In the liner notes, Hot 8 leader and tuba player Bennie Pete explains the contents of Vicennial, an album that celebrates the brass band’s 20th anniversary. “The songs on this CD are all remixed Hot 8 classics.…” He goes on to say that beyond performing the group’s signature material for the occasion, they also wanted to include former members—some who have passed, others who have moved on—for this recording.
“Oh, we’re going to take them back, y’all,” announces a member before the ensemble breaks into “What’s My Name? (Rock with the Hot 8)” from its first CD. The band used it as a way of introducing itself and emblazoning its name in the minds of listeners. It worked then and it works now.
It’s informative to have Pete write about each cover tune and how they entered the Hot 8’s repertoire. For instance, former member trombonist Keith “Wolf” Anderson was responsible for bringing in “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” and “Just My Imagination”—which, Pete says, appealed to the older folks on the street. Some of these selections also had the ability to kind of calm things down if a second line was getting really wound up. As heard on the CD and live, the Hot 8 paid respect to these classics while putting their own spin on them.
More modern, funkier, hip-hop–influenced material came from the members’ own pens, including “Get Up” by drummer Dinerall Shavers and the skanking “Rasta Funk” by Joseph “Shotgun Joe” Williams. Tragically, both of these young men were shot to death.
Vicennial stands as more than a second line down memory street. It’s a Hot 8 mix that remains fresh and vital to New Orleans.