To Be Continued Brass Band taking the hustle to the record industry

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TBC at the HOB

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Photograph by Jonathan Bachman

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(NOTE: Jonathan Bachman and I are currently in the beginning stages of filming a documentary focused on contemporary New Orleans brass bands, from Dirty Dozen to Rebirth to Soul Rebels and more, we'll be examining how the sound has changed from the traditional brass bands and the social and anecdotal aspect of the music. This story isn't directly tied with the documentary but To Be Continued Brass Band will be featured.)

Anyone who was Downtown on Saturday night and stopped by the The Parish at the House of Blues got a real treat with the To Be Continued Brass Band CD release party. Both TBC and Hot 8 performed for the event marking TBC's first produced album. (You can check out a slideshow of the event here).

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For those of you who don't know, TBC is a brass band made up entirely of George Washington Carver and John F. Kennedy High School students. Talking with the band before their set, it became clear that, though they never envisioned themselves in a brass band, it seemed that their destinies were pre-ordained. Growing up in the 7th and 9th wards, these kids are surrounded by music and for some -- like bass drummer Darren Towns, nephew of Dirty Dozen trupet player Effrem Towns -- brass band music quite literally in their blood.

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"I always loved the music but I never figured we'd be playing in a brass band," Darren said.

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Now that they're here, though, these kids are clearly enjoying their quick rise. Since they formed back in 2002, TBC has grown as one of the true up-and-coming brass bands in the city, playing stand-bys like "Hey Pocky Way" with a rhythm and style all their own. They've also written original tracks like "Ray Nagin" and "I Want You", which are featured on their new album.

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"The hardest part is taking an idea and expressing it," trombonist Edward Jackson said. "You can have an idea, but coming up with a theory and playing it makes you think outside the box."

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The album itself is actually produced by a Los Angeles record company called "Blue Train Productions" headed by Ben Coltrane. Coltrane said that he frequented New Orleans and that his "fondest memories are of listening to the brass bands". He said this album is an attempt to bring the contemporary brass band music of New Orleans to a broader audience.

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"It's such a shame that the only way for many people to listen to this great music is to come down to New Orleans and see it in person," he said.

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Signing a record deal is a big step from just playing on the street corner and "just hustlin' for change and working the tourists" as saxophonist Brandon Franklin put it. Though it's not like this is just any other street corner brass band. Tracie Towns, Effrem's wife and Darren's aunt, manages the band and was the person responsible for them getting their regular Tuesday through Saturday spot on the corner of Bourbon and Canal. It was right after Katrina when the boys came back into the city and wanted to play on the street corners but kept getting told to leave by National Guardsman that had never been exposed to such impromptu street parties.

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"I had to go all the way to City Hall and tell them to let the boys play," Tracie said. "I said, they could be looting or messing with guns but they're not, they're just trying to play music."

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Now the band gets a police barricade every night and play in peace. But with a CD comes life beyond the street corner. TBC is set to go on tour in the coming weeks including a two-gig stop in Los Angeles to promote the release of their new CD.

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