The To Be Continued Brass Band is sure to blow up a storm in Armstrong Park, where it opens the weekly fall Jazz in the Park concert series today.
Formed in 2002 by students from George Washington Carver and John F. Kennedy high schools, TBC made a name for itself at nightly performances on the corner of Bourbon and Canal streets.
Before it found that sweet spot, the group tried many places throughout the French Quarter. At first, it didn’t go well, tickets included.
After much trial and error, TBC co-founder and bass drummer Darren Towns suggested Bourbon and Canal.
“It’s a gateway to the Quarter,” Towns reasoned. “Why not be right there at the front door? So after we’d scrambled around for a bit, we found a black spot where they couldn’t touch us. It was perfect.”
“It was like a concert,” trumpeter Darryl Parlow remembered. “We were feeling like Jay-Z. People filled up the whole street. A lot of them said, ‘Y’all made my day.’ It got so packed the police asked the crowd to get out of the street so the cars could get through.”
TBC moved on from Bourbon and Canal to such prestigious gigs at the Netherlands’ North Sea Jazz Festival, but the group continues to play all kinds of engagements at home, including weddings, birthdays, elementary schools and second lines. And the band plays every Wednesday at Celebration Hall, 1701 St. Bernard Ave.
“We do everything,” Parlow said. “The funerals, they do affect you, because you know somebody died. But we’ll play the music and, at the end, everybody is happy. Some people cry with joy. It’s really amazing.”
The spontaneously minded TBC doesn’t follow a set list.
“When you see all these people dancing, you just play with the flow,” Parlow said. “It feels great. Can’t ever get tired of that.”
Nor does the 11-man band have a designated leader.
“We treat everybody as a leader,” Parlow explained. “Everybody, just in one band, trying to accomplish that same goal.”
TBC has the distinction of being among the earliest bands to return to New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina and the flood.
“We were scattered all across the U.S.,” Towns recalled. “Things weren’t going too good where we were at. We were too far apart. But we found each other and made it happen. We were here working and everything. We came right back home.”
“We all lived in hotels, crumbled up in one room, two rooms,” Parlow added. “But most of the time we’d go out there and play. We weren’t worrying about the material stuff.”
The band members survived Katrina, the destruction of their homes and the loss of Brandon Franklin, a saxophonist in TBC and music teacher at O. Perry Walker High School, who was shot to death in May 2010.
“It’s still real tough,” Parlow said of Franklin’s murder. “Every time it’s his birthday, we play for him. We go to the gravesite. We never let it slip away.”
Following the recent death of jazz trumpeter Lionel Ferbos at the age of 103, the members of TBC tell themselves that they intend to play, as did Ferbos, until they can no longer lift their horns.
“That’s how we’re all gonna be,” Parlow said. “We all say, ‘Man, I’m gonna be so old, we’re going have to ride a float to do a second line, because we can’t walk anymore.’ ”
Free concerts start today
Jazz in the Park returns for nine weeks this fall, kicking off Sept. 4 with the To Be Continued Brass Band and the Shannon Powell band.
The free series is held at 4 p.m. Thursdays through Oct. 30 in Louis Armstrong Park.
Also on the program in future weeks are Rebirth Brass Band, Kermit Ruffins, Los Hombres Calientes, Stephanie Jordan, Corey Henry and the Treme Funktett, Jon Cleary and Nigel Hall.
This year, high school marching bands will parade during intermissions, starting at the Congo Kids Stage. Schools taking part include Warren Easton, Landry Walker, Roots of Music and Sophie B. Wright.
Each week, the Sudan Social Aid and Pleasure Club and One Sound Brass Band will second-line, starting at 4 p.m.
In addition, the series will showcase dance troupes, food and arts and crafts.
- Sept. 4: To Be Continued Brass Band, Shannon Powell
- Sept. 11: Nigel Hall, Trumpet Black and the Heart-attacks
- Sept. 18: Shamar Allen and the Underdogs, Colin Lake
- Sept. 25: Russell Batiste and Friends with The Wild Tchoupitoulas Mardi Gras Indians, Mike Soulman Baptiste
- Oct. 2: Cyril Neville’s Swampfunk, Joe Krown Trio featuring Russell Batiste and Walter “Wolfman” Washington
- Oct. 9: Jon Cleary and the Absolute Monster Gentlemen, Daria and the Hip Drops
- Oct. 16: Corey Henry and the Treme Funktett, Erica Falls
- Oct. 23: Los Hombre Calientes, Stephanie Jordan
- Oct. 30: Rebirth Brass Band