The words "crunk" and "tuba" don't usually belong in the same sentence, but there's no better adjective for the Rebirth Brass Band's tuba man, Philip Frazier. The man can blast on that fat brass, and when you ladle two each of trumpets, 'bones and saxes over the top, and then sprinkle some syncopated second-line snare and bass drum into the mix, you'd have got some crunk-ass jazz, New Orleans-style. It's future music deeply rooted in the past -- funkalicious oldest-of-old-school jazz played with a beat that's hipper than all but the hippest hop.
Most of the band members are in their early to mid-thirties, but they've been dishing out their greasy Big Easy grooves together for more than 20 years now, playing everywhere from New Orleans dives like the Maple Leaf Bar and the Glass House to a San Francisco festival stage shared with the Grateful Dead in front of 80,000 fans. Their epic party-starting tune "Do Whatcha Wanna" is now as much a Carnival standard as the Hawkettes' "Mardi Gras Mambo" or Professor Longhair's "Go to the Mardi Gras" and "Mardi Gras in New Orleans." And Rebirth's follow-up, "Take It to the Street," is slowly attaining the same status.
The band has spawned many a successful solo career; founding member Kermit Ruffins left and now serves alongside Wynton Marsalis and Dr. John as an ambassador of New Orleans to the world. Rebirth has cut records with N'Dea Davenport and the late Soulja Slim and toured with Ani DiFranco. And they've gotten infinitely tighter over the years. Where once -- years ago -- the horns were somewhat ragged, they're now crisp as a starched cotton shirt. And while the tuba-drums interplay has always been solid, today it's simply jaw-dropping. If this shit got any funkier, you've have to dump it in a vat of Right Guard.
And now -- in an inspired matching of band and venue that should make for one of the best club shows of the year -- the Rebirth is coming to the intimate confines of the Rhythm Room. Don't be surprised if Frazier's crunk tuba blows that low ceiling right off the joint, or the rumble of his brother Keith's bass drum busts a hole in the floor, or the second-line syncopated ratatat of Derrick Tabb's snare shatters all the glass in the windows. -- John Nova Lomax
Saturday, July 17, the Rhythm Room, 1815 Washington Avenue, 713-863-0943.
Candiria and Twelve Tribes
About a hundred years ago, when Friedrich Nietzsche first published the aphorism "what doesn't kill you only makes you stronger," he probably wasn't thinking of Brooklyn metal band Candiria. But there's no indication that Candiria was thinking of him when they borrowed the phrase to title their newest CD, so it seems they're about even. Still, the members of Candiria have reason to apply that hoary Teutonic chestnut literally: The entire band miraculously survived a horrific collision with an 18-wheeler in September 2002. The specter of that accident hangs over the entire disc, from the squashed Dodge Ram on the cover to liner-note shout-outs to surgeons, physical therapists and (twice) the same biblical deity old Friedrich famously filed the obituary on. For five guys who have every excuse to indulge in a little joie de vivre, Candiria still kicks up a rageful racket, serving up enough deep, guttural vocals and high-speed, hairpin rhythmic shifts to please even the most punishment-gluttonous headbanger.
Dayton, Ohio's Twelve Tribes are somewhat slicker and less varied than Candiria, but that doesn't make them Perry Como -- or even the Darkness, for that matter. The phrase "full-tilt aggro" fits their newest CD, The Rebirth of Tragedy, as well as any. To my ears, though, there's something a little disconcerting about the contrast conjured by studio-enhanced harmony vocals soaring behind the all-too-typical Cookie Monster-in-a-trash-compactor pipes of vocalist-lyricist Adam Jackson. Tortured-relationship songs are almost as prevalent here as the requisite "War Pigs"-style doomsaying, but the real shocker comes midway through "Chroma," when Jackson strays far afield from metal orthodoxy, appearing to quote from both America's "Horse with No Name" and the Smiths' "Stop Me If You've Heard This One Before." Yikes! -- Scott Faingold
Wednesday, July 21, the Engine Room, 1515 Pease, 713-654-7846.
These Arms Are Snakes and Communiqué, with Paris, Tx and Murder By Death
Some aging punk rockers die. Some fade away. But a lot of 'em just get bored, which is predictable enough, given the reductive strictures of ye olde Loud Fast Rules.
Case in point: Communiqué. These guys used to be proud San Francisco-area punk standard-bearers American Steel, but you wouldn't know it from their new Poison Arrows CD. The former moshmeisters now prefer to evoke poppy, keyboard-laden early-'80s MTV fare like ABC (see CD title) and Tears for Fears ("Scream and shout / Let it all out," guitarist-songwriter Rory Henderson unashamedly chants on the chorus of "Death Rattle Dance"). Fair enough, and not really a bad deal when the songs are as legitimately hooky and well played as this.