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Crescent City Syncopation: The parade tradition of New Orleans is invigorated by the genre-borrowing tactics of the ReBirth Brass Band.

Parade Of Styles

The ReBirth Brass Band brings the melting-pot rhythm of the second line to New Orleans by the Bay

By Dan Young

NEW ORLEANS is the first place people think of when someone mentions wild and crazy street parties. Visions of people swirling in a multicolored whirlwind, dancing to the strains of a funky brass band marching down the street, are vividly burnt into America's psyche. And no one fits this bill better than the ReBirth Brass Band, one of the headliners at this weekend's 12th annual New Orleans by the Bay celebration at Shoreline.

The ReBirth Brass Band upholds a proud tradition, which started just after the Civil War, of funeral brass bands that play a slow dirge on the way to the cemetery, then perform lively tunes on the way to the wake. Brass bands provided the soundtrack to public spectacles known as "second lines" that are unique to the Crescent City.

The second line is a street parade that features people egging each other on to dance more crazily while other folks shake tambourines or hit sticks on wine jugs and cowbells--and all the while a brass band plays its ass off. This outrageous behavior inspires the band to become more dynamic and more explosive.

The ReBirth Brass Band is the current king of the brass-band genre, successfully integrating jazz history with funk. Taking that party sound and mixing it with a spiritual side, ReBirth has introduced this style of music to youth culture. Starting in mid-June 2000, ReBirth will be featured weekly on MTV's Real World, recording the program's opening track.

Using infectious syncopation and adding licks and rhythms absorbed from reggae, hip-hop and pop, ReBirth incorporates a wide range of genres into its sound--everything from jazz rock to bebop. Songs by the artist now again known as Prince, James Brown, Bob Marley, TLC, Michael Jackson, Rick James and War have all found their way into ReBirth's ultrafunky bag of tricks.

As well as Maceo Parker and the Grateful Dead, ReBirth has opened for the Ohio Players, the Neville Brothers, Ani DiFranco, Dr. John and the Meters. The band's invigorating and spontaneous sound is youthful and fun-loving, but, musically, the members are mature and sophisticated. As the title of one of the songs on The Main Event: Live at the Maple Leaf (Louisiana Red Hot Records), the band's latest release, puts it, "We Come to Party."

With any luck, the weather will be hot and sultry this weekend as a complement to the extensive lineup of New Orleans bands and the tasty selection of Cajun, Creole and Southern cooking. Dr. John headlines on Saturday, while the Neville Brothers conduct the fun on Sunday. Both days will feature ReBirth, Michael Doucet's Beausoleil, Kermit Ruffins, Sunpie Barnes, the Wild Magnolias, Los Hombres Calientes (with Bill Summers, Irvin Mayfield and Jason Marsalis), Zigaboo Modeliste, organist Jon Hammond, the Zenith New Orleans Parade Band, ragtime specialist Ben Bonham and R&B pianist Frederick Nighthawk.

New Orleans by the Bay takes place June 10-11, noon-7:30pm, at Shoreline Amphitheater, Mountain View. Tickets are $15 per day; children under 12 free. (650.967.4040)

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From the June 8-14, 2000 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2000 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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