Monday, June 05, 2006

God, Guns, Crack, Kids and Rebirth

"Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls...All the way from the underground from the uptown back of town and downtown they've been called the top brass band of the world the cream of the crop the band that won't stop the undefeated the undisputed 20 years and running the REBIRTH BRASS BAND!"

Cut to a tight hopping tenacious and flexible group horning and singing..."Don't you wish you could be like a rebirth brother?"

Never A Dull Moment: 20 Years of the Rebirth Brass Band directed by Charlie Brown opened at the Gene Siskel Film Centre last night.

We see and hear an Emcee with a warrior style rant and rap of excitement like a boxing match or a street rumble and isn't every anthem and hymn a high fist against death and conflict and struggle? .

Bravado and competition are a mainstay of rap, hip hop and the brass bands of New Orleans. With good reason. The blues and jazz have always transformed suffering into affirmation and brass bands shared that sensibility and merged compassion and community benevolence into a sountrack for the street.

Somebody had to:

A special collaborative relationship developed between brass bands in New Orleans and mutual aid and benevolent societies. Mutual aid and benevolent societies were common among many ethnic groups in urban areas in the 19th century. After the Civil War such organizations took on special meaning for emancipated African-Americans who had limited economic resources. The purposes of such societies were to "help the sick and bury the dead" - important functions because blacks were generally prohibited from getting commercial health and life insurance and other services.

While many organizations in New Orleans used brass bands in parades, concerts, political rallies, and funerals, African-American mutual aid and benevolent societies had their own expressive approach to funeral processions and parades, which continues to the present. At their events, community celebrants would join in the exuberant dancing procession. The phenomena of community participation in parades became known as "the second line," second, that is, to the official society members and their contracted band.
National Park Service

Who doesn't know about drugs and crime rate and lack of options for kids in inner cities around America?

The movie Never A Dull Moment about the brass band Rebirth opens assuming you know all too well about crack, kids and death. Oddly this sneaks up on the viewer as we are enchanted first by the early interviews of co-founders Philip and Keith Frazier as they stand outside their high school and in front of their church where the band began. They tell us charming stories of busking on the street and gospel playing in their Christian Mission Baptist Church. As the movie progresses with high school year book photos, montages of local legend Danny Barker, Mama Rebirth (mother of the Frazier brothers) and housing where the boys grew up we start to see that there is another element to this film. One of miracles and overcoming the odds manifested in redemption. Topics so well suited to art, again the themes many of the greatest popular music. Reality really starts to sink in and we realize these boys could have been dead.

One set of interviews masking as home videos again lulling the viewer has the Frazier sisters giggling and laughing at a Christmas party only to smack us that they love how funny it is there are bars and funeral homes on every corner of their hood. It's always been like that. Life is a party and in New Orleans, so is death. With faith and music: rebirth is a real option.
The neighbourhood with bars and funeral homes on every corner, Treme, snugglies and grinds right next tight to the French Quarter. The film helps us see how this proximity created a creole for these kids, a mixture that has saved some of their lives.

They know it, at one point one of the band members says "You could pick up a gun, or you could pick up an instrument."

The murder rate in New Orleans is ten times worse than the U.S. average. Before Katrina slammed the city, there were already 202 murders.

This movie is positive, self-aware and the people are not self-piying. The camerawork is streetwise and dense excellently suited to the music and most of it shot on a Canon XL1. Disc-jockey turned film maker Charlie Brown makes us feel at home while we watch the recollections of key players. These interviews include musician/historians Jerry Brock and Michael White who convey commaraderie and context within Rebirths history. Philip Frazier recalls when he heard a street band performing The Blackberry Special about 1978 and he said to himself, "I gotta do this." Kermit Ruffins adds all kinds of layers and moods to the bands history, including his own falling out with the band. My favourite talking head moment was with Mama Rebirth, Barbara Frazier, who played gospel piano in church, she says" No body plays this song "Just a Closer Walk" I taught them that way and they're playing it like their mother."

Rebirth embraces so many musical traditions and inventions and that may be it's ultimate appeal and strength. We see the Mardi Gras Indian meeting hip hop. There is a killer performance with Cheeky Blakk, and she is nasty and beautiful and her voice is so warm and powerful and plays off the band perfectly and uniquely.

This movie is everything a music freak wants and loves to hear about. Music geeks, freaks and magic and redemption. The movie has a very subtle street format about a street band. Brass bands are ultimately for the people and for the street. Brown captures this spirit even with his film style. We spoke with the director for quite a long time after the movie and I was able to tell him how much I enjoyed some of the strange angles he chose, particularily a successful sequence in the Maple Leaf Bar where the band performs every Tuesday. He also told us he modelled the vibe of this movie after three films he loves, Sonny Rollins Collosus, Gil Scott Heron Black Wax and Sun Ra Joyful Noise all tough acts to follow. Rebirth and Brown have that in common, they know where they come from and they know how to play.

As Jim Morrison said, no one here gets out alive, and sadly, there is a R.I.P. list at the end of this movie.

