When a friend tells you: “Don’t visit New Orleans without hearing the Rebirth Brass Band,” you listen and heed her wisdom. The first time I heard Rebirth Brass Band was earlier last year at Globe Hall in Denver, and it was a spectacular display of sound that night. Yet it was not until visiting Louisiana that I realized Rebirth’s unmatched New Orleans sound. So, I planned an entire NOLA adventure with my brother Ben and his girlfriend Lani, centered around the Rebirth Brass Band. Ben and Lani had wanted to hear Rebirth for a long time – now is the time, I thought. No time like the present. Especially when it’s the day after Christmas!
Rebirth has a longstanding Tuesday night gig at the Maple Leaf Bar, a cute little joint in the Carrollton neighborhood of uptown New Orleans. We arrived early, as the venue usually sells out for a Rebirth performance. We had a few drinks, and wandered to the back bar. As we walked, I was startled by a trumpet player – Derrick Shezbie, no less – who was standing right behind me. Not a common thing, to be wandering along with trumpets in your ear!
The band ignited the room with their forceful first note, and I left the back bar to get to the dance floor. While weaving through the fans, I thought what a great crowd, everyone made way for shorty here to arrive close to the stage and be near the music makers. Folks began to chant: “rebirth, rebirth, rebirth.” I chimed in, and was in awe at the admiration of the Rebirth community. All I could think was, “I’m all about that brass.” Rebirth has a joyful sound. Such a majestic, animated, and spirited band.
Trombones, trumpets, and tin ceilings are the alliterative illustration of the Maple Leaf and Rebirth’s presence. Surely, ‘tis no surprise that Rebirth was a winner of the Grammy Award for Best Regional Roots Music Album. Not a single frown in the crowd, a rhythmic purity that resonated throughout the venue, and a true “Big Easy” ambiance. What a big sound, and how easy it was to fall in love with it.
Rebirth creates happiness. It’s contagious. It’s enthusiastic. It’s incredible. It is a band that inspires introverts to dance and talkers to be silent. The band is good – no, marvelous, talented, and eloquent. These performers walk into a room of drunken buffoons and transform the mood to a rhythmic, syncopated amphitheater. Powerful. Majestic. Perfect.
Brass, steel, trombones, saxophones, drums, sousaphones, trumpets, tubas, whatever it is, never stop tootin’ your horn, singin’ your song, dancin’ along.
This show was the first moment in a long, long, long time where I remembered that our country has this vast, creative cadre of expressive, disciplined, talented musicians. I felt a formidable desire to perform by watching Rebirth. I reflected on New Orleans’ history and how the arts cultivate resiliency amid strife and hard times.
The bar had a powerful stench, and I mentioned this to Ben. “It smells so bad!” He responded: “Everything smells rotten here, Nancy. It’s the swamp.” I think I liked it, ya know? It is a bayou way of life: one of decay and rebirth.
New Orleans and Rebirth Brass Band, y’all are the best.
Until next time…
Featured image from Rebirth Brass Band’s Facebook page.