The ceiling fans turn lazily, showing little commitment to dispersing the heavy air and cigarette smoke wafting to the tin ceiling of the Maple Leaf. A mix of black and white faces, shirts and tops in various states of perspiration, squeeze together in the long room at the end of which a group of nine musicians file unhurriedly onto the stage. They settle, and a short man in a white wife-beater and holding a trombone grabs one of the microphones.

“Ya’ll ready for the Rebirth?” he hollers, a double entendre, if ever there was one, in New Orleans. A few tentative slaps of the snare drum by big Derrick Tabb looming at the back, a testing bass drum beat or two, and Tuba Phil plays the bouncing, mellow first notes of the opening song, a funk and R&B-infused homage to the brass band music that has defined this city’s musical reputation for more than a century.

Willowy college students on summer break, grinning, awkward tourists and the practiced locals roar their approval, hands in the air, hips jutting out this way and that to the staggered metronome of the bass drum, the shouted lyrics from the Rebirth Brass Band and the swooping melodies of the horns.

It’s like this every Tuesday night at the Maple Leaf.

Harmonica-frosted blues and zig-zagging Cajun zydeco intermingle in the sweltering air above Frenchmen street. The tight woodwind and brass sections of the stately Preservation Hall Jazz band offer an elegant riposte to the thudding hip-hop of Bourbon Street.

There’s muffled trombone tones emerging from a Habitat for Humanity-built cottage in eastern New Orleans, and a meandering piano scale drifting from the open window of a antebellum mansion in the Garden District.

Read the rest of the article in Red Bulletin Magazine.


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