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Live From New Orleans

Cassie Pence
Special to the DailyNew Orleans' brass band Hot 8 kicks off the Live! in Minturn concert series Saturday.
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MINTURN ” New Orleans’ Hot 8 Brass Band founder Bennie Pete spent Wednesday night with fellow members at a premiere screening of Spike Lee’s Katrina documentary. The band was Lee’s special guests, as the musicians appear in the film.

“When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts” chronicles in four hours the Katrina disaster with current and historical footage, music and more than 100 interviews. Witnesses tell the story, and it shows how New Orleans and its mostly black residents were the hardest hit.

“It covers everyone’s point of view to people who were involved with the hurricane to people who were already living in New Orleans. It covers everything and every side of it,” Pete said. “He did a real good job.”

Hot 8 is featured when Lee explores the intrinsic and now at-risk culture of New Orleans. A relatively new brass band for the Crescent City, Hot 8 has played in Second Line parades (hosted each Sunday afternoon by a Social Aid and Pleasure Club), on the streets, in clubs and at the Jazz and Heritage Festival since 1995. The group has also toured to Japan, Italy, France, Spain, Finland, England and Sardinia. And Thursday the group of nine to 10 brass players began driving to Minturn for the Saturday-night kickoff of the Live! in Minturn concert series.

Lee met the Hot 8 members in New York after the storm.

“He was interested in interviewing and taping us and putting us in it,” Pete said. “He spoke with us about what happened, each of us. Taped us performing in New York and in New Orleans at different parades.”

It’s appropriate that Lee included them in the cultural portion of the film because, as Pete said, his band is expanding the culture of New Orleans to people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to experience it.

“People make the culture. People live the culture. It’s not the town or the government,” Pete said. “And it’s in the low class where the culture lies. It’s the low income people making the gumbo in the kitchens. It’s not millionaires back there. It’s people like me who do the entertainment for them. That’s me, that’s my neighbor. But those are the people that they’re not helping to bring back. They act like that they don’t really want us back.”

Alison Plummer, one of the main organizers of Live! in Minturn, booked Hot 8 because she knew what a warm reception New Orleans music receives in the valley.

“We have a pretty big connection with New Orleans and New Orleans music,” Plummer said. “I wanted to start off the series with our favorite stuff.”

Pete said Hot 8 tries to create a party atmosphere with its music. In addition to originals, the brass band plays older rhythm and blues, Marvin Gaye tunes like “Sexual Healing” as well as raps over horn beats.

“We’re just trying to touch every age group, every style of music to show a little versatility,” Pete said. “We have old and young people at our parades. We need something for everyone.”

Live! in Minturn concert series is the primary fundraising source of the Minturn Community Fund, a nonprofit that raises money for community projects in Minturn. Hosting the first three concerts at the Little Beach Park Amphitheater is full circle for the group because its concerts helped to raise the money to build the venue.

“We want our organization to grow,” Kelly Brinkerhoff, an MCF board member, said. “We want to do other programs besides the Live! in Minturn concert series. We are interested in getting involved with scholarship programs for kids, movie nights at the amphitheater and Shakespeare programs. We’re hoping with the amphitheater to bring more diverse, cultural and educational events to Minturn.”

Ticket proceeds, along with other funds raised by the nonprofit, go into a grant program. In February, people can apply for the grant to help offset the costs of their proposed project. The MCF will consider the projects according to its mission.

“Our mission is to promote parks, recreation and open space or anything that benefits the community. It’s pretty broad,” Brinkerhoff said.

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