By the time the Soul Rebels Brass Band took the stage at 3pm in Rosslyn’s Gateway Park, the crowd seemed ready for a little revolution. The New Orleans-based eight-piece Brass Band highly contrasted from the first two performers of the day. DC local The Kenny Rittenhouse Septet brought tradition bop to the early comers while Brooklyn-based Naomi Shelton and the Gospel Queens brought a little uplifting to the park – a few audience members. Set against these fairly traditional performers, the Soul Rebels engaged in what David Lee Roth refers to as “playing to the unconverted.”
For those unfamiliar with the Soul Rebels, or the new wave of hybrid brass bands in general, the simple introduction of “we are the Soul Rebels Brass Band from New Orleans” gave no great indication about what they were about to hear. What the crowd did hear they apparently liked, as the Soul Rebels brought the hillside to its feet by the end of their 75 minute set.
An attendee of the Woodstock Music and Arts festival of 1969 recalled how Santana’s performance was able to bring the entire hillside to its feet in a short time. Perhaps attendees of the Rosslyn Jazz Fesitval functioned as a microcosm of Woodstock in that fashion. While the audience of mostly 40+ seemed determined to remain parked comfortably in their seats, by halfway through (appropriately it seems) about half of the audience were on their feet. Well before the conclusion of the Soul Rebels’ set, the crowd was on its feet, dancing, and actually enjoying their little revolution.
The band brought a huge sound for how acoustic (non-electric) they are. Six horn players – to break it down: 1 sousaphone, 1tenor saxophone, 2 trombones, and 2 trumpets – one percussionist and one drummer make up the band. With a predominance of electronic music and sounds sweeping the music scene from hip-hop to country, it was rather refreshing to see a band go without any of the metaphoric bells and whistles and still pack a punch. And the Soul Rebels pack quite a formidable punch. The smooth yet aggressive quality of the horns gave the Soul Rebels a strong equilibrium to please the crowd; enough of a hard sound to keep things exciting but smooth and clear enough to not alienate.
While famously called “the missing link between Public Enemy and Louis Armstrong” by the Village Voice, their set at the park showed that also deserve the title of “the missing link between American Top 40 and Louis Armstrong.” While their set showcased their great talents in the jazz and hip-hop worlds, it was two Top 40 covers that brought the hill alive. About three songs in – three somewhat lackluster songs, they took a while to get their engine rolling – the Soul Rebels called out “Many of you will have heard this one by Bruno Mars,” before they launched into a converting cover “Treasure.” Of the two covers they played during the afternoon, this was the crucial “early set, win ‘em over” track.
It was the second cover of the afternoon that led to the moment of absolute conversion; where the afternoon turned from Jazz in the park to Jazz on the mount. The Soul Rebels showed here that they have a great understanding for the need of surprise. With only seven beats, all of Rosslyn knew that they just got lucky, as the Soul Rebels launched into their riotous cover of Daft Punk’s summer smash.
The reworking of the electronic duo’s megahit showed the revolution at work in the Soul Rebels’s method. The Soul Rebels are able to synthesize music that exists the farthest from their instruments and not only make it their own, but make it relatable and as likeable. The Soul Rebel’s revolution is not a thing of rhetoric; it is a thing of motion. The Soul Rebel’s revolution comes from the people dancing to their version of “Get Lucky” as joyously and fervently as they would to Daft Punk’s. The Soul Rebels are able to make and take the sounds of the popular spheres of music today their way and have it take the same effect. Seems like by the end of the day, the crowd would have preferred to hear the Soul Rebels on the radio more than Mr. Mars or Daft Punk.
- Content originally published on this site