Review by J Hunter
Photographs by Rudy Lu
A JazzApril story
“Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans?” Louis Armstrong made that song famous in 1947, but the question itself still hangs heavy. Unlike my friends who made Jazzfest an annual thing, I’ve only been to NOLA once, and there are days when I miss it like fire. So what happens when you’re actually FROM the Crescent City, but you’re doing business in the Empire State? You find yourself some like-minded souls, boil up a sumptuous gumbo that mixes NOLA classics with surprising covers and home-cooked originals, and then drop it on unsuspecting Noo Yawkers!
That’s what the Outer Borough Brass Band is about, and they brought big fun with them last Saturday night when they played the second installment of Proctors’ “Party Horns NYC” concert series.
Just like you’d expect, OBBB came out of the blocks fast and hard, with their killer three-man horn blowing up the intro to Smokey Johnson’s “Ain’t My Fault.” Pianist Alison Leyton-Brown, trumpeter Ivan Rosenberg and bass drummer Moses Patrou didn’t sing the words as much as they let them loose. You know how you just want to shout “Thank God THAT’S over” at the end of the week, and it feels so good when you do? That was the clear message on the players’ faces as they barked out the lyrics with smiles all around, and the smiles ran up into the audience as Rosenberg and tenorman Scott Bourgeois took turns blowing us all down. Patrou and snare player Jason Isaac kept the tune a bopping march (with the emphasis on “bopping”), while Leyton-Brown banged out the goodness on her Nord keyboard. It was a major release for all concerned, and we were howling for more when it was all done.
Outer Borough seems to be a release for all their members. If you check out Israeli trombonist Rafi Malkiel’s own web site, you’ll hear this mix of Afro-Cuban and Eastern rhythms that is both beautiful and complex, delving deeply into all the cultures involved. With OBBB, though, Malkiel just puts the pedal to the metal and GOES! On a bustling rave-up of Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right,” he let out one long, monstrous wail, and BOY was it ever good! Complex jazz is deep in Rosenberg’s DNA, since his dad played guitar for Ornette Coleman, but Ivan came right down the middle with muscle-car power on Outer Borough’s upbeat take on “St. James Infirmary.” Patrou’s vocals on the Hall of fame classic were as blues-free as the non-traditional arrangement (“My baby’s dead? Let’s throw her a PARTY!”), and the band chanted “Tooo-bahh! I want some toooo-bahh…” as Sousaphonist Joe Scatassa boomed out his own solo. Not very funereal, to be sure, but then that was the point.
Leyton-Brown’s physical stance at the keyboard comes closer to Joe Strummer than Dr. John, but she’s got skills that would make Mac Rebenack grin that trademark grin. Alison injected some old school stride into “Don’t Think Twice,” and her vocals on Crescent City classics like “Big Chief” and “Mardi Gras in New Orleans” were right on point. But it’s the little differences she brings that make her Outer Borough’s not-so-secret weapon, like the Fender Rhodes sound she brought to the funky Scatassa original “BQEeze,” or the sizzling Clavinet vibe she conjured up toward the end of the second set that was straight out of Billy Preston’s “Outa Space.” Maybe the traditionalists might freak, but it’s a Brooklyn thing! They wouldn’t understand!
While the size of the crowd was below expectations, OBBB played like they were on the main stage at Jazzfest, keeping the pedal to the metal for two 45-minute sets, and the audience was both loud and appreciative. The Outer Borough Brass Band made some friends on this night, and if we’re lucky, they’ll be back soon to make some more!
More of Rudy Lu’s photographs at Albany Jazz