass Band - a new window onto the lives, the friendships, the heartbreaks, the roots and culture of New Orleans brass music and its players. The majority of the songs are personal dedications, in memory of the four Hot 8 band members, and other musicians and dear friends, who have passed away. And those that aren’t dedication songs are new, original Hot 8 jams, party tunes that remind us – and the band - of why the music is worth it all; setting the scene for where the band are at today, while their city and its people still bear the scars of Hurricane Katrina, and where they are carrying the spirit next.

“These two records celebrate the times we have had both before and after the storm. Burying our dead and letting their spirits soar, celebrating our city and the lives that our band mates have lived individually and collectively as Hot 8,” explains band leader and tuba player Bennie Pete, of these two complementary releases.

‘Tombstone’ is an album of stories. “Tombstone Intro” is a prologue to all the tales contained within. As much a hip hop track as a brass one, the Intro spans the many styles and musical inspirations of Hot 8, and tells as many stories, giving way to an uninterrupted run of great songs infused with jazz, blues, funk and a heightening hip hop influence. Sparkling hooks, charged vocals and dynamic rhythms wind out into expressive and playful horn solo breaks. Life, death, tragedy and revelry come together in a bittersweet sonic stew. A symbolic symmetry emerges as the “Tombstone Outro”, rocking to the same atmospheric sway as the Intro, closes out he record. The first single, “Milwaukee Fat” (out 6th May), epitomises the album, showcasing one poignant and spirited dedication song for a lost musician and friend, and one raucous party tune (B-Side “Hot 8 Shit”) that updates the age-old tradition of the drinking song along a Big Easy hip hop tip.

In many ways their most deeply personal record, ‘Tombstone’ is also the first Hot 8 Brass Band album to feature all original compositions. While the roaring success of inspired cover versions - including “Sexual Healing” and “Ghost Town” - may have widened their renown, this innately talented ensemble, ensconced in New Orleans’ musical and sociological heritage, have lyrical depth and dexterity, compositional chops and improvisational flair to spar

‘Tombstone’ is Hot 8 Brass Band’s third LP. The second instalment in a two-album set, it closely follows sister album ‘The Life & Times Of…’ (Nov 2012), which gained four and five star reviews including The Observer, MOJO, Metro, Songlines and The Big Issue, and widespread major UK and international radio support.

This new music comes hot on the heels of a three week sold-out tour of the UK and Ireland in March, in which the roof-raising New Orleans band treated audiences to the first live performances of hits from ‘The Life & Times Of…’ such as “Ghost Town”, as well as upcoming nuggets from ‘Tombstone’. Having always attracted attention for their music and their story (including featuring in Spike Lee’s documentary When the Levees Broke and the recent HBO series Treme), on this visit Hot 8’s ever-growing appeal led to their most diverse slew of media appearances yet, with sessions for Guardian Music, Cerys Matthews (BBC 6Music), BBC 1Xtra Breakfast, Loose Ends (BBC R4), Monocle 24, BBC World Service; and feature interviews for Craig Charles (BBC 6Music) and The Sunday Times.

‘Tombstone’ is a counterpoint to the straight-up party side of the band showcased on ‘The Life & Times Of…’. Thematically a more sombre, emotional record, it presents another chapter in the history of the Hot 8 Brass Band - a new window onto the lives, the friendships, the heartbreaks, the roots and culture of New Orleans brass music and its players. The majority of the songs are personal dedications, in memory of the four Hot 8 band members, and other musicians and dear friends, who have passed away. And those that aren’t dedication songs are new, original Hot 8 jams, party tunes that remind us – and the band - of why the music is worth it all; setting the scene for where the band are at today, while their city and its people still bear the scars of Hurricane Katrina, and where they are carrying the spirit next.

“These two records celebrate the times we have had both before and after the storm. Burying our dead and letting their spirits soar, celebrating our city and the lives that our band mates have lived individually and collectively as Hot 8,” explains band leader and tuba player Bennie Pete, of these two complementary releases.

‘Tombstone’ is an album of stories. “Tombstone Intro” is a prologue to all the tales contained within. As much a hip hop track as a brass one, the Intro spans the many styles and musical inspirations of Hot 8, and tells as many stories, giving way to an uninterrupted run of great songs infused with jazz, blues, funk and a heightening hip hop influence. Sparkling hooks, charged vocals and dynamic rhythms wind out into expressive and playful horn solo breaks. Life, death, tragedy and revelry come together in a bittersweet sonic stew. A symbolic symmetry emerges as the “Tombstone Outro”, rocking to the same atmospheric sway as the Intro, closes out he record. The first single, “Milwaukee Fat” (out 6th May), epitomises the album, showcasing one poignant and spirited dedication song for a lost musician and friend, and one raucous party tune (B-Side “Hot 8 Shit”) that updates the age-old tradition of the drinking song along a Big Easy hip hop tip.

In many ways their most deeply personal record, ‘Tombstone’ is also the first Hot 8 Brass Band album to feature all original compositions. While the roaring success of inspired cover versions - including “Sexual Healing” and “Ghost Town” - may have widened their renown, this innately talented ensemble, ensconced in New Orleans’ musical and sociological heritage, have lyrical depth and dexterity, compositional chops and improvisational flair to spar