Straight out of the rich and resilient New Orleans music scene, the Soul Rebels Brass Band play what they like to call a "soul sonic stew" or a "wicked gumbo" of traditional funk, reggae, jazz, and old-school hip-hop. Despite the "brass band" in their name, they're less Dixieland and more contemporary funk.
"We bring authenticity," says co-leader and snare drummer Lumar LeBlanc. "We're real people ... real horns playing real hip-hop, rap, classical, country and western ... you name it. There's nothing we can't do. That's why people have called us the missing link between Louis Armstrong and Public Enemy."
Impressed with their tenacious mix of soul, funk, and brass, veteran drummer Cyril Neville of the legendary Neville Brothers actually nicknamed the band after an early gig. The name stuck.
Currently the Rebels' back row features bass drummer and vocalist Derrick "Oops" Moss, LeBlanc on snare, timbale, and vocals, and tuba player Edward Lee. The front row is comprised of trumpet players Tannon J. Williams and Marcus Hubbard, trombonist Winston Turner, and tenor saxophonist Erion Williams.
Most of them spent time jamming together in the brass group Young Olympia in the early '90s. By the late '90s, they began blending elements of rap, funk-rock, reggae, and pop into their jazzier material.
"I've been drumming all my life," says Moss, a former drum major at Southern University. "I was beating on pots and pans before I could walk. We all came up through the marching band system in New Orleans, which was kind of a big deal. I've been like that all my life. I lock in on beats and rhythms more than with lyrics. Growing up, I was all about the drums and kickin' the funk."
After putting a few low-budget discs together, the ensemble released their third and best-produced studio album together. Aptly titled, Rebelution, the collection hit the streets in February 2005 on the Barn Burner Music imprint.
"We let it flow like jazz and went through different tunes as we went along through the process of recording," LeBlanc remembers. "We had about three or four tracks on there that were kind of formulated during the session — and they turned out to be some of the better tunes on the album."
Some of the tracks draw from vintage hip-hop albums by the likes of Run DMC, Fat Boys, and Grandmaster Flash, as well as a few '70s hardcore funk acts like Kool & The Gang, Sly & The Family Stone, and New Orleans' own The Meters.
After two solid years of road work, they regrouped in the studio and produced the forthcoming independent collection, No Place Like Home. One demo from the sessions revealed a timbale-accented, high-energy rendition of the theme to classic TV show I Dream of Jeanie.
"We're on our own now, which is nice," says LeBlanc. "We're keeping busy playing party music all over New Orleans and the South, and we can't wait to play in Charleston again." —T. Ballard Lesemann