Bonerama Puts Trombones Front and Center and Contributes in the Rebirth of New Orleans

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:: Greeley Blues Jam :: June 8 ::
:: Civic Center Park (Denver) :: June 9 ::
:: Cervantes Other Side :: June 12 ::

By Brian Turk

Bonerama is a band with brass. They confidently swing their long trombones as they bring a back-of-the-stage instrument to the forefront, dragging a sack full of New Orleans history along with them. Fifteen years strong, Bonerama is one of the bands that is integral to the New Orleans brass band resurgence, and their main focus is putting the trombone straight in audiences’ faces and making it slide smooth. For them, it’s all about the ’bone, baby!

The longtime touring band has deep roots in the New Orleans music scene and have put out a string of live albums, but their first full-length studio album shows just how ingrained in the scene they are. Released just before The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, Shake It Baby features some iconic New Orleans players as guests, accurately representing the Bonerama experience.

“First thing is that New Orleans is a great city to be a musician in. It’s like the mecca,” said trombone player and Bonerama co-founder Craig Klein, in a recent interview with The Marquee. “Things are always happening in New Orleans. Frenchmen Street is on fire with music every day. Being a local musician from New Orleans, when you aren’t on the road you wind up playing on a lot of gigs with other people. I am lucky because I get to play with a lot of other folks in different genres or styles of music.”

The comradery of the New Orleans music scene has been strengthened since Hurricane Katrina decimated the city, and that energy is pulling musicians there like a magnet. Shake It Baby features Mike Mills from R.E.M. lending his harmonies on a couple tracks, and New Orleans heavy hitters Dr. John and George Porter, Jr. make appearances as well. The final product was well worth the wait, for both the band and fans. “It took probably three years from start to finish. It felt good to wrap it up, and everything was right on for us,” Klein said.

The collaborations on the album reflect the collaborative spirit in the still recovering city. According to Klein, the scene is as open as it’s ever been, “There isn’t a barrier really, and it seems like after the flood that became even more evident. It forced people to play with each other because right after the flood there weren’t that many places around to play, or musicians around to play with. Because of that there has been a lot of positive music to come from around here,” he said.

New Orleans has long been known for its music loving environment, as well as its importance in the history of American music as a whole, and the brass band is a cornerstone in that history. Klein has played in the traditional New Orleans brass band The Storyville Stompers for 32 years with his Uncle Gerry, and he has a lot of passion regarding the preservation of the brass band sound, and amplifying the presence of his beloved instrument.

Bonerama founding members Klein and Mark Mullins first met when they both joined Harry Connick Jr.’s Big Band in 1990. Touring with Connick Jr. brought the two trombone players to New York quite a bit, and that’s where the idea for Bonerama was born. Klein explains, “There was a Cuban band with five trombones as the horn section, with Ronnie Cuba, the jazz saxophone player who’s played with everybody, and still plays in Dr. John’s band,” Klein said. “He was the featured jazz guy with this Cuban salsa band. When I saw all the trombones together I thought, ‘Wow, I want to start a New Orleans band like that.’ So I talked to Mark, and we put Bonerama together.”

Since the band was founded by two trombone players that’s where the focus stays. “When we started Bonerama the trombone was the whole idea, thus the name Bonerama. A trombone is a ‘bone.’ We say the ‘bone section.’ So we decided to put the trombone in the front and have everything wrap around us sound-wise, always featuring the trombone. We promote the trombone. I mean some people don’t even know what a trombone is. I couldn’t tell you how many people come up and say, ‘Nice trumpet playing.’ We hope we have and can help this instrument become a lead instrument in a lot of music,” he said.

Thanks to bands like Bonerama and musicians like Klein, the trombone is front and center for maybe the first time, and Bonerama’s horn section is now sought out for some versatile projects that have given the group and the instrument added attention.

 

 

:: Bonerama ::

:: Greeley Blues Jam :: June 8 ::

:: Civic Center Park (Denver) :: June 9 ::

:: Cervantes Other Side :: June 12 ::

 

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• Rebirth Brass Band

 

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