Rebirth Brass Band Credit: courtesy the artist

In a sense, New Orleans brass band music is much like acappella doo-wop. The better practitioners of either style can make you forget you’re listening to a wordless art form where the music does the talking. On the Louisiana home turf of the Rebirth Brass Band, that legacy is something to be taken seriously. You might ham it up for the partiers and tourists, but you can’t sleepwalk through the standards—and the competition is fierce to keep the style evolving. And that’s exactly what Rebirth have done since their inception in 1983. There have been a number of personnel changes along the way, but that’s in part because the group has functioned as a finishing school—many former members, such as trumpeter Kermit Ruffins, have been able to spin off into successful solo careers. Rebirth’s most recent release, 2014’s Move Your Body (Basin Street), incorporates funk and mild hip-hop touches, and the fusion is seamless. Rather than get in your face and demand you notice how up-to-date the record is—something that too often happens when blues or even zydeco acts attempt the feat—the band makes every element sound like just another ingredient in the stew. The Rebirth Brass Band shows that it’s possible both to hold on to tradition without coming across like a dated museum piece as well as to incorporate newer genres without shameless pandering.   v