New Orleans's vaunted tradition of musical eclecticism very likely originated among the early brass ensembles that marched in street parades--bands capable of everything from funeral hymns to syncopated, collectively improvised barn burners. The ReBirth Brass Band, despite the members' relative youth, boasts a musical lineage that extends directly back to those original masters. All the timeless Crescent City embellishments are here: gutbucket growls and tailgate trombone slurs, Armstrong-like tonal brilliance, molar-rattling tuba blasts, and always that irresistible second-line beat--the distinctively New Orleans rhythm that grew from the early fusion of African and European cadences and eventually evolved into shuffles, swing, and funk. The ReBirth mixes these ingredients together like a bayou root doctor, bringing equal enthusiasm and mastery to everything from Basin Street chestnuts to covers of contemporary pop hits. There's a life-affirming strut to this music, a challenge to the nihilism and despair of so much popular culture. But be not deceived: the most effortless-sounding music can be among the most difficult to play, and the level of artistry these players display leaves no doubt that they're dedicated to this intricate and venerable form. Friday, 8 PM, Coronet Theatre, 817 Chicago Ave., Evanston; 708-733-0030.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Michael P. Smith.