Funk/jazz

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Music Reviews - Tony Hil­lier

On the Spot The Hot 8 Brass Band Tru Thoughts While it may not quite repli­cate the real deal, the Hot 8 Brass Band’s aptly named new wax­ing as­suredly comes closer than most sim­i­larly styled records to cap­tur­ing the in­com­pa­ra­ble vibe and verve of a New Or­leans street pa­rade.

The most en­dur­ing and ex­cit­ing horn­driven col­lec­tive spawned in jazz’s spir­i­tual home since the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and the Re­birth Brass Band has bat­tled through hell and high wa­ter, in­clud­ing the death of four mem­bers and the dev­as­ta­tion wreaked by Hur­ri­cane Ka­t­rina, to carve a 20-year-plus ca­reer that’s now gar­ner­ing well-mer­ited in­ter­na­tional recog­ni­tion. Sur­viv­ing such ad­ver­sity has only served to strengthen their sound which, bol­stered by in­jec­tions of hiphop and raw funk, has helped mod­ernise the long­stand­ing New Or­leans jazz march­ing band tra­di­tion.

In keep­ing with a ti­tle that al­ludes to the mo­ment in a sec­ond-line pa­rade when a band comes to a halt only to “sync up” and make fresh music magic on the spot, al­bum number five has the Hot 8 hit­ting new peaks of creativ­ity while emit­ting trade­mark ebul­lience, spon­ta­neous en­ergy and syn­chronic­ity. Over 67 tightly packed min­utes, the sparks fly in all di­rec­tions as siz­zling front­line trum­pets, trom­bones and sax­o­phone lock horns over the thun­der­ous sus­tain of deep-throat sousa­phone, the thump of bass drum beats and rat­tle of snare. In­ter­spersed chants and in­can­ta­tions rouse to fever pitch. Slabs and stabs of har­mo­nious brass un­der­pin while set­ting up scorch­ing jazz-charged breaks.

In Bot­tom of the Bucket, the per­cus­sion work of lo­cal le­gend Al­fred “Uganda” Roberts (an as­so­ci­ate of lu­mi­nar­ies such as Dr John, Allen Tous­saint and the Me­ters) helps elicit in­spired solo­ing from the Hot 8 horns. St James In­fir­mary acts as a mid-set buf­fer to the fast-tempo 21st cen­tury funk. An out­stand­ingly ar­ranged ren­di­tion of the Cres­cent City’s fa­mous fu­neral stan­dard, which utilises ev­ery sec­ond of the eight min­utes’ run­ning time, is high­lighted by the play­ing of old-school N’awl­ins clar­inet­tist Michael White, whose cas­cad­ing high-end runs and so­los pro­vide con­trast with the res­i­dent singer’s rasp­ing Satchmo-like vo­cals.

An un­ac­com­pa­nied break from a Hot 8 trum­peter skirts, then hugs, the melody in a pro­tracted coda that ends in a suit­ably rous­ing finale with the other horns. Later cov­ers main­tain im­pe­tus without hit­ting the heights at­tained in the set’s sole blues bal­lad. A well-or­ches­trated read­ing of Ste­vie Won­der’s That Girl cap­tures the flavour of clas­sic Tamla Mo­town while adding street cred. In other in­stru­men­tal ver­sions of 1980s’ pop hits, the Hot 8 add sinew to the Sade and Natalie Cole songs Sweet­est Ta­boo and An­nie Mae.

The lat­ter runs back to back with a take of Frankie Bev­erly & Maze’s late 1970s re­lease Work­ing To­gether, which com­bines sen­ti­ment and swag­ger. Band orig­i­nals book­end­ing On the Spot lose noth­ing by com­par­i­son.

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