“It wasn’t really our choice not have another album; it’s just we had went through a lot of trials and tribulations,” says Hot 8 Brass Band founder Bennie Pete (sousaphone) of the group’s recent release, The Life & Times of the Hot 8 Brass Band, their first full-length since 2007’s Rock with the Hot 8 and second overall. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the band struggled mightily, their homes and their lives in disarray and the deaths of trombonist Demond Dorsey to a heart-attack and the highly publicized NOPD slaying of trombonist Joseph “Shotgun Joe” Williams in the weeks prior to the storm weighing heavily on their hearts. Tragedy struck the group twice more in the years that followed: Trumpeter Terrell Batiste lost his legs in roadside accident, and drummer Dinerral Shavers died behind the wheel, an innocent casualty of senseless street violence. The toll was nearly too much for the troupe to bear.
Though wounded, the resilient horn brigade recovered its stride, finding solace on street corners and second lines and salvation on stage. With a busy touring schedule, both nationally and internationally, the Hot 8 rolled along, wowing fans on the home front as well as across the globe with their raucous, winding medleys. For them, the road wasn’t a way to escape their hardships: it was just what they needed to pick themselves up. The road to the studio wasn’t one they felt the need to take until they were ready to make a statement — not about who they were or who they were going to be, but about exactly who they are.