For more than a century, the streets of New Orleans echoed the sound of marching bands with colorful names like Olympia, Excelsior, Eagle, Tuxedo and the early St. Joseph band. Everyone had their favorites and the bands sprung from lodges, gentlemen’s clubs and secret societies. They brought music to the people via the streets.
The venerable Crescent City tradition continues today in spite of the numerous setbacks endured by the population and musicians of the birthplace of jazz. The names may have changed to more current monikers like Soul Rebels, Dirty Dozen, Forgotten Souls, Rebirth, Lil Rascals, To Be Continued and All For One, but the music is still free and reaches the folks at street level. One of the popular marching bands today is "The Treme Brass Band" proudly representing the neighborhood of the same name. Recently, the Treme Band, led by "Uncle" Benny Jones and bass drummer Lionel "Unk" Batiste, welcomed a couple of guest musicians from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Both were members of the Jack Brass Band
While jazz fans may be entertained by authentic sounding New Orleans bands in clubs around the world from London to Copenhagen, Paris, Melbourne or Tokyo, the marching bands are far fewer in number. The young group in Minneapolis used a play on words when naming their band and titling this CD. In down to earth terms, "You don’t know Jack." Their hometown is a thousand miles from New Orleans but the music hasn’t changed. Like the Rebirth and Dirty Dozen, the Jack Brass Band plays some of the traditional oldies but tailors familiar compositions by current songwriters to the "street beat" style of the Big Easy. You Don’t Know Me
features a couple of Stevie Wonder hits, "Livin’ For The City" and "Don’t Drive Drunk." You’ll recognize Michael Jackson’s 1979 million-seller "Shake Your Body (Down To The Ground)." Traditionalists will love the young band’s versions of "Shake It And Break It" and "Ooh Nah Nay." The latter is reminiscent of the Indian shouts that became associated with Saint Joseph Day parades in New Orleans. The "JBB" throws in great takes of Juan Tizol and Duke Ellington’s "Caravan" and Horace Silver’s perennial "The Preacher."
Our favorites were some of the pieces penned by members of the band. "You Don’t Know Me" is a product of the pens of leader Mike Olander and trombonist Matt Hanzelka. Eric Johnson is responsible for "Dumpster Bump," "WoG House," "Tampico Special" and the incessantly swinging "Who Goin’ Do It?" The latter is a fitting closer for the album in that it illustrates what New Orleans music is all about "RHYTHM" and "EXCITEMENT."
"Tampico Special" echoes some of the rhythms and melodies of South Africa with nice solos by Eric Johnson and Paul Gronert. The two sousaphone players offer the growling sound always associated with New Orleans outfits and things really heat up when both musicians play together on "Ooh Nah Nay" and "Who Goin’ Do It." The three percussionists come together on several tunes too. Bass drummer Mike Olander and snare drummer Jared Irish play as one man. Jordan Cohen adds cymbals and other percussion.
The title song "You Don’t Know Me" begins with the sound of a touch-tone phone dialing a New Orleans number and a computer voice stating "Due to extensive storm damage, the number you are calling may be unavailable for an extended period." The Jack Brass Band did their best to lend a hand to their Crescent City brothers in the aftermath of Katrina. They sent instruments, financial aid, clothing and helped line up gigs. New Orleans returned the favor and the liner notes for this CD are penned by Keith Frazier, co-leader of the Rebirth Brass band. You Don’t Know Me
is highly recommended. Sound samples are available at the band’s website or at CD Baby.