This music is best enjoyed live.
Mardi Gras will last a little bit longer than usual in Madison this month. New Orleans' jubilant Rebirth Brass Band perform at the UW Union South Sett on Thursday, March 13, as part of the Isthmus Jazz Series.
With 11 albums, the band have carried the sounds of the Big Easy throughout the world. Think Louis Armstrong performing with the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, and parties spilling onto the street as a funky backbeat makes everyone in the surrounding area move.
It all began in 1983, when brothers Philip and Keith Frazier, along with friend Kermit Ruffins, formed the group with musicians from the Joseph S. Clark Senior High School marching band. Since then, members have come and gone, but the core personnel -- and the vibe of the music -- have remained the same.
This isn't just big band, marching band or soul music. Its groove mixes decades of New Orleans jazz with the funk of the 1970s. It's not designed to be listened to at home, sitting down. Instead, it's best heard live. A theater will do, but the streets are better. To get a taste of what will happen at the Sett, find a YouTube video of the band performing "Do Whatcha Wanna" on the streets of the French Quarter in 2008. One camera documents the band joining a crowd that immediately begins to follow them, dancing.
The Rebirth Brass Band were recognized for their contribution to roots music in 2012, when they won a Grammy for Rebirth of New Orleans. The album was the culmination of many years of work, not only as musicians but as ambassadors for their beloved hometown, where the impact of 2005's Hurricane Katrina is still felt today.
"We won the Grammy, and it was like the Saints winning the Super Bowl all over again," Frazier said in a 2012 interview with New Orleans' Gambit Weekly. "Everyone I know was saying, 'Hey, we won!' It wasn't just for our band -- it was for everybody."