The Grammy-winning Rebirth Brass Band is a globally renowned paragon of the New Orleans' brass band tradition.
They are celebrated for melding their tradition with second-line, funk, jazz, soul, and hip-hop. Emerging from Treme's now shuttered Joseph S. Clark Senior High School in the Lower Ninth Ward, they are, alongside their brethren the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and New Birth Brass Band, simultaneously keepers of the lineage flame and pioneers in expanding that legacy on recordings and stages.
In addition to releasing dozens of their own recordings since the 1980s, they have guested on albums by Trombone Shorty, Robbie Robertson, John Fogerty, and Kenny Wayne Shepherd. They also made several appearances in the HBO docu-drama, Treme. Four of their albums, from 2000's Main Event: Live at the Maple Leaf Bar through 2014's Move Your Body, have landed on the jazz and blues charts in the United States. Four singles, including their version of the NOLA staple "When the Saints Go Marching In" and 2013's "Do Whatcha Wanna" have landed in the Top 40 on sales charts.
The Rebirth Brass Band was formed in 1983 by tuba player Phil Frazier and his brother, bass drummer Keith Frazier, and trumpeter Kermit Ruffins. Since the economics of keeping such a large group of musicians on the road in the '90s and into the new millennium was often a daunting task, there have been many personnel changes through the years. For example, Ruffins, a prominent trumpeter and bandleader in his own right, worked with the Rebirth Brass Band throughout the '80s but left the group to start his own career in 1994. Similarly, trumpeter Shamarr Allen left the group to forge a solo career and has made a name for himself through theater gigs with Willie Nelson's band.
One significant break for the group came about when Allison Miner began managing them in the '80s. Through her network of contacts nationally and internationally (partially a result of her involvement with the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival), she was able to secure the group bookings at prestigious festivals around the U.S. and Europe. The band's discography is long and varied, but began with a very small label run by musicologist Chris Strachwitz, Arhoolie Records. In 1984, the band released its debut, Here to Stay, for the tiny label. By 1989, they landed at a then-growing roots music company, Rounder Records, to release Feel Like Funkin' It Up, and a slew of good recordings followed throughout the '90s. In 2008, they released 25th Anniversary on their own label.
In the long run, it isn't the number or quality of albums Rebirth has released -- though their 2011 album Rebirth of New Orleans, released in April 2011, did well on the jazz radio charts, which is due to the great cross-section of fans the band has attracted over the years. Founder Phil Frazier has said he's proud of the diverse crowds the band regularly attracts at shows in New Orleans and everywhere else in the U.S., Canada, and Europe. A wide spectrum of ages and ethnic groups finds something comfortable and something they can relate to in the meld of classic R&B, New Orleans funk, soul, rock, and jazz the band performs. Move Your Body was released in 2014. The band's touring regimen kept them from studio recording, but in August of 2019, Live at New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival 2019 appeared from Munck Music. The album was nominated in the "Best Regional Roots Music Album" category in the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards. ~ Richard Skelly, Rovi