At the end of an overcast weekend at Cheltenham Jazz Festival, temperatures blazed for an hour inside the Big Top when Hot 8 Brass Band took to the stage. The rasping resonance of the sousaphone set down a syncopated bass line whilst some of the audience of were still trooping inside from the drizzle but there was no need for them to find their seats. Instead, Hot 8 achieved the rare (unique?) feat of getting a typically-reserved Cheltenham audience on their feet from the outset. For the reluctant minority, a unanimous chant of “git up on yo feet” made the inevitable irresistible.
Hot 8 Brass Band brought a New Orleans party to the South West of England, blending brass with hop-hop and funk to create a carnival feel that felt immediately at home in the circus setting of the Big Top. The raucous celebration featured music from their latest album ‘On the Spot’ alongside familiar covers such as Marvin Gaye’s ‘Let’s Get it On’ weaved together with the common threads of squealing trumpets and unstoppable percussion. The audience didn’t need cajoling into games of call and response: we were already rocking our bodies from side to side and clamouring to join the band’s unified hollers.
After 80 minutes of joyous stomping, it felt anti-climactic to limp outside back into grey drizzle instead of parading through exultant sunshine to a soundtrack of ‘Oh When the Saints’. Hot 8 Brass Band transported us to a party that we didn’t want to stop.