Reviews/Music/Perth Festival

Bold as brass

14 February 2020

Ara Jansen can’t help smiling and dancing all the way home after the Treme Brass Band whisk her off to Bourbon Street.

Review: Treme Brass Band ·
Chevron Lighthouse, 13 February 2020 ·
Review by Ara Jansen ·

It felt as though the humid New Orleans weather had landed squarely at the Chevron Lighthouse, but that was of little consequence, because it was time to party like we were on Bourbon Street.

Enter the Treme Brass Band, who, on their debut Australian visit, made us feel like we’d just stepped out in one of America’s most famous music cities to celebrate Fat Tuesday.

How can a quartet of smart brass, a couple of drums and an elegant gentleman in a funeral suit not make you smile? Complete with honking tuba solos (when was the last time you heard one of those?), the energetic Treme Brass Band manage to tread that wonderful line between looking like they’re just out for a Sunday stroll and being masters of their instruments.

Standing to the side of the band is Oswald Jones, the band’s parade leader. Twirling a wedding umbrella and wearing a black suit, sunglasses, a bowler hat and sash declaring him the Grand Marshal, he was thoroughly endearing and endlessly energetic when it came to stepping, dancing and spinning his brolly. Like a spiritual cheerleader for the band, his mere presence seemed to be an inspiration and a reminder of the enduring spirit of New Orleans.

Energetic saxophone, trumpet, trombone and tuba were the front line of the band, ringing out clearly as a tight ensemble and equally smart when played individually. A snare and bass drum provided the heartbeat echoing their home, constant and true. All seven seemed to be having as much fun as we were.

The set was a mixed bag that included “I Got a Big Fat Woman”, and “Go to the Mardi Gras”, and covers from Fats Domino and Ray Charles, with the crowd responding enthusiastically all set by dancing, cheering and waving white tissues.
A demanding “Gimme My Money Back” was one of the highlights. Like many other numbers, its vocal passages were interspersed with opportunities for the instrumentalists to just go for it. Solos were welcomed and came all night.
“What a Wonderful World” was really the set’s only quiet and slow moment, again given the New Orleans treatment by having long instrumental passages, perfect for dancing to.

Even a vicarious trip to New Orleans wouldn’t be complete without the joyful hail of “When the Saints Go Marching In”, yet another song in the Treme Brass Band’s arsenal, which is effortlessly cheerful and uplifting.

The entire show was thoroughly entertaining and the kind of performance that has you smiling and dancing a few steps all the way home. As they say at Mardi Gras, “Laisser le bon temps rouler!” – let the good times roll.

Pictured top: Oswald Jones, left of stage, is the Treme Brass Band’s Grand Marshal and parade leader. Photo: Ata Gumusay

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Author —
Ara Jansen

Ara Jansen is a freelance journalist. Words, bright colour, books, music, art, fountain pens, good conversation, interesting people and languages make her deeply happy. A longtime music journalist and critic, she’s the former music editor of The West Australian. Being in the pool next to the playground is one of her favourite places, ever.

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