This disc is a wonderful treat from the young (no one is over 31) New Orleans sextet that is reviving the brass band sound that came out of New Orleans and swept the country in the early years of this century. But the New Birth Brass Band is by no means a tired trad group reviving ancient licks. Each member of the ensemble plays with contagious enthusiasm and a delightfully ramshackle precision. Their solos are relatively brief, in the manner of the brass bands. They emerge out of and return into the ensemble as a whole, but each, virtually without exception, is fiery and ear-catching.
Not surprisingly, these players, for all their youth, have caught the attention of some big names. James Andrews, the 27-year-old trumpeter, has played with Wynton, Dizzy, Quincy Jones and Michelle Shocked(?!?). The other trumpeter is Derrick "Kabuki" Shezbie, whose solo album was produced by Delfeayo Marsalis a few years ago. The rest of the cast is Kerwin "Fat" Bernard Jones on tuba, Cayetano "Tanio" Hingle on bass drum, Kerry "Fat Man" Hunter on snare drum, and Reginald Steward on trombone.
Steward's playing is particularly noteworthy (see, for example, "D-Boy"). Jones' tuba is fleet on "I Ate Up the Apple Tree," "Spread Your Legs" and "You Got Yours," which sounds like Earth, Wind & Fire meets King Oliver (Andrews handles the lead vocals, but it sounds as if everybody joins in). On "Jesus on the Main Line (Tell Him What You Want)," "Li'l Liza Jane," "Whoopin' Blues" and "Mardi Gras in New Orleans," they sound most like a trad throwback, but the energy they bring to the proceedings will make no one wish he were listening to scratchy 78's instead. On "Ms. Lollipop," "Shakin' That Ass" and "Caribbean Second Line" the brass rings joyfully over a more contemporary (but thoroughly non-mechanized) beat. The synchronicity of the horns is sharp, but never overly glossy.
Highly recommended for anyone who loves brass bands, or just good music well and enthusiastically played.