Hot 8 Brass Band | Tombstone (Tru Thoughts)
Even in the salvages of post-Katrina New Orleans you’d be hard pressed to find a music ensemble more entrenched in the disparate worlds of pleasure and pain, life and death, than the Hot 8 Brass Band. Since their mid-’90s formation, the Crescent City joy-makers have suffered through the loss of four 20-something band members—two murders, a heart attack and a killing at the hands of the police. Yet based on the ballsy, head-bobbing bombast of the cryptically named Tombstone, there is little telling.
A raucous, hand-clapping, tambourine-popping, rave-up of traditional Nola street jazz, the album has all the tradition tokens: empowerment declaration (“We Goin’ Make It”); funkified eulogy; sheer brassy, macho swagger (“big girl, back it up, like a U-Haul truck”); and a whole lot of unrepentant volume. Inherently, there’s some disconnect, no matter how high you crank the stereo, between at-home listening-session enjoyment and the beer-sticky floors of a late-night club with trombone slides spilling drinks and trumpet sound holes piercing eardrums and decimating any hope of conversation. But the fellas need something to tour the world on. And so, a cleaned-up, mastered trinket of the improv-laden parade-cum-party music can sometimes serve as a Royal and Bourbon Street of the mind. Especially when they drop the greasy guitar, intros and outros, and simply “Take it to the House.”
Probably the most heartbroken of purveyors of the fine and
fun citywide tradition—“I really miss my homey” the fellas moan plainly,
brokenly on “Homies”—they might also be the perfect ambassadors of the most
essential New Orleans template: every funeral deserves a good party, every
death requires plenty of dancing.