Soul Rebels show review

Sweet memories of Jazz Fest

I stopped by the Halifax Jazz Festival tent at the foot of Salter Street to hear New Orleans’ brass band Soul Rebels. For me, this was the most eagerly anticipated show of the festival—having seen the band play a few free outdoor shows at the Montreal Jazz Festival; the first of those was with fellow New Orleaners Trombone Shorty and Allen Toussaint. There were an estimated 50,000 people out to see that show, billed as a closing night Mardi Gras—the Soul Rebels marched through the crowd onto the stage, as an innately portable marching brass band is able and wont to do, and dazzled the crowd.

Given that the Halifax show was a twenty-five dollar ticket, there was still a good turnout, and the band delivered on their promise of a New Orleans brand of good time with classic track from their repertoire: Eurythmics cover "Sweet Dreams"; "Night People"; an extraordinary version of Stevie Wonder’s "Living for the City"; and so on and so forth.

The band implored the crowd early on to get up out of their seats and dance, and if they had any initial reservation, it was rendered moot once the band drove them into a fervour—by the end of the set the audience was a heaving, sweaty, dancing mass.

If I had any complaint, it was that the show didn’t last all night; all good things come to an end, and when you’ve got six out of eight guys blowing the hell out of their horns they’ve got to tire eventually. The sousaphone player, was nothing if not a bass delivery system; My partner was highly dubious that he alone was responsible for the tight funky bass lines coming off of the jazz fest stage. Playing like that has got to require some serious pipes. Rounding out the band: two trumpets, two trombones, a sax, a bass drummer and a snare drummer.

If you missed the show and want to get a taste, one place to start would be HBO’s Treme. Recordings are of course an inherently poor fit for the raw energy that a band like Soul Rebels exudes on stage, so do take any opportunity to see this band live, and kudos to the Halifax Jazz Festival for continuing to bring in acts like Soul Rebels to the festival in a time when the jazz content of festivals is dwindling. Here’s hoping the band comes back to town for a future festival or concert; if not, then let the rebel rousing begin.

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