Downbeat March 2014
Smithsonian Folkways Recordings SFW 40212
Guided by clarinetist Dr. Michael White’s curatorial hand, Smithsonian’s latest installment of its African American Legacy Recordings series features new recordings by the Liberty, Treme and Hot 8 brass bands to offer a comprehensive survey of today’s New Orleans brass band scene. As White points out in the disc’s extensive liner notes, the bands represent traditional (Liberty), updated-traditional (Treme) and modern (Hot 8) takes on a form that dates back to the 1830s yet in 2015 remains one of the city’s most identifiable – and popular – types of music.
Selections here alternate between marches, 12-bar blues, hymns and pop-styled hits that incorporate elements of funk, jazz and R&B. Together, they open a window on how the music has both changed and stayed the same over the course of its nearly century-long development. The disc leads off with a crisply recorded rendition of the parade staple, “Paul Barbarin’s Second Line” by the Liberty Brass Band. On the same group’s rendition of “Panama,” an opening round of drum rolls combined with the tuba’s slow and steady cadence recalls the music’s military roots. The jazz funeral tradition resonates in the clipped horns and plaintive clarinet wails on “Liberty Funeral March,” as well as in the placement of the Hot 8’s up-tempo “Steamin’ Blues” immediately after the march. “Give Me My Money Back” represents the Treme Brass Band at its best, while the Hot 8’s moving street hit “New Orleans After the City” reverberates with the kind of regional pride that’s been so essential to rebuilding efforts over the past ten years.
The notes, meanwhile, include White’s capsule history of how and why the music changed over time the way it did – and what roles brass band icons like Doc Paulin, Oscar Papa Celestin and others played in that development. A compilation of suggested reading and listening at the notes’ end is a nice touch, giving listeners a chance to further explore the music’s history in order to understand its present landscape.
Through the Streets of the City: New Orleans Brass Bands: Paul Barbarin’s Second Line; The Sheik of Araby; Panama; Liberty Funeral March; Steamin’ Blues; We Shall Walk Through the Streets of the City; Keepin’ It Funky; Old Rugged Cross; Grazing in the Grass; New Orleans (After the City); Give Me My Money Back; Lily of the Valley; Shake It and Break It (1:09:37).
Personnel: Liberty Brass Band: Dr. Michael White, clarinet/leader; Gregory Stafford, trumpet; Wendell Brunious, trumpet; Dwayne Burns, trumpet; Lucien Barbarin, trombone; Maynard Chatters, trombone; David Harris, trombone (4); Roger Lewis, alto saxophone; Daniel Farrow, tenor saxophone; Dimitri Smith, sousaphone; Kerry Lewis, baritone (1,4); Paul Barbarin, snare drum; Cayetano Hingle, bass drum; Treme Brass Band: Benny Jones, snare drum/leader; Kenneth Terry, trumpet, vocals, tambourine; Terence Taplin, trombone; Roger Lewis, soprano and baritone