Get jazzed


POSTED: Friday, September 18, 2009

A heavy rain struck New Orleans last weekend, but it was one that resident Bennie Pete said was overdue.

The tuba-playing leader of the Hot 8 Brass Band said that even though “;things got a little sloppy,”; compared with what happened when Hurricane Katrina hit four years ago, he was grateful for this relatively “;gentle”; respite from the humidity.

Already a staple of New Orleans street music for over a decade, the Hot 8 Brass Band's reputation grew immensely when they were featured in Spike Lee's powerful documentary “;When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts.”; Their segments bookend the film with, first, a somber rendition of a traditional hymn while walking in front of a horse-drawn hearse that bears a casket marked “;Katrina.”; Later, at the end, they dance around the casket, now lying in the street, while playing that same hymn in a celebratory, up-tempo fashion.

While that dichotomy of second-line slow-and-mournful and up-and-happy is a hallmark of the city's jazz funerals, expect more energetic funk, R&B and hip-hop-flavored music from the band when they're featured tomorrow night at the second annual Manoa Jazz Festival. The band will be sandwiched between performances by the 'Iolani School Stage Band (6:30 p.m.) and the Hawaii Pacific University Jazz Ensemble (9:15 p.m.), as they finish up a short interisland tour that included stops on Maui and the Big Island.





        Second Annual Manoa Jazz Festival with the Hot 8 Brass Band, HPU Jazz Ensemble and 'Iolani Stage Band

» Where: Andrews Amphitheatre, University of Hawaii at Manoa


» When: 6 p.m. tomorrow (rain or shine)


» Cost: $25 general admission; $20 for military, students, seniors and UH faculty/staff; $15 for UHM students and children 5 to 17 years old


» Info: 944-2697 or hsblinks.com/qs


» Note: Low-back chairs and picnics allowed (no glass containers or alcoholic drinks); food will be available for purchase from Kevin's Two Boots and Simply Ono


» Website: www.hot8brassband.com




Pete (aka “;Big Peter”;) formed the Hot 8 with trombonist Jerome “;Baybay”; Jones and bass drummer Harry “;Swamp Thang”; Cook in 1995. They were all a year out of high school, where they played together as members of the Looney Tunes Brass Band and the High Steppers Brass Band. With help from brothers Philip and Keith Frazier of the respected Rebirth Brass Band, the Big 8 has become not only a dependable regular on the New Orleans club, parade and festival scenes, but has toured Japan and Europe as well.

Pete said by phone from his Big Easy home last Saturday that his earliest exposure to music was through the hymns of the church and later the numerous marching bands that populate the city.

“;There's always a lot of hands-on opportunities to learn to become musicians,”; he said.

With one album under their collective belts, and another one on the way for release early in 2010, Pete said that the Hot 8 distinguish themselves onstage “;because we play with a hard-felt energy.”;

“;You can't help but feel it. Our repertoire ranges from the older stuff to the contemporary, R&B and hip-hop, and we're always in tune with the music that both grandparents and grandchildren can enjoy.”;

You can hear that funky glee in their concert opener, “;Rock with the Hot 8”; (which borrows liberally from George Clinton's “;Atomic Dog”;), as well as their tasty cover of the Marvin Gaye classic “;Sexual Healing.”;

“;We like to do the favorite tunes like that for the older folk,”; Pete said, “;and I hope y'all hear how we're doin' it as we work with the groove.”;

Another song of theirs, “;It's Real,”; takes rap and a hip-hop bass line and wraps it up with multiple horn parts.

While the tuba and bass drum keep the tempo in the pocket, the snare drum adds further percussive color, and on top of all that go the variety of trumpet, trombone and saxophone voicings. The combination makes for an infectious and danceable sound that's distinctly New Orleans.

“;Rather than piece together the music by ear, we go for a dynamic group sound, whether it be from a riff or lick or bass line,”; Pete said.

The Hot 8 Brass Band also bring a message from their still-rebuilding home.

“;There's still work to be done. Because of the economy, there's less jobs. People are still hurtin', and there's a lot of crime and senseless violence.”; (The band themselves have been victimized with the gun-related deaths of three former members.)

“;But even though our people are struggling, we keep moving on,”; Pete said.