Ready to get big, bad, and brassy? Well, slip into the second-line parade with Crescent City hip-hop, jazz, and funk crew the Hot 8 Brass Band when the fourth monthly edition of the Crossfade music series hits the Stage this Thursday.
Each and every current member of the Hot 8 — founder and tuba player Big Bennie Pete; trumpet men Terell "Burger" Batiste, Raymond "Dr. Rackle" Williams, and Big Al Huntley; trombonists Edward "Juicy" Jackson and Gregory Veals; sax man John Prince Gilbert; and drummers Harry "Swamp Thang" Cook and Lil Sammy Cyrus — was born and raised in the Big Easy. And while it's been a blessing coming from the city where jazz was born, the Hot 8, founded in 1995, has also been hit hard by the natural disasters and street crime that have long plagued its hometown.
Like all Nola residents, the Hot 8's members faced the onslaught of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 — not to mention the failure of the federal, state, and municipal governments to adequately assist the storm's victims. "It was mind-boggling," Big Bennie Pete recalled during a panel discussion, Rebuilding New Orleans, in 2007. "We were in a ten-foot black hole. We didn't know which way to go. We just was like, 'What are we gonna do? What are we gonna do?'"
Hot 8 Brass Band
Hot 8 Brass Band: As part of Crossfade Presents the Local at the Stage. 10 p.m. Thursday, September 29, at the Stage, 170 NE 38th St., Miami; 305-576-9577; thestagemiami.com. Admission is free. Ages 21 and up.
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Meanwhile, over the course of the band's 16-year history, three Hot 8 members have died in the streets. "Before Katrina, just living and coming up in New Orleans was a whole different story for us," Pete explained. "We're musicians, but we still have to go home at night in our neighborhoods and deal with real New Orleans and what that brings."
In 1996, trumpet player Jacob Johnson was murdered in his home. On August 4, 2004, drummer Joseph "Shotgun Joe" Williams, unarmed and alone, was killed by local police during a traffic stop. And then two years later, on December 28, 2006, drummer Dinerral Shavers was shot in the head by a teen gunman who'd been feuding with his stepson.
But all along, the Hot 8 have kept the faith. And like Big Bennie has said: "Going back to our music really helped us get through it."