Soul Rebels Brass Band, London Jazz Festival, QEH | New music reviews, news & interviews
Soul Rebels Brass Band, London Jazz Festival, QEH
New Orleans band confirm their position as one of the most explosive live acts on the scene
Funkier than a James Brown bridge, the mighty Soul Rebels Brass Band swung back into town last night and flattened all before them. Possessing that rare combination of serious chops, impeccable stagecraft and down-home soul, they confirmed their position as one of the most explosive live acts on the scene. From the very opening bars of Stevie Wonder's “Living for the City”, taken from their current Rounder album Unlock Your Mind, the Soul Rebels had the entire QEH off their seats.
The continuous set featured the reggae-fied uplift of the title track, the dazzling call-and-response interplay between the two trumpets in “Turn it Up” - complete with some rather nifty coordinated footwork from the band - the blistering grooves of “My Time”, “Night People” and “I Made it”, plus their surprising reinvention of “Sweet Dreams are Made of This”. We heard the seismic collision of jazz, funk and rap - and what a powerful sound it was.
Leblanc exuded an almost professorial air – a Doctor of Rhythmology, if you will
Embracing the past while resolutely marching into the future, the latest recruits to the band – trumpeter Julian Gosin, trombonists Corey Peyton and Paul Robertson and sousaphone player Damion Francois – brought an added energy and significantly upped the hip-hop sensibility of the Rebels' music. Together with Marcus Hubbard (trumpet) and Erion Williams (sax), all band members also rapped or sang. Providing the ever-present rhythmic backdrop with a Zen-like focus, not to mention the precision of a Swiss timepiece, were percussionists (and founder members) Derrick Moss and Lumar Leblanc. Dressed in a black cardigan, shirt, bow tie and glasses, Leblanc exuded an almost professorial air – a Doctor of Rhythmology, if you will. Given the epic number of snare hits he was pushing out per minute, the fact that he also wore gloves was hardly surprising.
This was a party, a workout, a rich sonic gumbo, all in one
In my 10-plus years as a writer on jazz, this was the only time I've spent an entire gig on my feet. Well, it was impossible not to join in. And experiencing new things is surely what the London Jazz Festival is all about. We waved our hands in the air, we sang every line that was thrown our way. This was a party, a workout, a rich sonic gumbo, all in one. By the end of the set you felt musically enriched, spiritually uplifted and several pounds lighter. What's not to like?
Opening the evening we heard an exquisite set from vocalist Mary Pearce, fresh from her appearance at Friday's Jazz Voice, accompanied by the terrific pianist Luke Smith. As well as reprising her lustrous take on “Save Your Love for Me”, Pearce also treated us to “A Place in my Heart” from Maze's classic 1985 album Can't Stop the Love, as well as an extended exploration of Stevie Wonder's “I Can't Help it”. Having provided backing vocals for countless UK and US artists, the singer is finally releasing her own album in the New Year. Definitely one for the wish list.
Watch Soul Rebels Brass Band perform on Later... With Jools Holland
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