Why would anybody choose to play the tuba? It’s the heaviest and most expensive piece of brass, it belches notes that could make buildings fall down, and the brightest career hope is to play the rom-pa-pom-pom of fat people walking in cartoons. Despite those failings, The Hot 8 Brass Band was put together by tubist Benny Pete, and his bulbous tones underpin their contemporary big-brass sound.
The group’s debut album, “Rock with the Hot 8,” has the instrument playing a bass role beneath everything from punchy trumpet harmonies to up-tempo Mardi Gras fun or action-movie funk. Although a studio product, the record may as well be a live recording. It’s loose, barely produced and sounds as though the New Orleans natives are parading down Bourbon Street.
They really shouldn’t sound this upbeat: Since forming in 1995, three members have been shot dead, another lost his legs in a motoring accident, and Hurricane Katrina decimated their hometown. But still, the 10-piece are in a party mood, taking their big-brass and swing heritage and mashing it with gospel, hip-hop and funk. The highlight is an inspired cover of “Sexual Healing,” which swings from raging funk to sultry horns, and should be a staple at carnivals for years.