After more than 40 years, Rebirth Brass Band is still up for anything

REBIRTh brass band review


The Rebirth Brass Band (from left, Caleb Windsay, Vincent Broussard, Keith Frazier, Eric Gordon, Jenard Andrews, Clifton Smith, Glenn Hall and Stafford Agee) at The Vogel at The Count Basie Center for the Arts in Red Bank, on March 30.

During the Rebirth Brass Band’s March 30 show at The Vogel at The Count Basie Center for the Arts in Red Bank, trombonist Stafford Agee mentioned that the musically boisterous New Orleans-based group is currently in its 41st year of existence.

“We have a wide-ranging repertoire of 15,327 songs,” he added, exaggerating, maybe, just a little. “So we’re subject to play anything at any given time.”

As if to emphasize that point, the octet — featuring just brass, percussion and vocals, with no guitar, bass or keyboards — played, as their next song, a raucous version of the 1972 Loggins & Messina hit, “Your Mama Don’t Dance.”


Stafford Agee of The Rebirth Brass Band at The Vogel at The Count Basie Center for the Arts in Red Bank.

Other numbers heard in the course of the show — part of a Jazz Brunch sponsored by the Jersey-based Gia Maione Prima Foundation — covered a remarkably wide range. There were gracefully melodic versions of the standards “Exactly Like You” and “I Ate Up the Apple Tree”; Rebirth’s own funky signature songs, “Do Whatcha Wanna” and “Feel Like Funkin’ It Up”; and a medley that veered unpredictably from 50 Cent’s “In da Club” to Sly & the Family Stone’s “If You Want Me to Stay” and TLC’s “Waterfalls.” Every number seemed to have lots of room for improvisation.

“We never know what we’re gonna play, or when we’re gonna play it — because we just don’t know,” said Agee.

They didn’t march but, reflecting their roots in the New Orleans marching band tradition, they all stood throughout the show — even drummer Jenard Andrews, who played a single snare drum, strapped to his body, plus two cymbals and a tambourine on stands. The band’s second percussionist, Kermit Frazier — the only original Rebirth Brass Band member still in the group — played a bass drum (again, strapped to his body in the style of a marching band) with a cymbal attached to the top.

Frazier, Andrews and tuba player Clifton Smith formed the band’s back row, with Agee, trombonist Caleb Windsay, trumpeters Eric Gordon and Glenn Hall and saxophonist Vincent Broussard in front of them. The droll Agee did most of the talking and singing, though others chipped in as well, in both departments.

The Rebirth Brass Band has gone through many different lineups in its four decades, but these eight musicians made it seem as if they have been playing together forever. Agee said that since this was a Jazz Brunch show — sandwiched between a Rebirth Brass Band concert at The Vogel the night before, and another concert that same night at The South Orange Performing Arts Center — the band had been encouraged to keep it loose, and talk about their history, and even take some questions from the capacity crowd. And so they did, seeming to relish the opportunity to present a different kind of show.


Vincent Broussard of The Rebirth Brass Band, at The Vogel at The Count Basie Center for the Arts in Red Bank.

Toward the end of their set, they played two new songs, written by two of their youngest current members, Hall and Broussard. The songs, Frazier said, may be on the band’s next album. “This is their take on what Rebirth is, and what the culture of parade and brass songs is,” said Frazier.

The two songs are so new that they don’t have names yet. Nor does the album have a release date (it has been a decade since the band’s last studio album, 2014’s Move Your Body).

The song by Broussard, though as deep-grooved and infectious as anything else in the band’s catalog, has cautionary lyrics: “Whatcha gonna do when the cop’s behind ya? Get out the way,” band members chanted.

“I think this song is gonna be great for the album,” said Frazier, adding that the album will be called We the People. “We, as the people, can get together and make things right.”

For more on the band, visit

The Gia Maione Prima Foundation — named after the New Jersey native, the late Gia Maione Prima (who was married to the late New Orleans music legend Louis Prima from 1963 until his death in 1978) — sponsors a variety of music-related activities in New Orleans, as well as in New Jersey. In 2011, it gave Glenn Hall, then a high school student in New Orleans, the first of its annual ASCAP Foundation Louis Prima Award scholarships. For information on the foundation, visit

Here is a gallery of photos from the show:


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