New Orleans-bred Soul Rebels make gumbo music. In their Creole stew they brew hip-hop, funk, jazz, reggae, and second line brass band flavors. Rebelution is only the decade-old ensemble's fourth album, but it shows an incredible maturity and tightness that can only come from habitual live performance.
Soul Rebels was formed by former drum majors from the South's top marching bandsthose of Texas Southern, Grambling, and Southern Universities. The working lineup consists of tuba, sax, trumpet, trombone, snare drum, and bass drum (culled from the second line tradition)plus percussion, turntables, and occasional rhyme recitation.
The call and response of second line bands is prominent throughoutin the horns, in the vocals, in the overall feel of the record. Soul Rebels hope to excite their listeners into chanting, dancing, and stomping along. They write New Orleans-flavored party musicMardi Gras on disc. At times Soul Rebels sound like a NOLA version of Latin genre-blenders Ozomatli; when the second line influence is in full force, the sound is something like the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, but with more street-savvy soul.
When Soul Rebels' hip-hop influence rises to the top is sadly when Rebelution suffers most"Feels Like the Rebels is trite, dare I say whack. If Soul Rebels really wanted to push some buttons, and show an even deeper love for New Orleans, they would have invited Louisiana-based rap pioneers like Juvenile and the other Cash Money Millionaires to rhyme on their tracks. This may seem outlandish to some, but the Cash Money sound is deeply influence by the second line soundlisten closely. Instead, Soul Rebels offer watered-down raps; and their version of hip-hop music is a lot like other jazz players' attempts at tapping into rap... weak.
"They Don't Know is Soul Rebels' most exciting music, with its blaring horns, layered percussion and tuba marching groove. "Get Freaky, with its command to "get freaky, let me see that thong, is Soul Rebels' worst music; likewise with the erotic spoken word on "Spend Some Time.
Soul Rebels' willingness to explore black music in all its forms is where the band deserves its most praise. Whether it's New Jack Swing on "Groove Train or Jamaican dub for "Rebel Revolution, Soul Rebels show a profound knowledge of many types of musicand they aren't afraid to try everything, sometimes all at once.
Only occasionally do the horns solo in a jazz sense. The emphasis here is placed more on ensemble playing than solo improvisation, but when Winston Turner is given room to let his wailing trombone shine, it most certainly does. The beats from founding members Lumar LeBlanc (snare drum) and Derrick J. Moss (bass drums) are superb, providing a solid platform for Soul Rebels' raucous sound.
Even with its flaws, Rebelution is still a solid album from an under-documented group. Soul Rebels are making exciting, intelligent party musicsomething danceable but not dumbed down.
1. Intro; 2. Let It Roll; 3. Feels like the Rebels; 4. Work It Out; 5. They Don't Know; 6. It's Our Time; 7.
'Nuthin but a Party; 8. Shake Something; 9. Get Freaky; 10. Spend Some Time; 11. Groove Train; 12.
Funky Rebel 3; 13. We Rock the Party; 14. Hey There Baby; 15. Olympia Revolution; 16. Change My Life;
17. Disco Tech.
Lumar LeBlanc (snare drum), Derrick J. Moss (bass drum), Damion Francois (tuba), Tannon Williams (trumpet), Winston Turner (trombone), Marcus Hubbard (trumpet), Will Terryu (tenor sax), DJ Ike Turna (turntables), Mike Woods (percussion), Thaddeus Clark (electric piano).