Modern New Orleans brass bands have been achieving with unself-conscious ease what some of their most earnest blues contemporaries can’t pull off: they fuse rootsiness with progressivism, without resorting to warmed-over pop bombast or, at the other extreme, moldy figgery. The Treme Brass Band’s current CD, Gimme My Money Back! (Arhoolie), is named for a song drawn from a musical tradition cultivated over the years among the inmates of Louisiana’s notorious Angola Penitentiary, and it perfectly captures the band’s live spontaneity and humor. The rest of the material ranges from romps like “Oh Lady Be Good” to spirituals like “The Old Rugged Cross” and “Just a Closer Walk With Thee.” Multiple improvisational lines slither like snakes as the horns gallop from bordello braying to gospel moaning; and percussionists Benny Jones Sr. and Lionel Batiste Sr. throw in boogity-popping funk, straight-ahead R & B, and scintillating swing without breaking their patented Crescent City “second line” parade strut. Aside from a replacement for saxophonist Fred Kemp, who passed away last year, the lineup for these shows at the University of Chicago Folk Festival will be pretty much the same as it is on the CD. Best of all, there’ll be the added benefit of audience interaction–an integral ingredient of New Orleans black music, rooted as it is in the dance lines and ceremonial circles of African ritual. Friday, 8 PM, and Saturday, 7:30 PM, Mandel Hall, University of Chicago, 1131 E. 57th; 773-702-9793 or 773-702-7300. DAVID WHITEIS

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Michael P. Smith.