The Grammy-nominated Hot 8 Brass Band blows hard on tunes from its new release, On the Spot, many of which either sound like or already are anthems on the streets of New Orleans. The ensemble, formed in 1995, notably accomplished this often-difficult feat despite the fact that it recorded the album in a studio setting.
“We’re the H-O-T… too hot, too hot,” the band announces on the opening cut, “8 Kickin’ It Live,” which includes hand clapping and a lot of whoopin’ and hollerin’. Designed to engage a crowd, whether at a second line parade or in a club or concert hall, this exuberant tune is purposely the group’s go-to first number, according to leader/tuba man Bennie Pete.
Next up is another mover, “Get It How You Live,” that has all the essential traits of a street anthem. Adding a change of tone to the brass-heavy band, this original features the saxophone of Drew Calhoun. The trombones work in fine unity on “Bottom of the Bucket,” which finds its hook instrumentally and includes guest artist, conga drummer Alfred “Uganda” Roberts. “This is real life,” shouts bass drummer Harry Cook, who along with Pete is an original Hot 8 member. Towards the end of the tune, it becomes clear that the title references what occurs when you put a bunch of crabs in a bucket—they crawl over each other to get to the top.
Clarinetist Michael White, a keeper of the traditional jazz flame who has befriended and collaborated with the Hot 8 particularly following Katrina, steps in for the album’s only classic jazz selection, “St. James Infirmary.”
Cover tunes have long been a part of the Hot 8’s repertoire (and those of other brass bands). The group wisely chose to adapt Stevie Wonder’s hit “That Girl” for the album. The beauty is that Wonder’s presence is preserved while the Hot 8 gives it a brassy twist.
The Hot 8 Brass Band’s fine tonal qualities, precise ensemble work and hip arrangements are On the Spot.