Funkin' It Back, by JC Patterson | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Funkin' It Back, by JC Patterson

Ready for some down-and-dirty brass funk, courtesy of the Big Easy's most popular brass band? Ready to dance 'til you drop, to funk like there's no tomorrow? The Rebirth is coming back to Jackson—at Soulshine Pizza next door to Hal & Mal's— for a show that promises to be an event. For more than 20 years, The Rebirth Brass Band has taken the traditional New Orleans brass-band sound and given it their own funky flavoring. No doubt inspired by their predecessors, The Dirty Dozen, The Rebirth has marinated in the flavor of the streets with a no-holds-barred attitude and a krewe of musicians as energetic as they are talented.

It all began in 1983. Phillip Frazier and Kermit Ruffins put together a ragtag group of young men with talent, funk and plenty of raucous energy. Their signature theme, "Do What You Wanna," has become a Mardi Gras staple. With Frazier's punchy Sousaphone base lines and Ruffins' uncanny ability to transcend Louis Armstrong in horn, voice and charisma, The Rebirth enhanced even tighter styles originated and influenced by the Dozen.

The Rebirth suffered a minor setback in the early '90s when Ruffins decided to venture into more traditional swing jazz. Providing barbecue from the back of his truck, the trumpeter dubbed his new band Kermit Ruffins and the Barbecue Swingers. In short order, Ruffins has continuously won honors as the city's favorite trumpeter and swing band. He occasionally plays
opposite the Rebirth in clubs like The Howlin' Wolf, Tipitina's and Vaughn's.

It didn't take long for The Rebirth (even without Ruffins) to surpass the Dirty Dozen's popularity in New Orleans. Adding new musicians—including virtuoso percussionist Ajay Mallory—Phillip Frazier and company rake in annual honors as the Big Easy's best brass band. Their weekly Tuesday night gig at the Maple Leaf has become legendary, often ending with the sunrise.

The Rebirth has chalked up more than 20 tours of Europe, four tours of Japan and has spent six weeks in Africa. They've played virtually every music fest in the U.S. But ask any member, and they'll tell you the Maple Leaf is their gig of choice.

Oh, yeah, there's a new album out, too. "Rebirth For Life" is almost as fun to listen to as being at a live concert. In fact, the final track was recorded live at Tipitina's last fall to celebrate the Rebirth's 20th anniversary tour.

Each song on "Rebirth For Life" (Tipitina's Records) is a celebration in brass. Two tracks pay homage to the legendary Tuba Fats, who passed away last winter. Rebirth covers "Gemini Rising," a tune made famous by The Dirty Dozen. The album is available in stores now, and the band will have them for sale at the show.

JC Patterson is the author of "Big Easy Dreamin'" and "Mo' Dreamin.'" He is a freelance book, music, and theatre critic as well as a producer/director/announcer in WLBT-TV-3's creative services.

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