Philip Frazier still has a soft spot for the Cabooze and Minneapolis, going back to when the band played there in September 2005 just a couple weeks after he and his eight bandmates in the Rebirth Brass Band -- yep, every single one of them -- lost their homes to Hurricane Katrina.
"We're starting the rebuilding right here, tonight," Rebirth's sousaphone player and bandleader said that night.
Almost five years later, Frazier and his band have indeed rebuilt. They're back in New Orleans. They're back playing their weekly gig at the Maple Leaf Bar, now in its 20th year. They were all over town during last month's New Orleans Jazz Fest. And now they're returning to the Cabooze on Friday.
Talking by phone last week, Frazier said his stalwart funk/R&B outfit truly was reborn after Katrina -- and might even be doing better than before.
"Of course, I'm not talking about the people who died or the damage done to the city, but I do think [Katrina] wound up being a good thing for the music," he said. "Things picked up. More people around the world now know we got something special going on."
The latest and perhaps strongest instance of NOLA love comes compliments of TV producer/writer David Simon ("The Wire"), whose new HBO series "Treme" is set in the aftermath of the hurricane with a spotlight on the cultural mavens who kept the city afloat. Rebirth's members were featured in the premiere, the first in a long line of real-life musicians to star in the show.
"I give myself about a B-plus," Frazier said of his acting abilities, laughing. "Kermit's a little more natural," he added, pointing to Kermit Ruffins, ReBirth's best-known alum and a "Treme" regular.
"I love it. It's the truest show they've had on New Orleans. And to get to play in it and see it firsthand, it's been a real treat. It's good for the city, something we definitely needed."
Frazier said there's optimism that the city's newly elected mayor, Mitch Landrieu, "will step it up a level or two." On the downside, the much-publicized oil catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico could be another blow to the south Louisiana economy.
"Keep coming to the city, and keep spending your money and having your good times here," he urged. "And, of course, when you do come, be sure to come see Rebirth. Every Tuesday at the Maple Leaf!"
Yep. Sounds like New Orleans music is back to form.From NOLA to MN
Here are some Louisiana musicians escaping the heat to do Minnesota shows this summer (all highly recommended).
Buckwheat Zydeco: June 30, Minnesota Zoo ($34).
Dirty Dozen & Marcia Ball: July 4, Taste of Minnesota ($20-$30).
Trombone Shorty & Tab Benoit: July 8, Minnesota Zoo ($28).
Sonny Landreth: Aug. 13, Bayfront Blues Fest, Duluth.
Geno Delafose: Aug. 26-27, Leinie's Bandshell (State Fair).
Chris Riemenschneider • 612-673-4658