Mardi Gras came a bit early this year as the Hot 8 Brass Band brought the sweltering heat and soulful bounce of New Orleans to Yoshi’s Jazz Club in San Francisco. The historic Fillmore District was transformed into the musical revelry born on the streets of the Crescent City. True to their reputation of thrilling crowds with their unique blend of hip hop, jazz, and funk anchored by the traditional brass sound of the famous Second Line parades, The Hot 8 Brass band did not disappoint.
Dressed in their Sunday’s best rather than the tee shirts and shorts attire I’m accustomed and confined to the limited radius of the stage instead of the boundless New Orleans avenues, the band looked a bit uncomfortable, but it didn’t take them long to warm up. Blaring trombones, searing horns, and the thump of bandleader, Benny Pete’s tuba, introduced their first selection, “E-flat Blues”, which officially got the party started.
Featured on CNN, Nightline, in The New York Times and Spike Lee’s documentary “When The Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts” for their uplifting sound that encouraged New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, The Hot 8 Brass Band clearly comes to entertain with the intent to play feel good music. When the band MC and trumpeter, Terrell “Burger” Batiste, put the audience on notice that tonight was going to be a party, shouts of jubilation erupted. His announcement was right on time because the audience, probably worn from the day’s grind, appeared ready to release some tension. Spirits and drinks were lifted all night in celebration of good music and good times. If there were a set list of jazz club etiquette and rules, this audience broke every one. Waving white rags, people jumped out of their seats spilling out into the aisles dancing, clapping, and singing while parading from the booth’s to the stage.
The Hot 8 treated us to a heaping helping of classic tunes such as “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now” and “I Got You” combined with some of their own original music. Amazingly, their original music was soulful, modern, and as jazzy as the traditional more recognizable brass music. Two trombones, three trumpets, one tuba, and one solitary saxophone (who was especially good by the way) held down the brass section accompanied by one bass drummer and one snare drummer to round out the band. Their sound was large, festive, playful at times, and loaded with much call and response. They brought everyone to the floor with “Shake to the One I Love”. They even invited us to join in the “Happy Birthday” song New Orleans style to celebrate the birthday of the snare drummer. The party, parade, and the people made this night a memorable musical experience.
To signal the end of the party, The Hot 8 played the iconic tune “When the Saints Go Marching In”, which received nearly 10 minutes of ovation eventually leading to an encore performance after the curtains had closed. As I noticed the smiles of satisfaction that radiated from many in the audience, it was clear The Hot 8 Brass Band gave San Francisco a taste of that savory blend of New Orleans spice. No one could have summed up their performance better than themselves as they chanted, “Hot 8 got that fire!”
Visit The Hot 8 Brass Band’s website to find out more about where they will be playing next.
By Johnathan Eaglin