The New Breed Brass Band rolls at four major New Orleans festivals this year. In order of its appearances they include the Freret Street Festival, the French Quarter Festival, Jazz Fest and the Essence Festival. At OffBeat’s Best of the Beat Awards in January, the band won for Best Emerging Artist. Not bad for a group that’s only been around for about three years.
“It’s an honor for a band that’s just starting out,” agrees 25-year-old snare drummer Jenard Andrews, the son of trumpeter James Andrews, nephew of Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews and co-leader of the New Breed with tuba player Desmond Provost.
Okay: As far as name recognition and connections in the music world, it doesn’t hurt to have an Andrews co-leading the band. Of perhaps greater importance is the music and career guidance provided by the family. Both James and Troy have been influential in Jenard’s and the band’s development. Like he did with his brother Troy, James Andrews introduced his son to the music scene. “He took me to a lot of gigs, so I got exposed to that at an early age.”
Most of the musicians who make up the New Breed came out of the Baby Boyz Brass Band, led by Jenard’s cousin, trumpeter Glenn Hall. “When we first left the Baby Boyz, my dad said not to be afraid to start over—to start from scratch,” Jenard explains. “And it worked. We’re actually making some noise.”
Troy gave the New Breed access to his studio housed at the Music Shed Studios. One day Troy came to check them out. “We were just like mimicking other bands,” Jenard remembers. “Then Troy said, ‘You’re not really practicing here, you’re just jamming in here. You’re playing stuff that’s not yours. You guys really need to find yourself and push that—originality is the key.’ He gave us some different artists and songs to listen to—to expand our horizons.”
The New Breed also includes members of other highly regarded New Orleans musical families. Co-leader Provost is the nephew of guitar and banjo master Carl LeBlanc, trumpeter Aurélien Barnes is the son of accordionist/vocalist Bruce “Sunpie” Barnes and trombonist Caleb Windsay is the son of singer Yolanda Windsay and grandson of gospel and jazz vocalist Topsy Chapman. “Topsy and her whole group [Solid Harmony] sometimes come to the shows and she’ll give us [front row vocalists] the right harmony,” says Jenard. Windsay also acts as the emcee. “He’s a lot like my dad from the entertainment perspective,” Jenard adds.
Jenard, who was raised in the very heart of the Treme neighborhood on St. Philip and N. Robertson streets, is the only band member who truly grew up in the second line culture. “They’re not your typical second line cats,” he says of his bandmates, adding that several studied a variety of genres at NOCCA and at Lusher High School. Windsay and others were involved with gospel music and many of the guys also met each other while attending the Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong Summer Jazz Camp.
“All of us are really musically inclined,” says Provost, who, like Andrews, studied music while at McDonogh 15 Elementary School, where they were highly influenced by teacher Jerry McGowan. “He started me off playing tuba and I never put it down,” Provost says. “It kinda stuck to me.”
On the other hand, when Jenard arrived at McDonogh 15, he wanted to play drums. But when he got there McGowan said, ‘James is your daddy, Troy is your uncle—no, you’re going to play horn.’ So Jenard started on trombone and while at St. Augustine High School played the mellophone as well as the tenor drums.
“One of the things my uncle [Troy] told me was to listen to different styles of drummers,” says Jenard, who studied African drumming in middle school under the direction of percussionist Luther Gray. “Second line beats are actually like African rhythms so learning those helped me out a lot. I listen to Caribbean drummers, I love Cuban drummers and then there’s [New Orleans drummers] Joe Dyson, James Black, Gerald French and Herman LeBeaux.”
The New Breed also had the enviable opportunity to go on tour to open for Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue for a series of concerts.
“Those are always great fun—most of them are sold-out shows,” Jenard says. “It’s definitely good to get in front of these different crowds. The energy is amazing and people love New Orleans music.”
The large ensemble—boasting three trumpets, two trombones, a sax, a tuba and a bass drummer—promises that its debut album, due out in April, won’t be filled with “typical” brass band music.
The New Breed’s roots in the Treme neighborhood, the musical birthplace of influences like the Rebirth and Lil Rascals brass bands, will always be a part of the group’s sound.
“Now we’re trying to take that sound, bring in some new stuff and expand it to a different level,” Jenard says. This summer, the New Breed Brass Band is on its own, touring the West Coast at various festivals. Talented and ambitious, the New Breed is ready to, as Jenard puts it, “Rock out in a second line style.”