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New Orleans’ Hot 8 Brass Band was founded in 1995 by tuba player Bennie Pete, Jerome “BayBay” Jones (trombone) and Harry “Swamp Thang” Cook (bass drum) to play brass band music professionally. Although many of the current members began playing together in high school, over time the line-up has naturally shifted and changed. But any incarnation of Hot 8 Brass Band will boast eight or nine players of the highest rate, bringing the passion and noise through a bevy of trombones, saxophones, trumpets, snare and bass drums, all buoyed up by the immense tuba basslines of band leader Bennie Pete. These musicians have been inspired by artists such as Tuba Fats, Leroy Jones, Louis Armstrong, JJ Johnson, Stevie Wonder and Jackie McLean, and have variously recorded and performed with some of those mentioned and more. They also cite each other as influences.
Robert Luis and Paul Jonas of Tru Thoughts first heard Hot 8 Brass Band when Quantic (having got his hands on a rare copy) played their cover of “Sexual Healing” in a New York DJ set. Witnessing first-hand the unprecedented round of applause that sprang up from the crowd, they knew this band had something special. So they had a scout around for more of Hot 8’s music. The band had previously been signed to the label “Louisiana Red Hot,” a label which had been, along with so much else inNew Orleans, all but wiped out by Hurricane Katrina, and much of their previous material had been taken with it.
Over the next few months Tru Thoughts signed Hot 8, and released “Sexual Healing” as a limited edition single in summer 2007. All 500 copies were snapped up immediately, making it the fastest-selling single in the label’s history. Following a flood of enquiries, it was given a wider release, and the album ‘Rock with the Hot 8’ followed shortly after to widespread acclaim. Listen to the elegant jumble of jazz and soul, traditional boisterous brass band music and unmistakable hip hop attitude, and you will know this music could only have come fromNew Orleans. The band’s firstUKlive dates came in February 2008, with a sell-out tour which blew the minds of audiences up and down the country and won an army of dedicated new fans. The second single, “What’s My Name? (Rock With The Hot 8)” - a Snoop Dogg cover - was a huge crowd-pleaser, and received rave reviews.
Hot 8 Brass Band have always believed in contributing to their culture by playing in traditional Second Line parades, expressions of freedom and community through music and interaction. They have earned a great reputation on the streets, with seemingly boundless work ethic and energy: Hot 8 have been known to pack in nine shows in a single day.
Having survived one of the worst natural and political disasters theUSAhas ever known - Hurricane Katrina – Hot 8 have thrown themselves into the subsequent relief and awareness projects to aid their community’s redevelopment and recovery. They have been a key band in “SAVE OUR BRASS!” a local grass roots project that brought music to evacuee shelters and temporary trailer parks; and reached out to New Orleanians displaced after Hurricane Katrina via “Finding Our Folk”. As well as the devastation of Katrina the Hot 8 Brass Band have faced more than their fair share of adversity. Four band members have died (two of them lost to violent acts on the streets of New Orleans) and the band are now active figures in the group “Silence is Violence,” an anti-violence campaign that was founded following the murder in December 2006 of Hot 8 member Dinerral Shavers.
During the years since their first album, the band have gone from strength to strength, their public profile rising to such a level they were invited to support the likes of Mos Def, Lauryn Hill and Mary J Blige; performed in front of Wesley Snipes and Oprah Winfrey; and played several international tours taking in Glastonbury, the Big Chill (where they were chosen as the festival highlight by the UK’s Observer newspaper), Roskilde and a roof-raising show at London’s Scala among others. Highly respected among fellow musicians, they have guested on albums by the Blind Boys of Alabama and Basement Jaxx. The band and their story were also featured in Spike Lee’s post-Katrina documentary When the Levees Broke, and the follow-up When the Creek Don’t Rise; and HBO’s hit television series Treme.
November 2012 saw the long awaited second album release; ‘The Life & Times Of…’, was preceded by a double A-side single featuring “Ghost Town”, a delightful and typically rambunctious cover of The Specials classic, and “Let Me Do My Thing”, a breathtaking original cut which hears sometime band-member Tyrus Chapman expressing the story of his past relationship with heroin. The album gained four and five star reviews in publications including The Observer, Songlines and MOJO, and worldwide daytime and specialist radio support.
‘The Life And Times Of…’ (out now) is itself the first part of a two album project; showcasing the party side of the band, it is packed with joyful grooves to get feet moving. The next instalment – ‘Tombstone’ out May 2013 is a more reflective, emotional tribute to fallen band members and the funeral parades which centre on this music. “These records will celebrate the times we have had both before and after the storm. Burying our dead and letting their spirits soar, celebrating our city and the lives that our band mates have lived individually and collectively as Hot 8,” explains band leader and tuba player Bennie Pete.