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New Breed had Festival crowd dancing in the aisles

A generous pallette of blues: New Breed Brass Band with Rena Lalgie, the governor, and members of the Bermuda Festival team (Photograph supplied)

New Breed Brass Band gave us a comprehensive and extended sampler of the musical history of 20th century New Orleans jazz.

On the way they showed their mastery of the major jazz, swing, funk, rock, blues, reggae, folk and hip-hop styles of the previous century and then invited us to take part in a New Orleans style “second line” dance party.

New Breed is just that. Their brass sound is unique because their instrumentation is an unusual one: twin trombones, trumpet, tenor sax and sousaphone.

A marching band has to play in the street in competition from traffic and crowd noise so it must be loud – and New Breed’s line-up fits the bill perfectly.

The trombone is the loudest brass instrument and, with a second one in unison, can make a huge range of powerful sound.

Traditional rhythm sections can’t be used in a band on the move because the instruments are immobile.

New Breed used the Bermuda Gombey solution: mobile single players equipped with either bass or snare plus tom-tom drums. And as with our Gombeys, the drummers are tireless drivers of every beat, central to every performance.

Snare drummer Tyree Nelson and bass drummer Thaddaeus Ramsay were tireless; they kept rock-steady throughout the evening as well as taking many solos. Dialogue between leader Revon Andrews’ and George Brown’s trombones made for an upbeat, typical New Orleans sound with four-bar question and answer dialogue in left-right-left sequences.

These first numbers were a tribute to history; they wouldn’t have seemed out of place a hundred years ago on Canal Street where the young Louis Armstrong was playing.

But as the evening developed, the band adopted a style which was like a stream of consciousness. Tunes would be launched using catchphrases or unfinished quotes which made the music morph into constantly changing forms. First, ‘30s swing, with Clifton Smith’s sousaphone leading off with a great legato roar.

A tribute to Mardi Gras featured dazzling solos on tenor sax and trumpet by Orlando Gilbert and Chris Cotton respectively.

A generous palette of blues by all players veered from echoes of Miles Davis’ All Blues, back to the phrasing of early rock and then to Appalachian Folk tunes. Echoes of spiritual and gospel music surfaced in the drum and sousaphone solos.

Then the party started. A young lady was invited up on stage where the band serenaded her birthday. She danced while the band struck up the 1980s rock number Casanova.

Trumpeter Chris Cotton then performed a deadpan hip-hop number. Dozens of audience members danced among us through the aisles of the Earl Cameron Theatre, along the front of the stage and back, waving handkerchiefs in traditional “second line” style.

New Breed then themselves descended from the stage, formed up into marching order and led the dancers round the theatre before disappearing offstage.

We all left exhilarated with a feeling that we had participated in a great affirmation of joyousness.

The New Breed Brass Band performed at the Earl Cameron Theatre on Friday as part of the Bermuda Festival of the Performing Arts

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Published February 15, 2023 at 7:59 am (Updated February 15, 2023 at 7:29 am)

New Breed had Festival crowd dancing in the aisles

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