Hot 8 Brass Band
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Hot 8 Brass Band

New Orleans, Louisiana, United States

New Orleans, Louisiana, United States
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THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
April 19, 2007

A Professor-Musician Passes
New Orleans Jazz Tradition On

By LARRY BLUMENFELD

New Orleans—The fresh-faced young man on a stool at the back of the Sound Café one Thursday night in March just had to be a musician. Something in the way he nodded to the beat and studied the band gave him up. Sure enough, 20-year-old Sean Roberts explained as he applauded a rousing blues that he was a trumpeter with the TBC Brass Band, whose initials stand for "To Be Continued."

The evening was a study in extending tradition, for those onstage and in the audience. The last in a series of weekly gigs, this performance united clarinetist Michael White with the Hot 8, a popular local brass band whose members range in age from 19 to 45.

"We're just trying to carry the torch of this music forward," Hot 8 trumpeter Raymond Williams said, "to keep it burning in New Orleans." With that he introduced Dr. White, whose playing on this night's version of the classic "St. James Infirmary" was by turns sweet-toned, bluesy-curled and dark-hued. A standard-bearing musician, bandleader and Xavier University of Louisiana professor, Dr. White is, at 52, perhaps the foremost ambassador of New Orleans traditional jazz, an important link to second-line parades and jazz funerals, and to the heritage of the city's storied Preservation Hall.

These days, Dr. White shuttles between Houston, to which he relocated after Hurricane Katrina, and New Orleans, where he was born and raised, and where he now keeps a trailer near his office at Xavier. In the floods, he lost a personal archive of more than 4,000 books and 5,000 recordings, many obscure; transcriptions of music from Jelly Roll Morton, King Oliver, Sidney Bechet and other jazz pioneers; vintage clarinets dating from the 1880s to the 1930s; photographs, concert programs and other memorabilia, including used banjo strings and reeds tossed off by early 20th-century musical heroes.

Yet even before Katrina, Dr. White sensed a gradual fading away of the musical tradition of brass-band players clad in white shirts, ties and black-banded caps, playing everything from hymns and marches to blues and jazz, always with swinging rhythms, complex group improvisation, and specific three-trumpet harmonies.

"There was something about that sound," Dr. White said at his Xavier office, recalling the moment high-school band director Edwin Hampton first played him a 1950s recording of the Olympia Brass Band. There were more epiphanies to come: the first funeral he played with trumpeter Doc Paulin's brass band; the recording he picked up on a whim, by clarinetist George Lewis, that turned out to be his most profound discovery.

In the face of widespread loss and dislocation, the cultural traditions of New Orleans have assumed heightened significance. The Hot 8 Brass Band has its own story of continuation in the face of tragedy. One band member lost his legs in a horrific roadside accident not long after Katrina hit. And in January, during a wave of violent crimes, the group's 25-year-old snare drum player, Dinerral Shavers, was fatally shot by a teenager.

Last year, Lee Arnold, the Hot 8's manager, approached Dr. White about the need for younger brass-band musicians to connect with tradition-bearers. Tuba player Bennie Pete, the band's leader, invited Dr. White to begin working with the group. The result was a mixture of rehearsals, performances, and discussions of musical elements -- repertoire, harmony, dynamics -- as well as history and shared values. In between sets at the Sound Café, Mr. Pete spoke of gaining from those sessions "answers to questions I'd never asked before."

Dr. White -- whose conversations with Wynton Marsalis in the 1990s led to Jazz at Lincoln Center concerts focused on the music of Morton, Bechet and Louis Armstrong -- is uniquely qualified to provide such answers. Through his work as a recording musician, as leader of the Original Liberty Jazz Band, and especially, since 2002, in an endowed chair at Xavier dedicated to "New Orleans Culture," Dr. White seeks to stimulate inquiry.

"Initially, New Orleans jazz was a reflection of a way of life," he said as he peered over the jagged pile of books and CDs atop his desk, including the red notebook in which, during the weeks following the hurricane, he jotted down the names and whereabouts of colleagues. "It spoke of the way people walk, talk, eat, sleep, dance, drive, think, make jokes, and dress. But I don't think America ever truly understood New Orleans culture, because the mindset is so different here. So that whole tradition was hidden from most of America."

