If only grown-up brass (or brass-ish) bands had throwdowns like high-school marching bands. A battle between the decade-old underground favorites Egg Yolk Jubilee and its fellow horn-heavy genre-bustering Bonerama would be something to hear.
On Labor of Lunch, the winking tricksters of Jubilee combine awesome chops with a goofball sense of humor that gets utter free rein. The gang (which includes several New Orleans marching-band alums) lures in the listener with hot and ebullient mostly by-the-book brass band swing with an energy level cranked off the charts. The playing is tight and barely restrained, and the humor is of the wacky-uncle variety: a speedy tango about waiting for an espresso drink, a love song to the emergency room nurse, and an over-the-top double-entendre brass blues with lines like 'drain my grease into your can." Then, the weirdness truly begins. The band tears into a breathlessly begun 'Lazy River," which has a bizarre and hilarious growling funk-metal break in the middle, complete with guttural Cookie Monster vocals. Plus a shredding electric guitar solo that cuts into a frenetic Dixieland interlude. It'd make Spike Jones proud. And from there, the rules are suspended: speeding-train jazz, thrashing guitar and battering drums that deserve coverage in Kerrang!
Somehow, it all makes sense: plenty of brass bands blend in hip-hop and funk. Why have we waited so long for marching-band grads who freely trumpet (pun intended) their love of Zeppelin, glam rock and hair metal? It's a lunatic romp that'll make you want to dance like a spaz.
The CD-release party is at 10 p.m. Fri., April 18 at d.b.a. (618 Frenchmen St., 942-3731).
Washboard Chaz Trio
Mix It Up
The constantly gigging Washboard Chaz Trio is one of the most reliable good times to be had in New Orleans, and on this latest release, Mix It Up, thankfully, he doesn't. Mix up a good formula, that is. The album features 15 solid tracks of rollicking party blues that cheerfully careen along, propelled by Chaz's skittering washboard and punctuated by his trademark bicycle bell.
A few tracks veer slightly off the junk-blues formula. The cut 'Summer's Gone" was penned by Chaz's Tin Men bandmate Alex McMurray, whose easy melancholy could have been plucked from Tom Waits' Closing Time. Skip James' 'I'm So Glad" gains a spooky touch from Roberto Luti's ominous guitar. And 'Dodge," with Andy J. Forest on lead vocals, has Dave Alvin-style country-rock horsepower.
The good-time atmosphere is plumped up by the surprisingly large sound three guys can make with just washboard percussion, guitar and harmonica. Chaz can make his instrument sound like a junkyard symphony, and combined with Forest's harmonica honk and Luti's expert picking, the album shakes up the classics with grace and good vibes.
Big Sam's Funky Nation
Peace, Love & Understanding
Former Dirty Dozen Brass Band trombonist Big Sam Williams moved back to New Orleans at the end of last year, but his latest album proves that he didn't forget a thing during his time away. Peace, Love and Understanding is a raucous funk powerhouse that mixes brass-band funk with touches of contemporary jazz experimentation for a unique and thunderous sound; a party-starter with a twist. 'Wishful Thangs," a laid-back, meditative groove with lazily dueling horns " which has room for shining spots from Calvin Johnson's tenor and NOCCA-grad Andrew Baham's trumpet, intermingling with Williams " is one of the few breathers offered on this all-out funk barrage. It's perfectly placed, a soothing sonic break after Casey Robinson's searing guitar solo on the preceding track, the aptly named 'Exploding Hearts and Minds."
Guest vocalist Ivan Neville's trademark rasp on the wild rave-up 'Up In Here" threatens, 'We got the funk/ and we gonna use it." Indeed. Despite its mellow title, the album is an utter onslaught of jazz-damaged, second-line space funk with literally no sonic white space, that leaves you gasping when it's playing on the car stereo. We advise people who go to his gigs to be in top physical shape.