Bristling Brass Band with a Modern Soul
One of the hottest bands to come out of New Orleans’ sizzling brass band scene, the Nightcrawlers have been beguiling local and foreign audiences for years with their intoxicating combination of traditional jazz, modern funk, and “a booty-shaking, hanky-waving rhythmic base that would set even the most rhythmically impaired among us to stomping” (Replay magazine). The talented composers, arrangers, and improvisers that make up this ensemble cut their teeth with a who’s who of Crescent City music – including Dr. John, the Neville Brothers, Harry Connick Jr., Preservation Hall Jazz Band, The Dukes of Dixieland, Better Than Ezra, and Galactic. They’ve also been featured with many other beloved local bands, such as Bonerama, Papa Grows Funk, New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, Royal Fingerbowl, New Birth Brass Band, and Otra. When they’re not exciting the locals with their infectious, original music (captured impressively on their five critically acclaimed CDs), they’re spreading their contagious Crescent City sound worldwide. You may have even seen their featured appearance on the acclaimed animated TV series The Simpsons!
The story of the Nightcrawlers begins back in 1994 when pianist Tom McDermott, having just written a song for the famed Dirty Dozen Brass Band (“Jelly”), pulled some of New Orleans’ most in-demand musicians together to rehearse some new compositions for a traditional New Orleans-style brass band. Trumpeter Kevin Clark (Tom’s bandmate in Dukes of Dixieland at that time) joined along with trombonist Craig Klein (Harry Connick, Jr.), saxophonist Eric Traub (Dr. John), high trumpeter Barney Floyd, virtuoso sousaphonist Matt Perrine, clarinetist Evan Christopher, trombonist Rick Trolsen, baritone saxophonist Ken “Snakebite” Jacobs, snare drummer Peter Kaplan, and bass drummer Frank Oxley to regularly read through experimental tunes that were inspired by the innovations set forth by the Dirty Dozen.
It wasn’t long before the Nightcrawlers were asked to join the select number of brass bands (the Dirty Dozen and Rebirth Brass Band) on the respected independent record label Rounder Records. The Nightcrawlers, now with Galactic’s Jason Mingledorff replacing Evan Christopher on sax and clarinet, soon recorded their debut album, New Orleans Nightcrawlers, which was named Best Traditional Brass Band Album in the 1996 Offbeat Music Awards. Their follow-up Rounder album, Funknicity, also garnered the praise of critics and helped earn the band a Big Easy Award for Best Contemporary Brass Band in 1997.
In 2000, with the new standout pair of drummers Kerry “Fatman” Hunter and Tanio Hingle and Mardi Gras Indian Chief Smiley Ricks on percussion, the Nightcrawlers recorded the magic of their live show on Live at the Old Point, which won Best Contemporary Brass Band Album in the 2001 Offbeat Music Awards. By this time, the Nightcrawlers had become regular favorites at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and the French Quarter Festival, but in the years following the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina, their public performances became few and far between, making their rare Jazz Fest shows something not to miss. In 2008, they came together again with saxophonist Brent Rose and trumpeter Satoru Ohashi temporarily replacing Kevin Clark to record the acclaimed album Slither Slice. Nominated for a Big Easy Award for Album of the Year, this fourth album received some of the band’s most rave reviews. Offbeat Magazine claimed it “sets an unprecedented high within the brass band world,” and Sonicboomer.com said it was “one of the most important New Orleans releases of the year.”
Even with their great reviews, the members of the band were so busy with other projects that Nightcrawlers’ shows became a rarity for a while. They occasionally got to travel, touring in Europe and Japan, but every gig seemed to be too far apart. In 2019, over ten years since their last record was recorded, the Nightcrawlers came together once again to rehearse and record music for their latest album, Atmosphere. Inspired by their early days getting together to read new compositions, their long rehearsals became a chance for them to reconnect, with food and drinks and plenty of down time to catch up. Under the production of Matt Perrine, their new album captures this reunion of longtime friends at their peak. Nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Regional Roots Album, Atmosphere promises to be their most far-reaching record to date.
The New Orleans Nightcrawlers are:
Kevin Clark – (Dukes of Dixieland)
Barney Floyd – (New Orleans Jazz Orchestra)
Craig Klein – (Bonerama, Harry Connick, Jr)
Miles Lyons – (Youngblood Brass Band)
Jason Mingledorff – (St. Paul & the Broken Bones, Papa Grows Funk, Dr. John)
Brent Rose – (Chegadao, Muevelo, Otra)
Matt Perrine – (Bonerama, Tin Men, Last Waltz Tour)
Tanio Hingle – (New Birth Brass Band, Olympia Brass Band, Preservation Hall)
Kerry “Fatman” Hunter -(New Birth Brass Band, Preservation Hall)