Hidden even from Dr. White for much of his childhood. Though he was born in the Ninth Ward, he moved with his family to a mostly white Uptown neighborhood and attended school in a nearby black one. "I later found out," he said, "that on the weekends, when I wasn't around, the blocks around my school were al - Wall Street Journal


THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
April 19, 2007

A Professor-Musician Passes
New Orleans Jazz Tradition On

By LARRY BLUMENFELD

New Orleans—The fresh-faced young man on a stool at the back of the Sound Café one Thursday night in March just had to be a musician. Something in the way he nodded to the beat and studied the band gave him up. Sure enough, 20-year-old Sean Roberts explained as he applauded a rousing blues that he was a trumpeter with the TBC Brass Band, whose initials stand for "To Be Continued."

The evening was a study in extending tradition, for those onstage and in the audience. The last in a series of weekly gigs, this performance united clarinetist Michael White with the Hot 8, a popular local brass band whose members range in age from 19 to 45.

"We're just trying to carry the torch of this music forward," Hot 8 trumpeter Raymond Williams said, "to keep it burning in New Orleans." With that he introduced Dr. White, whose playing on this night's version of the classic "St. James Infirmary" was by turns sweet-toned, bluesy-curled and dark-hued. A standard-bearing musician, bandleader and Xavier University of Louisiana professor, Dr. White is, at 52, perhaps the foremost ambassador of New Orleans traditional jazz, an important link to second-line parades and jazz funerals, and to the heritage of the city's storied Preservation Hall.

These days, Dr. White shuttles between Houston, to which he relocated after Hurricane Katrina, and New Orleans, where he was born and raised, and where he now keeps a trailer near his office at Xavier. In the floods, he lost a personal archive of more than 4,000 books and 5,000 recordings, many obscure; transcriptions of music from Jelly Roll Morton, King Oliver, Sidney Bechet and other jazz pioneers; vintage clarinets dating from the 1880s to the 1930s; photographs, concert programs and other memorabilia, including used banjo strings and reeds tossed off by early 20th-century musical heroes.

Yet even before Katrina, Dr. White sensed a gradual fading away of the musical tradition of brass-band players clad in white shirts, ties and black-banded caps, playing everything from hymns and marches to blues and jazz, always with swinging rhythms, complex group improvisation, and specific three-trumpet harmonies.

"There was something about that sound," Dr. White said at his Xavier office, recalling the moment high-school band director Edwin Hampton first played him a 1950s recording of the Olympia Brass Band. There were more epiphanies to come: the first funeral he played with trumpeter Doc Paulin's brass band; the recording he picked up on a whim, by clarinetist George Lewis, that turned out to be his most profound discovery.

In the face of widespread loss and dislocation, the cultural traditions of New Orleans have assumed heightened significance. The Hot 8 Brass Band has its own story of continuation in the face of tragedy. One band member lost his legs in a horrific roadside accident not long after Katrina hit. And in January, during a wave of violent crimes, the group's 25-year-old snare drum player, Dinerral Shavers, was fatally shot by a teenager.

Last year, Lee Arnold, the Hot 8's manager, approached Dr. White about the need for younger brass-band musicians to connect with tradition-bearers. Tuba player Bennie Pete, the band's leader, invited Dr. White to begin working with the group. The result was a mixture of rehearsals, performances, and discussions of musical elements -- repertoire, harmony, dynamics -- as well as history and shared values. In between sets at the Sound Café, Mr. Pete spoke of gaining from those sessions "answers to questions I'd never asked before."

Dr. White -- whose conversations with Wynton Marsalis in the 1990s led to Jazz at Lincoln Center concerts focused on the music of Morton, Bechet and Louis Armstrong -- is uniquely qualified to provide such answers. Through his work as a recording musician, as leader of the Original Liberty Jazz Band, and especially, since 2002, in an endowed chair at Xavier dedicated to "New Orleans Culture," Dr. White seeks to stimulate inquiry.

"Initially, New Orleans jazz was a reflection of a way of life," he said as he peered over the jagged pile of books and CDs atop his desk, including the red notebook in which, during the weeks following the hurricane, he jotted down the names and whereabouts of colleagues. "It spoke of the way people walk, talk, eat, sleep, dance, drive, think, make jokes, and dress. But I don't think America ever truly understood New Orleans culture, because the mindset is so different here. So that whole tradition was hidden from most of America."

Hidden even from Dr. White for much of his childhood. Though he was born in the Ninth Ward, he moved with his family to a mostly white Uptown neighborhood and attended school in a nearby black one. "I later found out," he said, "that on the weekends, when I wasn't around, the blocks around my school were al - Wall Street Journal


Discography

Rock with the Hot 8
Single "Skeet Skeet" can be found on www.hot8brassband.com

Photos

Bio

The Hot 8 Brass Band
New Orleans, Louisiana

Now more than ever, America is fascinated by the sounds and legends of the brass bands of New Orleans. Playing music that has percolated through the city�s streets for generations, these bands are more than simply performing groups. They are the workshops, the caretakers, and the perpetuators of New Orleans�s most precious cultural treasure: her music.

