It begins on some Saturday
in January or February when we line up back in the Faubourg Marigny for the
start of the Krewe Du Vieux parade. It’s chaotic, it might be freezing or just
cold, somebody’s running late, we have to find out our float position and text
it to everybody in the band. The cats gradually accumulate behind the krewe
and then, all of a sudden, we’re rolling out. We strike up and the party is on.
From that moment until about 3 p.m. on Mardi Gras day, two and a
half weeks later, our small tribe of orange and blue-clad musicians will be
hustling around town making it to a line-up or bandstand just in time for
the downbeat. And then there it is: that sound.
That sound, when everybody is in position, we count it off and hit it, is
what gets us down the street from start to finish. That’s what makes us keep
blowing even after the point, halfway through the first couple parades, when
our chops give out.
That sound has been captured here in a recording session that took place
at a house in Mid-City during a brief lull in the 2010 parade schedule. Two
days beforehand New Orleans had elected Mayor Landrieu. As if that weren’t
enough, we witnessed a jubilee the night before the session when the Saints
won the Super Bowl and the streets filled with ecstatic revelers. It was an
extraordinary moment in the life of the city.
Since the flood following hurricane Katrina, several of our members
are living in diaspora. But every year at Carnival time we have a date with
each other and the streets of New Orleans. Every year at Carnival time the
vibrant yet ephemeral Panorama Brass Band springs to life once again for
the span of time between Krewe du Vieux and Fat Tuesday:17 days.
New Orleanians know pain and New Orleanians know suffering but, man oh man,
are they friends of joy too. They husband this precious resource throughout the year, saving up bits and
pieces for a full-on joy explosion come Carnival time. And when that sacred season of ecstasy and glory
rolls around, the mighty Panorama Brass Band begins spreading it throughout the streets of the city.
Panorama trades in a transcendent sort of joy, the kind that reaches right through your ears down
to the base of your spine; a type of raw pleasure that vibrates out of your hips and shoulders and finally
surrounds your head in one of those halos you see crowning some saint in a painting. During Mardi Gras,
a time of visual overload in a city of glorious noise, you can spot this crew easily, looking sharp and ready
in blue pants and orange shirts, topped off with them nifty hats from Meyer the Hatter and those starkly
beautiful “Panorama” hatbands. And it doesn’t hurt that the band becomes something just short of a mob
during the weeks after Twelfth Night, blowin’ and poundin’ their hearts out, their ranks swollen with old
friends and NOLA diaspora making the trek back to town to join in on the ruckus.
17 Days captures that ruckus, from stately processionals to foot-stomping barn-burners. This
recording is a magic lamp. Turn it on to illuminate your head, your heart and your home. But when that
happy day comes, turn it off! Put it down and meet me the morning of Fat Tuesday on a corner somewhere
in the Marigny where we’ll wait for the St. Anthony Ramblers. We can buy each other a beer, and when
the Panorama Brass Band comes marching through the crowd, we’ll join ‘em all out in the street and let
that joy rock us and set our hearts right, at least for a bit.
Gabe Soria is a music journalist, graphic novelist and expatriate New Orleanian.
Nearer My God To Thee
Recorded in one take and dedicated to the memory of those departed friends for whom we've had the honor of playing funeral processions: Helen Hill, Vi Landry and Lou Dendiger.
Lily Of The Valley
Traditional Protestant hymn played by New Orleans brass bands for generations. Brought to Panorama by alto hornist Patrick Farrell.
A composition from one of the great pioneers of avant-garde jazz, alto saxophonist Ornette Coleman. A few members of the band started playing around with the line while waiting for a parade to roll one afternoon. It gradually came into focus and eventually reached this form due to the arrangement by our alto saxophonist, Aurora Nealand.
From the catalog of the seminal Jamaican saxophonist Cedric "Im" Brooks. Originally recorded for the Studio One label in 1970 and arranged here by tenor hornist Don Godwin.
Mardi Gras Sa-Sa
Sa-Sa is a traditional dance rhythm of the Roma people in southern Serbia. This number was learned from a 2005 field recording of the Serbian brass band, Trubaci Trajkovic Dacka, captured by Morgan Clark of the New York based Balkan brass band, Zlatne Uste. Our truba player JR Hankins learned it and brought it to Panorama. Not knowing the real title, we came up with this one.
Written by Dudu Pukwana and originally recorded in London in 1967 by South African alto saxophonist Gwigwi Mrwebi and his band.
Clarinetist German Goldenshteyn (1934-2006) was born in the Jewish shtetl of Otaci in what is now Moldova and emigrated to the United States in 1994, bringing with him a vast catalogue of traditional Jewish melodies. This hora is one of our favorites.
From Serbian trumpeter Milan Nikolic and his brass band. Transcribed and brought to Panorama by Patrick Farrell. Arranged by JR Hankins.
In November of 1939, New Orleans-born clarinetist Sidney Bechet recorded an album in New York with his Haitian Orchestra, a quintet that included Harlem stride pianist Willie "The Lion" Smith. Our trombonist Charlie Halloran learned this number from that recording and brought it to the Panorama Jazz Band. Believing it also belonged in the street, the jazz band shared it with the brass band.
Traditional Eastern European Jewish freylekh. We play this song in the Krewe du Vieux Parade every year for the Krewe du Mishigas.
From the French brass band Fanfare Des D'ou? Dingues, written by percussionist and co-founder Frederic Fermin. Our sousaphonist Jon Gross discovered the tune, recognized it's potential and arranged it for Panorama.
St. Anthony Chorale
Dedicated to our friends and patrons in the New Orleans marching club The St. Anthony Ramblers, with whom we have paraded on Mardi Gras morning every year since 2000. The original piece is attributed to composer Franz Josef Haydn, the patriarch of Viennese Classicism. Ben arranged it for the brass band to supply a bit of reverence and solemnity (and a chance to check our intonation) before bursting into the irreverence and revelry of Fat Tuesday.
Grazin' In The Grass
Written by South African actor and singer Philemon Hou and first recorded by South African trumpeter Hugh Masakela. Thanks to the Dirty Dozen, Rebirth and Treme Brass Bands, it has become a staple of the streets in New Orleans Second Line parades. This track was recorded in monophonic glory by Matt Knowles (owner of the New Orleans record store Domino Sound) at the annual Box of Wine parade on Fat Sunday, 2010. The NOPD makes a cameo here, which is a good thing because things are definitely beginning to get out of hand at this point in time.
Ben Schenck (Clarinet, Congas, Shaker)
Aurora Nealand (Alto Saxophone)
Jack Pritchett (Trumpet)
JR Hankins (Truba, Cowbell)
Charlie Halloran (Trombone)
Patrick Farrell (Alto Horn)
Don Godwin (Tenor Horn, Tambourine)
Mark Rubin (Tenor Horn, Cowbell)
Dan Oestreicher (Baritone Saxophone)
Jon Gross (Sousaphone)
Boyanna Trayanova (Snare Drum)
Gregg Mervine (Bass Drum, Tapan)
Matt Moran (Cowbell on Track 10 )
Sean Clark (Bass Drum on Track 10)
Produced by Ben Schenck and Patrick Farrell
Recorded by Don Godwin
Mixed by Don Godwin with assistance from Patrick Farrell
Mastered by Gene Paul and Jamie Polaski at G&J Audio, Union City, NJ
Graphic Design by Donna Musarra
Photos by Alexei Kazantsev and Justin Lundgren
Recorded at 1029 Crete St. New Orleans, LA. February 8-10, 2010