One Track Mind: Rebirth Brass Band, "Shrimp and Gumbo" (2011)


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Rebirth Brass Band comes out hotter than a pistol on “Shrimp and Gumbo," another in the long line of lip-smacking New Orleans songs about food, yet there remains an underlying theme of musicianship.

As with its original version, written by legendary Fats Domino producer Dave Bartholomew, the song bears little resemblance to any Bourbon Street cliche—instead shivering, clattering and shaking with a Creole-inspired island flare. Trumpeter Glen Andrews and Co. expertly revive that cool-rocking mambo beat, updating the track with a winkingly small lyrical change: After rattling off a series of gumbo delights (including file, seafood, okra, and so on) they add: “Rebirth gumbo!"

Elsewhere, the band—founded nearly three decades ago by brothers Bill and Keith Frazier (tuba and bass drum, respectively) along with the departed trumpeter Kermit Ruffins—happily performs many of its signature moves on the new Basin Street Records release Rebirth of New Orleans. They rumble through the Fat Tuesday stomp of “Exactly Like You," and slow it down nicely for a Latin-tinged groove on “The Dilemma."

But here, on “Shrimp and Gumbo," is where it becomes utterly clear all over again why Rebirth has stood out in a New Orleans landscape dotted with so many brass bands: The band's sand-blasting brass (the group also includes trumpeters Derek Shezbie and Chandrick Honore, as well as trombonists Stafford Agee and Corey Henry) takes over, and proves that—for all of Rebirth's on-stage clowning around—they've got chops. The interlocking shapes here are sharp, and absorbing.

They risk much in moving into a more conventional Afro-Cuban-esque format, far afield of the expected second-line standard. And they make it all pay off.

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This story appears courtesy of Something Else!.
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