300 Fairview Baptist Church Band

Danny Barker, bottom right of drum, poses with the Onward Brass Band in 1974.

Historic New Orleans Collection

The brass band sound that has defined and shaped New Orleans’ music – from jazz to hip hop — almost died out in the 1970s. Traditional military-style brass bands were common in New Orleans in the 19th Century, as they were in most places. But the local Afro-Caribbean influence into the bands made New Orleans’ brass bands a force unto itself. It became common for brass bands to lead second lines after jazz funerals. Social aid and pleasure clubs would hire the bands to lead parades in their neighborhoods. The brass band beats made their way into early jazz.

But by the 1960s, long-standing bands like the Tuxedo and Olympia brass bands were not attracting any young members. Danny Barker, a son of New Orleans who moved back to town in 1965 after spending 30 years in New York, recognized the pending demise of the bands, and in 1972 he founded a brass band for young players at the Fairview Baptist Church. Through the band, Barker is credited with revitalizing brass bands and New Orleans’ iconic sound.

Young musicians who played with the band included Nicholas Payton, Wynton Marsalis, Leroy Jones, Michael White, Herlin Riley, Gregory Davis and Kirk Joseph. The Fairview band spawned the Dirty Dozen and Rebirth brass bands, among others.