We live in an era of great brass bands, a time when people argue over who’s the best and global brands sponsor grand competitions. New kids use horns to escape violence while old heads lead protest marches and school programs. As successful as any outfit in the last 30 years, the Rebirth charge forward through this landscape armed with their signature mix of power and filth.
The new record begins with “Exactly Like You,” a standard and the opposite of your typical brass band boast. Then things get grimy, with the songwriting team of Phil Frazier and Glen Andrews telling us how a certain somebody likes it (front and back) over speeding horns and snare. “The Dilemma” gives us that Rebirth swagger and shadow, a missive from a Tuesday night second set. That’s a compliment to producer Tracey Freeman. We get short doses without the meandering or filler of a live album, but with a balanced fullness that never sounds overly brightened or packaged.
The Troy Andrews-penned “AP Touro” allows the fellas to ascend, cut and pound. At their best, the Rebirth sound like martial swordsmen who group into unison when needed, then race out to new vistas or broaden shoulders to hold down the fort (and of course, taking time to stop at the corner bar). We are rarely in unknown territory on Rebirth of New Orleans, but the album transmits the ferocity that defines the contemporary lineup, with fewer words and more minor keys.
They test themselves in “Feelin’ Free,” the crossflows of the horns working in sunny contrasts with wild percussion, sounding Caribbean. Overall, the band resists experimentation with new forms, seemingly more interested in blowing the doors off than opening new ones. And, as this record attests, the Rebirth still blows doors off quite nicely.