Words by Garth Cartwright
The Hot 8 Brass Band have every right to sing the blues. Forced to flee New Orleans due to Hurricane Katrina’s devastation this youthful ensemble has seen four members die before their time: three to the epidemic of violence that is a cancer on the Big Easy’s black community; one to hypertension – another ghetto disease. Trumpeter Terrell Batiste lost his legs in an automobile accident. Yet nothing in The Hot 8’s music suggests despair. Instead, the finest of the Big Easy’s young street brass bands make music that bursts with exuberance and joy. Their debut album Rock With The Hot 8 was released on Tru Thoughts, a Brighton-based label, in 2007 and made a strong impact. Five years on and The Hot 8 are back and sounding fabulously loose and greasy.
The Hot 8’s members grew up as part of the rap generation and their sound has the unmistakeable swagger of hip-hop. The clatter of bass and snare drum mixed with horns that play beautifully sweet and sour patterns creates a big sound, sometimes instrumental, other times with an MC leading the band in a call-and-response manner. Tunes such as ‘New Orleans (After The City)’ and ‘Let Me Do My Thing’ brim with a raucous, sexy exuberance. The influence of having toured Britain is also evident – The Hot 8 cover Basement Jaxx’s ‘Bingo Bango’ and The Specials’ ‘Ghost Town’. The latter is especially appropriate for New Orleans, yet The Hot 8 don’t attempt to emulate Jerry Dammers’ moody waltz tempo. Instead, they turn it into a big brass roar.
Superbly recorded so to keep all the excitement of a street performance and beautifully packaged with images Banksy left on the walls of post-Katrina New Orleans, The Life & Times Of… is one of 2012’s finest albums.
TRACK TO TRY: Ghost Town