Often New Orleans Brass Bands are associated with jazz funerals and second lines. This is largely due to the fact that the roots of music is based in Brass Band culture. However, like any other art form, musicians who play brass band music are carving a musical nitch for themselves that is extended outside of the “consertative” structure.
SOUL REBELS BRASS BAND formed when Lumar LeBlanc and Derrick Moss, originally members of New Orleans’ iconic Dejean’s Young Olympia Brass Band, decided they wanted to play the new, exciting music they were hearing on the radio while respecting the tradition they loved. Both New Orleans natives, the pair was steeped in the fundamentals of New Orleans jazz, but inevitably, contemporary styles of music began to seep into their psyches. While LeBlanc attended the famed St. Augustine High School, Moss went to Lil’ Wayne’s alma mater McMain High School, and paraded alongside soon-to-be Cash Money Records CEO Ronald “Slim” Williams in the school’s marching band. All around were new sounds they found as exciting as the horn-combo style featured in jazz funerals since the turn of the Twentieth Century.
“We wanted to make our own sound without disrespecting the brass tradition,” LeBlanc recalls, “so we knew we had to break away. Moving past conservative traditions that originated in the late 18th centuries, the new musical hybrid is called ‘Rebelution.'”
The Soul Rebels found a stylistic middle ground when they spun off and formed a band of young, like-minded local players from all over New Orleans. All graduates of university music programs throughout the South, they picked up influences from outside the city as well as late-breaking local styles and began mapping them onto the marching band format they had learned in school. Although the Dirty Dozen had updated the brass band tradition with elements of R&B and funk, Soul Rebels took it a step further, incorporating hip-hop, especially through half-sung, half-rapped lyrics. “Most of our originals have vocals,” says LeBlanc. “You wouldn’t have done that in a traditional brass band.”
Soul Rebels Brass Band is compromised of Lumar LeBlanc, Edward Lee, Tannon Williams, Derrick Moss, Winston Turner, Marcus Hubbard, and Erion Williams.
The Soul Rebels Brass Band hard funk grooves have landed them gigs as an opening act for The Neville Brothers, Bootsy Collins, A Tribe Called Quest, Better than Ezra, Counting Crows, The Fugees, Digital Underground, The Roots, Brand New Heavies, The Gap Band and Robert Plant, Terance Blanchard, Allen Toussaint, Lionel Hampton, Branford Marsalis, and Jimmy Page. The Rebels have traveled the US and abroad, bringing their live and uncut rhythms as far as Greece, England, Italy, Africa and France.
While several musicians are still residing in cities outside of their New Orleans home, since Hurricane Katrina in 2005, they are still passionate and committed to their music. They travel back to the Crescent City, hundreds of miles from their current homes, for weekly gigs in and around New Orleans.
Shortly after their return from Paris, France, we were able to catch up with the bandleader, Lumar LeBlanc, and discover what projects the Soul Rebels are currently involved in.
Question: The Soul Rebels Brass Band recently visited France. How were you guys received in Paris?
Soul Rebels Brass Band: The people of Paris received us very well. Paris was an experience unlike any other. We had the opportunity to work with elementary and high school kids. They performed four of our songs with us during one of our performances. They were: “504,” “Work It Out,” “Let It Roll” and “Let Your Mind Be Free.” Keep in mind, they don’t speak any English!! And they were singing our songs like they made them!! From talking to their teachers, we found out that it was some intense practice to get them to that point. We love our new found friends in Paris and hope to continue the relationship that we’ve built with them.
Question: Awesome. Back in the states, in particular The Big Easy, where can we find you gigging?
Soul Rebels Brass Band: We perform all over the great city of New Orleans. Our main gig is every Thursday night at Le Bon Temps Roule on Magazine and Bordeaux. We call it the “Thursday Night House Party” because we rock the house all night long!!
Question: We are so loving that. Soul Rebels. So funky. So real. What are some of your favorite tunes on your latest CD?
Soul Rebels Brass Band: Well, obviously we love all of our songs on the new CD, but collectively, we as a band love “Take It High” for the energy it brings to the crowd, “504” because that’s where we came from and that’s what we represent wherever we go, and of course “No Place Like Home” because that how we feel about our city. We’ve been all over the world, and we still say there’s no place like home.
Question: You said in an previous interview that the Super Sunday Uptown Parade in New Orleans was the first parade performance by The Soul Rebels in ten years. What? No second lines. Now, that is a New Orleans tradition. What is that all about?
Soul Rebels Brass Band: Well, the band decided that it wanted to concentrate more on the stage show, so we decided to get away from doing parades. It’s not that we don’t like them. We truly appreciate and embrace the culture of second line parades and New Orleans Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs, but we felt like in order to get achieve the level of stardom that we desired that we had to totally focus all of our energy and time toward perfecting our show. We are reaping the rewards of that as we speak.
Question: Understandable. What day do you perform at New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival?
Soul Rebels Brass Band: We’re at Jazz Fest on Thursday, April 29th at 3:35pm on Congo Square Stage, opening for Average White Band. We want everybody to come out and rock with us! And the after-party is that night at Le Bon Temps Roule. For a full listing of our Jazz Fest schedule, please visit our event page. We have some killer shows for Jazz Fest, and we’d love it if everyone come out and party with us!!
Soul Rebels Brass Band: It was pleasure doing this interview. Peace and Love from the Soul Rebels.