"I guess I'll be staying in Dallas, said Keith Frazier, bass drummer for the ReBirth Brass Band, whose latest album, ReBirth for Life, pays tribute to late jazz icon Tuba Fats and the band's own 20-year-plus tenure, and features the ferocious funk of "Stereo and "Who Took the Happiness Out.
Frazier, reached Wednesday, September 7, on his cell phone, said he evacuated the Sunday before the storm; his mother, sisters, wife and children fled even earlier to Mississippi. Frazier left so quickly, he said, that he doesn't even have his drum with him in Texas: "I mean I have nothing except the clothes on my back. My house is totally underwater.
Frazier said his Carrollton home, near City Park in New Orleans, is about a half-mile from the 17th Street Canal's levee breachso close "you could walk to it which flooded the northern and central parts of the city.
"My mom always said, 'If we ever get a hurricane like Andrew or Betsy we'll be underwater,' and I would just laugh, Frazier said. "I guess now I'm living through it.
Most of his bandmates are accounted for, Frazier said: Trombonist Stafford Agee, tuba player Philip Frazier, snare drummer Derrick Tabb and trumpeter Derrick "Kabuki Shezbie made it to Houston. Philip Frazier, Keith's brother, said by cell phone from Houston, "Derek had a little drama in New Orleans, explaining that Shezbie "had to swim to flag down a ride. He said ReBirth's saxophonist Vincent Broussard, trumpeter Shamar Allen and trombonist Herbert Stevens wound up in Baton Rouge.
But Keith Frazier said he hasn't heard from long-time trumpeter Glen Andrews since before the city's evacuation. Still, the rest of ReBirth planned to regroup in Houston and head right out on the road for a tour that was planned before Katrina.
Concerts this week were scheduled in Tennessee; on Thursday in Maryland Heights, Missouri; on Friday in Madison, Wisconsin; and Saturday in Minneapolis. The tour resumes Wednesday in Lansing, Michigan, then goes Thursday to Cleveland and Friday to Chicago. On September 29, the group plays San Francisco. Then it's back to Texas with dates in October in Dallas, Austin and Houston.
"We'll get through it, live our lives. That's the important thing, Keith Frazier said.
Tanio Hingle, bass drummer for New Birth Brass Band, said he also evacuated the Sunday before the storm hit. Rendered homeless by floodwaters, the group's musicians, like other evacuees, must rely on the hospitality of friends and relatives, or the charity of strangers. Tanio said he's with his family at the Arrow Project's shelter for foster children in Houston. He'd wanted to try to ride out the storm in New Orleans but was vetoed on that decision.
"I was trying to play hero, but my wife wasn't having that, he said. "Right now, Houston is the home.
Hingle, reached Wednesday on his cell, said he also abandoned his drum when he left New Orleans, and he's working on getting a replacement passport for the one he left at his Esplanade Ridge house, in the fabled Tremé neighborhood that has spawned so many gifted jazz players, past and present.
Fortunately, he said, all of New Birth's musicians are accounted for in Houston, including sousaphone player Kerwin James, trumpeters Kenneth Terry and Mervin "Kid Merv Campbell, snare drummer Kerry "Fat Man Hunter, saxophonist Darryl Adams, trombonist Glen David Andrews and trombonist Corey Henry - who also plays in Lil Rascals Brass Band and in Kermit Ruffins' the Barbecue Swingers - are in Houston (Henry could not be reached on his cell phone).
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