Without God, music and commited role models the casualties might have been higher.

I told Charlie Brown that this movie reminded me of Rize and Dogtown and Z Boys. Brown discussed the movie and New Orleans since Katrina with the few audience members for last nights screening. At least half a dozen of the audience lived or had lived in New Orleans so this made for an informative and in depth discussion. I've been to tipitina's the bar where Rebirth regularily performed so I felt really curious and really lucky to hear this group of peoples perspective on jazz and urban reconstruction. Brown said at one point, "There are 3 Popeyes left in New Orleans, that should give you an idea of the cultural reconstruction of the city."

Never A Dull Moment is showing Thursday, June 8, 8p.m. at the Gene Siskel Centre in Chicago and the director, Charlie Brown, will be available for questions. If you are in the Chicago area and love New Orleans or music you should not miss this opportunity. I hope this movie gets a good distributor and a major dvd production. I will post updates. I recommend you go out and buy one of Rebirth's recordings and give yourself a lift. Brown had a few copies of the movie for sale and I picked one up to enjoy and write this review along with an earlier project of his called Lousiana Shrimp Platter.

9 comments:

the cappuccino kid said...

all i know about brass bands is that evry coal mine in britain seemed to have one before mrs thatcher killed the communities by shutting the mines down!
when she dies there will be a pilgramige on a biblical scale of people going to dance on her grave!
and i know that sounds downright nasty, but unless you lived through the eighties miners strike over here you will never know!
love the sound they make though. try google for the BRIGHOUSE AND RASTRICK BRASS BAND, or the GRIMETHORPE COLLIERY BRASS BAND, as these were by far the best!
p.s. hope you like the subtitle i have given you on my link field!

mister anchovy said...

fab review Candy! Did you know there is a Mexican tradition of brass bands too? They play sort of Mexican country music all in brass - called "bando".

Candy Minx said...

i said i see no joy
i see only sorry
i see no chance of your bright new tomorrow
so stand down Margaret
stand down please
stand down down down down down
down down down down down
i say stand down Margaret
stand down please
stand down down down down down
down down down down down
stand down Margaret
stand down please
stand down Margaret
i say stand down Margaret
stand down please
stand down down down down down
down down down down down
down down down down down
down down down down down
down down down down down
[instrumental]
you tell me how can it work in this all white law
what a short sharp lesson,
what a third world war
i sometimes wonder if i'll ever get the chance
just to sit with my children in a holiday jam
our lives seem petty in your gold grey hands
would you give a second thought
would you ever give a damn, i doubt it
stand down Margaret⌦㔲㬴Awhoa
everybody shout it
stand down Margaret!
[instrumental]
work, white law
shell shock
world war
war, war, war, war, war
war, war, war, war, war
war, war, war, war, war
war, war, war, war, war
war, war, war, war, war
stand down please
stand down Margaret
stand down please
stand down Margaret
i say stand down Margaret
stand down please
stand down Margaret
stand down Margaret
stand down please
stand down Margaret
i say stand down Margaret
stand down please
stand down Margaret

F.F I'll come over and dance on her fucking grave too...!!!! Oh yeah I understand the time when she was rebelled against, the lyrics are from the incredible two tone band English Beat(who I have seen perform twice)

Now of course, after writing this and reading F.F and Mr. A I've found and googled all kinds of traditions with the Brass Band and miners...woow!!!!!


http://www.harrogateband.org/infcont.htm

http://www.bbc.co.uk/insideout/northeast/series7/russell_miners.shtml

this adds to my enjoyment and intrique thanks Mr. A and F.F.

Of course now freaky enough I found Czech and Mexico and brass bands...Stagg and Martina have a Mexico brass band connection!!!

http://www.radio.cz/en/article/78127

Well, it makes sense when you think that back in the day military bands would play and then intorduce the music where ever the conquering took place :)

Ranting Dullard said...

James last has an ablum 'music to burn villages down to'.

Its good.

the cappuccino kid said...

my pleasure!

aah, the beat. still going strong after all these years. going to see them and the selector in december.
and there is a very big rumour at present that the specials may be about to reform!!! hell yeah!

FOUR DINNERS said...

eh up Fiz! The Brighouse n Rastrick. I saw 'em once tha knows. Thi were reet good n all.

The Beat rock!!!!!!!

Nice reviewin Minxie

Spill The Beans said...

Wow you totally make me want to see this movie. I hope I get a chance to see it. N'awlins is just down the road from us and one of my favorite places to visit. It's a study in contradictions.

MR.B4REAL said...

Ain't nothing like New Orleans. Groing up there and living elsewhere in America, you really see the difference in the culture that is there and everywhere else. The City itself has a cultural aspect to it that noone else can clame or even copy. I love New Orleans and the can't wait to go and see the movie.

And by the way I am a JOSEPH s. CLARK HIGH SCHOOL GRADUTATE and PROUD OF IT.

Thanks for the article.

123 123 said...

Interesting post you got here. I'd like to read something more about this topic. Thank you for sharing that info.
Sexy Lady
Escort in London