REVIEWBY SAMARA NAPOLITANSpecial to The Post and Courier
One might say that the Rebirth Brass Band is the soundtrack of New Orleans. The first brass band from the Big Easy to win a Grammy award, the group masterfully blends the musical traditions of the city.
Founded in 1983, their signature heavy funk quickly outgrew the French Quarter and spread their raucous party to stages in Europe, Asia, and Africa.
Charleston was powerless against Rebirth Brass Band’s funky bug as the band occupied the Cistern Yard stage Friday night. The outdoor venue quickly adopted a carnival atmosphere as a flavorful smorgasbord burst from the ebullient band members’ instruments. The blistering blend of jazz, hip hop, zydeco and Latin styles quickly prompted audience members to envelope the stage, juking and jiving.
“We’re going to start at the first level,” said trombonist Stafford Agee. “By the time we’re done you’re going to want to go home and go right to sleep.”
The opening number launched right into a muscular cacophony anchored by the fat sousaphone beats of the band’s founder, Philip Frazier. Growling trombones and blistering trumpet solos punctuated the pulsing rhythms and a marching band-inspired snare roll effortlessly transitioned into the next tune.
A dynamic mash up of “Caldonia/Flip, Flop & Fly/Ragg Mopp” exhibited the band’s dynamism and stamina with unrelenting volume and call-and-answer antics. A spicy rendition of “Caravan” was a definite highlight of the show as the trombones provided a sauntering countermelody to the powerful horn line. Trumpeter Derrick Shezbie kept the mood light while hooting and hollering into the microphone before his own version of the samba.
As dancers accumulated along the stage waving rags in the street band parading tradition, the band turned up the heat. “We’re having a party, I like this,” Agee said. “Act like you’re in New Orleans.”
A boisterous second-line tune, “You Know You Know,” catered to the jovial atmosphere before melding into a swaggering “Do It Again.” This tune in particular embodied Rebirth’s bravado as they shouted the call-and-answer chorus: “We used to say/Who that/Now we say/We that/We already done it/We gonna do it again.”
The group maintained their ruthless stamina and volume for the remainder of the set as they fed off of the crowd’s enthusiastic response. Band members alternated snapping photos from their cell phones during their final song, “Cassanova.” However, they quickly returned to the stage for a clamorous encore with “The Saints Go Marching In,” closing the show in authentic New Orleans style.
Samara Napolitan is a Gold Arts Journalist from Syracuse University.