My friend, Samia Mounts, can SING. She’s awesome – high belt and soprano, sass, young and positive energy. She invited me to the Sequoia Restaurant down at the end of Pier 17 in South Street Seaport to see her sing in a band called Brother Joscephus and the Love Revival Revolution Orchestra. I didn’t know what to expect, but showed up to see them just as they were doing a sound check.
It’s a HUGE band – I counted 13 instruments played by 11 people, plus 3 backup singers (Samia included) and lead vocals and guitar by Brother Joscephus himself. They wear all white, sunglasses, and mardi gras beads plus various other hilarious acoutrements. White parasols provide New Orleans glamour, and the lighting they brought created a fantastic visual scape to highlight the band’s theatricality. The band consists of keyboards, xylophone, guitar (electric, bass, lead), oboe, tuba, trumpet, sax, trombone, drums, 2nd keyboard, harmonica, tamborine, and various bells and whistles.
But the SOUND eminating from this band is amazing – a huge mix of New Orleans traditional jazz-gospel(the drums and brass section played a bit outside while the girls danced to busk tourists from the outside in, playing “When The Saints Go Marching In”), plus Funk Rock, R&B, and even some old-fashioned popular music from the 1900’s were included. But all the music was dance-able, heavy-beat and had tight, complicated harmonies. I was particularly struck by how amazing their arrangements were: these were not songs that merely were sung-through, but original and cover versions that had archs and depths, stops and starts, humor, musical homages, tight harmonies, and ebbs and flows. It was unexpected music – both traditional and zany. You could tell these band members have rehearsed and played a lot together; there was choreography, and everything was done with both easy-going grace and precision. The pianist, who also played xylophone, conducted this jazz/funk orchestra while wearing a full suit, gloves, goggles and a gold & purple king’s crown.
I felt that the band was almost too big for the back of the Sequoia bar – the band’s high and theatrical energy almost demands a full stage and dance floor to complement them. They played BB Kings a few weeks ago, which sounds perfect. I can’t wait to recommend them to friends for other venues, New Year’s Eve parties, hell – even big-blast wedding parties and birthdays could enjoy their work.
Brother Joscephus can be followed via @brojolive on Twitter
From their website:
“Brother Joscephus and the Love Revival Revolution Orchestra is a new act that has recently completed its first recording (debut CD released Feb. 24, 2009) & in its short history has already shared the stage with New Orleans stalwarts such as Trombone Shorty, the New Orleans Klezmer All-Stars and Eric Lindell. The band is a musical and visual spectacle of such ferocity that it leaves all in attendance shouting “Amen!” and dancing in the aisles. It’s like a big ol’ shot of love and adrenaline. It feels that good.
BroJo blends together the perfect gumbo of New Orleans party music, Soul in the style of Ray Charles and Al Green, a good helping of jam-bandy Roots Rock and a righteous splash of good, upbeat Gospel without the religious overtones (we like to call it “Secular Gospel”).
Each BroJo tune has been meticulously arranged for the Love Revival Revolution Orchestra: The three-piece horn section (the Shepherds of the Wind), the gospel choir (the Voices of Reason), and the most righteous rhythm section (the Guardians of the Groove) lay it down for Brother Joscephus to sing about the pain, joy and wisdom that is in his heart.
The core group is twelve pieces, but the Revolution been known to expand to over sixteen (adding additional members to the gospel choir, mandolin, percussion, etc.) and can also play a stripped-down version with as little as four brothers and sisters of the Revolution.
But a Brother Joscephus show is more than just the music – there is also an emphasis on spectacle and pageantry. The band is decked out in their finest whites (accented with the appropriate gold, purple and green of Mardi Gras). They break out parasols, march through the audience and throw out hundreds of Mardi Gras beads over the course of a show.
When the band starts vibing with the audience you can’t help but have a good time – it’s undeniable!!”