Sun on Brass: Hot 8’s Tombstone

There is something great, almost symphonic, about several brass instruments playing together. Coming from New Orleans, there is an instinctive feel to the Hot 8 Brass Band, who play based on a improvised–but–tight approach, replete with background whoops and ah–yeahs. Tombstone sounds like a gang of friends on an energetic jazz and funk jam, yet clearly it was written and performed by a well–schooled ensemble and musicians. In particular, their sousaphone player, Bennie Pete, must have lungs like bellows.

Tombstone is not a varied album; Hot 8 have found a formula, derived from New Orleans’ parading traditions, and have expanded upon it – adding singing, rapping and embedded covers (That’s The Way I Like It and Let’s Talk About Sex make an appearance) – in order to create fun music. I like to work to this album, but I also like to kick back to it in the sunshine, with its upbeat energy and soulful approach.

But having said fuck art let’s dance, besides upholding local traditions through their modus operandi, almost inevitably (given their background) Tombstone does contain some social commentary, most directly in the intermittent rapping. Homies addresses the loss of friends and family, Shotgun Joe is about a former band member shot by the police, Take It To The House about the murder of a former band member and halfway through We Gonna Make It there is a verse of rap addressing the restructuring and gentrification of New Orleans. This all resonates with Hurricane Katrina in the not–distant–enough past. Although these sound like gloomy subjects, especially given the well–known images of Hurricane Katrina, opening track Tombstone Intro sums it up with its finishing line ‘Through the music we keep you alive’. Ultimately optimistic, Tombstone is an act of defiance through joyous creation.




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