Winning a Grammy is a big deal for a band. Especially when the band started out so early, they couldn’t get a gig in a bar because the members were too young to get in.
“In 1983, my brother got us a gig inside a hotel at the bar, but when we got there, they wouldn’t let us in because we were too young,” bass drummer Keith Frazier said. “So we ended up just going down on Bourbon and playing for tips.”
The Rebirth Brass Band started in New Orleans, when several of the members met in high school, including Kermit Ruffins. Ruffins was a founding member of the band but no longer plays with them, and plays with his own band instead.
“We see each other all the time on the town,” Frazier said.
The band played at the Jazz and Heritage Music Festival in New Orleans and was eventually discovered at the festival.
Rebirth Brass Band currently plays every Tuesday night at the Maple Leaf Bar in New Orleans. The bar is a staple of New Orleans and is a destination for many people living and visiting the city.
“We’ve been playing there every Tuesday night for over 20 years now,” Frazier said. “They pay us small, but we like it there.”
The band has steadily been releasing albums since 1984 and has 15 under their belt currently.
The latest release “Rebirth of New Orleans” in 2011, won them a Grammy for Best Regional Roots Album.
“We were so thrilled, just ecstatic,” Frazier said. “We didn’t expect it at all, we were so excited just to be nominated—let alone win.”
When the guys aren’t playing at the Maple Leaf Bar, they sometimes go just to hang out, or to other neighborhood bars.
“Sometimes a couple guys will go help out kids from the high school bands, when we’re not playing, or hanging out in the city,” Frazier said.
And of course, the band is no stranger to the quintessential New Orleans tradition of Mardi Gras.
“There are a couple parades we do each year,” Frazier said. “We really like doing the second line parades though, too.”
The second line of a parade is usually the people who are just enjoying the parade, dancing, waving handkerchiefs; the unofficial parade members who just hopped in line behind the real deal, but who are just as much a part of the parade as the bands or the floats.
The band will most likely continue to release soulful, funky music, but perhaps collaboration will happen in the future.
“We’d love to work with regional artists, like the Nevilles, or the Dirty Dozen Brass Band,” Frazier said.
Until then you can catch them at DeLuna Fest, or their usual bar, The Maple Leaf—whether they’re playing or just enjoying the night.
REBIRTH BRASS BAND
7-8 p.m., Sunday, Heritage Stage