The New Birth Brass Band, which was formed in the mid-1980s, comes deeply from the tradition having benefited from the watchful ears and eyes of the great members of the Olympia Brass Band. That influence is reflected on its new CD, On My Way, which incorporates classic material in its repertoire. The next-generation ensemble naturally adds its own, more modern influences and often makes the music a more sit-down rather than street affair with the addition of the always tasty guitarist/banjoist Carl LeBlanc.
Forever at the heart of New Birth is the dynamic rhythm team of bass drummer Cayetano “Tanio” Hingle and Kerry “Fatman” Hunter. These two original members have been the constants of the group that has seen, like many a brass band, a rotating lineup through the years. The cadence of Fatman’s snare gets the album going on the traditional number “Hot Sausage Rag” with clarinetist Bruce Brackman stepping in for the first lively solo. With its classic tone, the tune fits comfortably next to a New Birth original, “Happy Dreams,” though modern elements—such as the placement of the ensemble work and particularly the saxophone solos by guest artist Brent Rose—reflect more current times.
The three original tunes, all of which are credited to New Birth, stand as the strongest songs on the album. The title cut, “On My Way (Ms. D),” hits in the hot style that dominates New Orleans’ streets today. It’s got that big, prominent sousaphone driving the band while some screamin’ individual members get their chance to shine.
The veteran players—with trumpeters/vocalists Will Smith and Kenneth Terry (an original NB member), sousaphonist Jeffrey Hills and trombonists Corey Henry and Lucien Barbarin plus tuba player Michael Brooks, grandson of the late Anthony “Tuba Fats” Lacen—give this CD its credibility no matter the style. A few, too-often recorded tunes, including “What a Wonderful World” and “Just a Closer Walk with Thee,” with its explanation of a jazz funeral, could have been replaced with some less familiar material.
Again, it’s the new songs that catch the ear. The New Birth takes it out with a ton of funk and gets the party going with an infectious rhythm, strong execution on fine horn arrangements, a trillin’ sousaphone and some dirty trombone slidin’.