This group from the French Quarter Festival gives eleven concerts in two days | Music


the Big 6 Brass Band celebrates its fifth anniversary this weekend by putting its feet in motion.

The young but famous sextet from New Orleans began playing a jazz funeral procession on Saturday, then closed the third day of the 2022 French Quarter Festival in front of a sprawling, fast-dancing crowd at the Louisiana Fish Fry Stage. Subsequently, the band was to play four more shows until the wee hours of the night.

The musicians wake up on Sunday to face five back-to-back gigs, culminating in a stage performance at Josie’s Playhouse in the 7th Ward, around the corner formerly known as Tony’s Historical Parakeet Bar & Lounge.

“We’ll sleep well once the weekend is over,” said trombonist Lamar Heard Sr., 35.

Josie’s concert is the cornerstone of a busy weekend. It was there that the young group got their start when the six original members – mostly fresh graduates from Texas Southern University – hastily coined the name Big 6 because the venue needed a name to print on promotional flyer.

Since the last time the band played at the French Quarter Fest, in 2019, they have made some headlines.

At the start of the pandemic, in 2020, the band were cited for playing a funeral procession despite rules prohibiting public gatherings, although the concert was not an act of defiance.

“We didn’t know how serious the situation was,” Heard said, recalling a time when less was known about the novel coronavirus and music clubs were closing, threatening musicians’ livelihoods. “We were just trying to make a little change to support our families.”

But as the small parade unfolded, neighbors called 311, prompting the New Orleans Police Department to show up, stop the motorcade and summon the group. City hall ended up fining the band for the amount they would have earned for the gig, Heard said.

About a year later, Heard’s car was stolen while parked at a petrol station pump on Elysian Fields, with two instruments inside: his trombone and the sousaphone belonging to Clifton “Spug »Smith. The car was found damaged, but without the instruments. As the theft went viral on social media, New Orleans Saints and Pelicans owner Gayle Benson heard about the loss and replaced the instruments.

The Big 6 got their first break five years ago, when the Family Ties Social Aid and Pleasure Club gave the band a parade concert on Sunday. It was the ultimate litmus test for a group of young brass musicians: Could they make thousands of second rows dance for four hours? “We had to make our own statement,” Heard said.

Since then, the band has played nearly every well-known parade of New Orleans welfare and pleasure clubs. These days, the Big 6 is an important part of New Orleans’ overall musical landscape, said Derrick Tabb, snare drummer for the Rebirth Brass Band who regularly hires the Big 6 to play at his nightclub, the Treme Hideway.

“They’re very talented, one of the most talented groups of cats of this era,” Tabb said.

The Big 6 members wrote 13 original numbers for the band’s self-titled CD, released in 2019, and are busy recording another CD of originals. The 2019 debut yielded several numbers fans sang along to on Saturday, including the hit “Legs and Thighs” with the rhyme “Your legs and thighs… mesmerized me.” Like the Rebirth hit “Do Whatcha Wanna” and the Soul Rebels’ “Let Your Mind Be Free,” the Big 6 song “Haters” has also become a contemporary marching band standard, with lyrics about staying focused in the middle. of struggle and criticism: “I walk past my enemies. I have tunnel vision. I walk past my enemies. I try to move forward, not fall behind.

For each performance, band members mix originals with covers, which they record and release on downloaded digital “mixtapes”. They are also known as a group specializing in popup parades, posted on social media 24 hours in advance.

Their style, a mix of covers and originals, has evolved to the point that other young bands are trying to emulate it, said longtime jazz drummer Jerry Anderson, 57, whose family has been playing jazz for five generations. “It’s a groove, a different energy,” he said.

It’s a different form of jazz from Anderson’s youth. But it smells like traditional jazz.

“Me, that’s what I breathe,” he said. “It gives New Orleans its oxygen.”

And on Saturday, as festival season wore on and the Big 6 schedule filled up, the band arrived at the French Quarter Fest ready to party. Smith put the sousaphone on his shoulders and took the stage. The set was meant to get the crowd moving.

“We want people to come off, to be free,” he said.

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