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Rebel Sound: New Orleans brass band brings its jazz blend to FestivALL

WANT TO GO?

Wine & All That Jazz

WHERE: University of Charleston riverbank lawn

WHEN: 2 p.m. Saturday

TICKETS: Advance $18, at the gate $20

INFO: 304-345-0775 or www.festivallcharleston.com

SCHEDULE: Ryan Kennedy Trio, 2 p.m.; Comparsa, 3:30 p.m.; Bob Thompson Unit, 5 p.m.; Samba Mapangala & Virunga, 6:40 p.m.; The Soul Rebels, 8 p.m.

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- What's in a name? A lot, if you ask Derrick Moss, one of the founders of New Orleans-based jazz band The Soul Rebels.

The Rebels perform Saturday at Wine & All That Jazz. The eight-piece brass ensemble has made a name for itself as a jazz outfit that incorporates soul, hip-hop, funk, country and just about anything else, all in a contemporary brass band format.

"It doesn't matter what it is," said Moss, who plays bass drum. "Rock 'n' roll, country. We do classical music, funk, soul... We 'rebelize' it."

It's a new, jazzy spin on pop music, but once upon a time, The Soul Rebels played a different kind of music and had a different name: the Young Olympia Brass Band.

"Some of us had known each other in the beginning," Moss said. "We got together from high school and marching band. Anyway, we all knew somebody in the Olympia Brass Band who brought us around. That was 1991."

Moss said it took the members of the Young Olympia Brass Band almost a year to hone their craft and really master the traditional jazz they were supposed to play.

"It was the Louis Armstrong stuff," he said. "We were young guys doing old music, and it was great to do that and be good at it, but there was also the Olympia Brass Band."

And they played the same sort of stuff, Moss said. In fact, he added, when the Young Olympia Brass Band toured Europe, they noticed there were a lot of bands from New Orleans playing traditional jazz, which was very popular.

He said, "But we wanted to add our own flavor to some of that stuff. We were doing the same songs as everybody else did. We started to add a little funkier beat to the songs, a little dance step, and the crowd loved it."

Moss said they sort of drifted from traditional jazz slowly, adding more contemporary songs here and there, putting little touches on popular tunes. The audience responded to the changes, which encouraged more and more until band realized that the little extras were the kind of music they wanted to play in first place.

"We just wanted to put our spin on new songs," Moss said. "At least, songs out in our lifetime."

Eventually, it just made sense to shed the old name. Cyrill Neville of The Neville Brothers gave the group its new name after the band became his opening act at Tipitina's Music Hall in New Orleans.

Moss said they've never really looked back.

The Soul Rebels have been together as The Soul Rebels for more than 10 years now -- long enough to have their own long-standing gig at Le Bon Temps Roule on the corner of Bordeaux and Magazine streets in New Orleans.

"We love that place," he said. "It means 'Let the good times roll' in French."

The Soul Rebels play a very physical kind of jazz.

"Everything we do, you have to be able to move to," he said. "We don't want you to come out and sit at a table with your little candle and hold a conversation over a drink. It's not the kind of jazz we do -- so sorry, Mr. Marsalis."

Moss said The Soul Rebels want to wear you out so that when you go home, you feel like you've done something.

"When you leave, I want your shirt to be as wet as mine," he said. "And I want you to feel great."

The band's touring schedule and frequent overseas travel has led to unexpected and unlikely musical collaborations, including one with a heavy metal band.

Almost two years ago, they were booked on "Later... with Jools Holland," a late night music show in the U.K., along with three other bands. One of them was a band calling itself Metallica.

Moss said he didn't actually believe it was the eight-time Grammy winning heavy metal group.

"I was like, 'Who do these guys think they are?' You can't go around using that name."

It seemed weird to him that a prominent heavy metal band would be booked on the same show as a jazz brass band like The Soul Rebels, but it was the same Metallica, and the guys in the metal band thought The Soul Rebels were exciting and fun.

After the show, drummer Lars Ulrich came up to them and told Moss they ought to do something together.

Moss said, "I didn't hesitate. I told them, 'My manager is right over there. Let's hook this up.'"

A month later, The Soul Rebels were opening for Metallica at its 30th anniversary concert in San Francisco.

"We have no boundaries," Moss said.

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RIVER TAXI

The River Queen will run a taxi service between Haddad Riverfront Park and the University of Charleston on Friday for Blues, Brews & BBQ. Those departing at UC must have or be willing to purchase a ticket to the day's event.

Tickets are $3 for adults. Children age 12 and younger are admitted free when accompanied by a paying adult.

Leave Haddad: 4, 5:30, 7, 8:30 and 10 p.m. Leave UC: 4:45, 6:15, 7:45, 9:15 and 10:30 p.m. 

Reach Bill Lynch at lynch@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5195.


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