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.