The Hot 8 Brass Band has been central to New Orleans street music for over a decade. Founded by Bennie Pete in 1995, the band has played in traditional Second Line parades�hosted each Sunday afternoon by a Social Aid and Pleasure Club�ever since. The Hot 8 are famous for playing all day in the sun, then hopping to a club gig and playing through the night. But even more than their boundless energy, what makes the Hot 8 special are the sounds they coax from their well-loved, well-worn horns. Listen to the attached track for a sampling of the magical harmonies and the magical, sweet tone that make it impossible to mistake this band for any other.
The members of the Hot 8 were all born and raised in New Orleans; many of them began playing together in high school. In 1995 they came together and began playing traditional New Orleans brass band music professionally.
The Hot 8 Brass Band has toured in Japan, Italy, France, Spain, Finland, England, and Sardinia. They play regularly at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival ("Jazz Fest") and have played in the Zulu Parade, San Antonio Zulu Association Festival, the City of New Orleans New Year's Celebration and Mo' Fest, the Tom Joyner Morning Show, and the Master P music video �Hootie Hoo�.

The Hot 8 have been the featured band in an important relief project following Hurricane Katrina and the devastation wrought upon New Orleans. SAVE OUR BRASS! is a local grass-roots project that has brought music to evacuee shelters, temporary trailer parks, and communities that have reached out to New Orleanians. As a result, the Hot 8 Brass Band have been featured on CNN, Nightline, and WDSU-TV (New Orleans) and in the New York Times: http://www.hot8brassband.com

Recently, the Hot 8 played in the Village Halloween Parade in New York and Putumayo Wold Music�s Concert of Thanksgiving in New Orleans. They are preparing to record their second album.

Here Are the Hot 8:

TUBA: Band leader Bennie "Big Peter" Pete was born in New Orleans in 1976 and has played tuba since the sixth grade. Bennie played previously with the Looney Tunes and was the founder of the Hot 8. His influences include Tuba Fats, Keith Anderson, and Leroy Jones.
TRUMPET: Terrell "Burger" Batiste was born in New Orleans in 1984. He started playing baritone in the seventh grade and joined the Hot 8 while he was still in high school. His influences include Miles Davis, Leroy Jones, and Louis Armstrong.
BASS DRUM: Harry "Swamp Thang" Cook was born in New Orleans in 1976. He began playing in high school at the age of sixteen. Harry's influences include Herlin Riley, Louis Armstrong, and Tuba Fats.
TROMBONE: Jerome "Baybay" Jones was born in New Orleans in 1975. Jerome comes from a family of musicians and has played with the Looney Tunes, Dirty Dozen, Treme, NewBirth brass bands. Influences include Alonzo Barnes, Keith "Wolf" Anderson, J.J. Johnson, Fred Wesley and Maceo Parker.
TRUMPET: Alvarez "B.I.G. AL" Huntley was born in New Orleans in 1978. He played music in school from the third grade until his graduation from Booker T. Washington high school then attended Southern University at Baton Rouge on a music scholarship, then went to Dallas UNT. His influences include Wynton Marsalis, Stevie Wonder, and Louis Armstrong.
SNARE DRUM: Dinerral "Dick" Shavers was born in New Orleans in 1981. He began playing in his second grade brass band and later played in church, where his mother was the organist. His influences include Herlin Riley, Kermit Ruffins, and the Dirty Dozen.
TRUMPET: Raymond "Dr. Rackle" Williams was born in New Orleans in 1961. He attended college in Hartford, CT on a music scholarship and has recorded with Jackie McLean on the Blue Note label before joining the Hot 8 in 2001. His influences include McLean, Ellis Marsalis, and Clifford Brown.
TROMBONE: Keith "Wolf" Anderson was born in Chicago in 1964. He moved to New Orleans in 1973 and graduated from St. Augustine high school. He has recorded with The Dirty Dozen and Rebirth brass bands and with Doreen Ketchum. Keith's influences include The Olympia, Dirty Dozen, and Tuxedo brass bands.
TROMBONE: Jereau "Cousin" Fournett was born in New Orleans in 1984. He graduated from John F. Kennedy high school. Influences include Little Joe, Wolf, Tyrus Chapman, Revert Andrews, and Troy Michael.

SAX: Wendell "Cliff" Stewart is the newest member of the Hot 8. Cliff was born in New Orleans in 1978, and his earliest music encounter was in church, where his grandmother was the choir director and his mom the lead