The streets of the New Orleans Tremé district in 1983 were alive with music. The loud, intertwining cries of trumpets, trombones, tubas and saxophones collided with the driving rhythms of bass and snare drums to create a complex, beautifully cacophonous sound that was uniquely New Orleans.
This vibrant atmosphere was where Keith Frazier and his brother, Phil, grew up and became inspired to start a brass band of their own.
“We heard that and we said, 'That’s what we want to play,'” bass drummer Keith Frazier says.
The Frazier brothers, along with trumpeter Kermit Ruffins, are some of the founding members of Rebirth Brass Band — a band with a distinctive blend of soul, blues, funk, hip-hop, reggae and the classic New Orleans brass band sound.
Thirty-two years and one Grammy win later, Rebirth is ready to take the stage this Sunday at the Roots N Blues N BBQ Festival at Stephens Lake Park.
The group started out as a traditional New Orleans brass band, but over time, they began to integrate more styles into their music.
“As we got more into music, we started incorporating songs that we heard on the radio, so like hip-hop, reggae, whatever kind of song was the most popular thing at the time,” Frazier says. “So that means our sound would change a lot, you know. The songs were more bass-heavy, there was more chanting involved, so the songs have evolved that way. It’s not just horns playing or drums playing; there’s more chanting and singing involved as well.”
With their wide range of musical influences, festival goers on Sunday can expect a variety of genres.
“You can expect to hear several different styles,” Frazier says regarding their upcoming performance. “We’ll start with some traditional New Orleans music … New Orleans, reggae, hip-hop, maybe some blues. With instrumentation we can do almost anything, almost any genre of music.”
Rebirth Brass Band has become a staple at the Maple Leaf Bar in New Orleans with a weekly Tuesday night gig since 1990. However, Frazier and the group also have the opportunity to tour around the world.
“It’s like a music education," Frazier says. "We get to travel a lot, go to a lot of different places around the world, meet a lot of different people, and hear different music, you know, so I’ve been able to experience different music and different cultures all over the world."
Today, the band has 15 albums and a Grammy Award for Best Regional Roots Album in 2012. The group won for their Rebirth of New Orleans album, which was released in 2011.
Although Ruffins left the band in 1994, Rebirth is bringing a seasoned lineup of members to perform at Roots N Blues, including trombonists Stafford Agee and Gregory Veals, trumpeters Chaderick Honroe and Glen Hall, saxophonist Vincent Broussard, snare drummer Derrick Tabb and Keith and Phil Frazier on the bass drum and sousaphone, respectively.
Rebirth Brass Band performs at 3:45 p.m. Sunday on the Shelter Insurance Stage at Stephens Lake Park.