Soul survivors close out Summer of Jazz |

Soul survivors close out Summer of Jazz

Post Independent/April Clark

Since Hurricane Katrina, music has kept the Soul Rebels Brass Band members’ heads above water.

“The music has been what keeps us going,” said sousaphone player Damion Francois, one of the band’s three founding fathers. “That, and the love we have for each other. We look at this band like a family.”

All New Orleans natives who studied music and played in high school and college marching bands, the Soul Rebels are a seven-piece ensemble playing the last Summer of Jazz show this season at 7 p.m. today at Two Rivers Park. Soul Rebels members have endured relocation, family separation and loss of homes in the 11 months since the hurricane devastated New Orleans.

“A lot of us lived in the Ninth Ward and were displaced to different places in the United States. Three of our members are in Houston and the other four are in Louisiana,” Soul Rebels band leader Lumar LeBlanc said. “It’s horrible. Families who lived there for generations moved to other cities, schools were wiped out. The only thing that kept us going was the music. I dedicated myself even more to the music ” it’s my lifeline.”

After the hurricane, saxophone player Allen Dejan Jr. ended up in Colorado Springs with family, then tried to make it as a musician in Denver. He returned to Louisiana in February to finish school at the University of New Orleans.

“I loved Denver but I couldn’t make a buck there as a musician,” he said. “I wanted to move to a more cosmopolitan city, but I didn’t feel like hustling.”

Trumpet player Marcus Hubbard, who lives in Houston along with LeBlanc and Francois, said he has struggled the most with being away from family.

“My mom is still down there (in New Orleans),” he said. “She was able to get out, but she was one of the city workers left for dead.”

Francois’ mother relocated to Virginia. After the Summer of Jazz show, he plans to drive 42 hours round trip to visit loved ones.

“Our families are spread all over the country,” he said.

Though some members are displaced to different cities, the Soul Rebels Brass Band still plays its hometown to keep the spirit of New Orleans music alive. Each Thursday, the band hosts a full-fledged house party at Le Bon Temps Roule on Magazine Street.

“We drive every week ” I call it the pilgrimage to New Orleans,” LeBlanc said. “We’ve been blessed to do some shows the rest of the weekend, on Fridays and Saturdays, and sometimes Sundays. We’re really starting to increase our road travel.”

Since forming in 1991, the Soul Rebels Brass Band has developed a fan base of all ages by fusing brass instruments, rap, Mardi Gras funk, soft rock and reggae. The band calls it “hip-hop, funk-’til-ya-drop jazz” inspired by Earth, Wind, and Fire, Maze and Frankie Beverly, Dave Matthews Band, Parliament Funkadelic, Olympia Brass Band and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band.

In a word, eclectic.

“We were pretty much the first brass band to bring hip-hop to the brass band,” trumpet player Marcus Hubbard said. “We’re trying to shake that old image of brass bands.”

Hip-hop may influence much of the band’s sound, but the Soul Rebels haven’t forgotten their deep jazz and rock roots, said LeBlanc.

“We wanted to play tradition, but we also wanted to be a little more progressive. We almost consider ourselves a rock band because we have a lot of energy ” it’s music where you can’t sit down,” he said. “And there’s definitely a brotherhood that exists. We’re in it for the love of music.”

Contact April E. Clark: 945-8515, ext. 518

Soul Rebels Brass Band

New Orleans funk, jazz, hip-hop

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