Hot 8 Brass Band
Central Park, New York City
August 12, 2006
The music of New Orleans was showcased in Central Park during the last weekend of Summerstage, presenting its annual Soul To Soul concert, which was set up to benefit Musicians' Clinic in the Crescent City. This is an organization that sets to provide healthcare for many artists there, and which has been instrumental in helping those who were hurt in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
The proceedings opened with The Hot 8 Brass Band. They set out to heat things up, and they certainly delivered: the sound was as hot as the day was, and the groove was instantly felt by the audience, who danced to the group's funky sound. During the second number, the Movers and Shakers dance troupe entered the stage with their very personal, Mardi Gras-inspired moves.
The Movers are not your stereotypical dancers. Some of them are a little overweight, and their moves are (seemingly) as improvised as the free sound brought in by the band.
The Hot 8 showed incredible talent. The music was very danceable, mixing several tendencies, such as funk, jazz and even rap. They freestyled on Michael Jackson's "Rock With You , rendering the song almost unrecognizable, and closed their set by coming down from the stage and marching into the audience, having everyone follow them "New Orleans style
The Wild Magnolia Mardi Gras Indians were supposed to follow, but due to the fact that Chief Bo Dollis fell ill, young pianist Davell Crawford was the eleventh-hour replacement. Backed by a highly talented pick-up band, he immediately set the house on fire with his boogie piano.
He started out with an improvised shuffle which quickly became "Iko-Iko . He requested the piano's volume to be increased, and personally walked to the mixing table to fix things with the sound technicians. He then offered a very personal rendition of the B.B. King staple "Let The Good Times Roll (written by Sam Theard and Fleecy More). After that, the band left the stage as he did a solo tune that spoke of piano playersprincipally Ray Charleswho are no longer with us.
One of his set's highlights was "The Autumn Leaves , which received a Latin-inflected arrangement and showcased the talents of the musicians in his band, especially saxophonist Clarence Johnson, who brought the house down with his amazing chops. Crawford seemed to slow things down for a minute or so, but then he sat on the B-3 and began a boogie-ish improvised tune that later became Stevie Wonder's "Superstition , which heated things right back up and got everyone moving. Wonder's influence is clear in this young pianist's playing, and he does not run away from that. He paid tribute to the Motown artist with the song, but also showed that he knows how to make the song his own.
The Soul to Soul benefit concert was a magical evening. New Yorkers showed their generosity (there was a suggested donation at the door), and got in return a lineup of music that came from people who did not lose their spirit despite the horrors of last year's hurricane season.