Richmond, VA – It was a spring afternoon in 1995. I was doing homework with my dance class partner at Espresso Royale on State Street in Madison, Wisconsin. Suddenly, a melody, unlike any I have ever heard, caught my attention. Lead tuba filling the room with brasserific riffs that were music to my ears, literally. As the tuba bassline led the musical charge into a melodic Eden, my first thought was that Muzak™ had taken a turn for the stellar. I asked the barista, “Who is this? I need to hear more!”. He showed me the CD (this was before MP3s and Spotify) and knew I had to experience them.
On January 30th, 2020 at the Richmond Music Hall, after nearly 25 years of waiting, I was finally able to experience Rebirth Brass Band. Twice nominated for the Grammy for Best Regional Roots Music Album (2012 and 2020) and winning the award in 2012, Rebirth Brass Band is a staple in the French Quarter in New Orleans. When they are not doing their Tuesday night gig at the Maple Leaf on Oak Street, they are touring around the country, and world, delivering their unique brand of music.
One element that makes for a memorable performance is a great opener. The local Richmond ensemble, Brunswick, did a great job preparing the awaiting audience. Playing mostly original music, the 13-member band lit up the Music Hall.
Shortly after Brunswick’s set, Rebirth took the stage. Consisting of Clifton Smith (Tuba), Keith Frazier (Bass drum), Glenn Hall (Trumpet), Stafford Agee (Trombone), Jenard Andrews (Snare Drum), Vincent Broussard (Saxophone), and Chadrick Honoré (Trumpet), the group opened their performance with a very brassy cover the Fats Domino hit, “I’m Walkin’“, which did a great job of getting the crowd moving and migrating toward the stage.
Rebirth brought a unique sound to the Music Hall, combining New Orleans jazz, with some funk and a little hip hop, it was enough to get the crowd moving in ways that did not appear natural to this correspondent. One of the highlights of the night was when Stafford whispered something to Glenn (I really wish I had been in the conversation) and Glenn broke into laughter. While I cannot be certain, my suspicion was that Stafford had pointed out the very diverse array of dance moves gracing (but not always graceful) the floor in front of the stage.
As the night progressed, we heard tunes such as, “Why Your Feet Hurt“, “Stereo“, “Who’s Rockin’, Who’s Rollin‘“, and “Rebirth Groove“. Each song was fun and, even though it was obvious something had struck the humor bone in the band, they never missed a beat! They were tight!
Rebirth ended the evening with “Feel Like Funkin’ It Up“, and then it was over. The members hung around for a bit and talked to a few audience members while packing up their gear to continue their tour through Roanoke and points west.
What started out as an intriguing listen at a small coffee shop in Madison, WI had finally come to fruition at the Richmond Music Hall. It was 25 years in the making, but well worth it. I am looking forward to one day making the trek to New Orleans, on a Tuesday night, to catch Rebirth Brass Band in the heart of the French Quarter, the Maple Leaf Bar.
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Show Date: January 30, 2020