The 28th edition of Jazz in June kicked off Tuesday evening with Naughty Professor, a six-piece, horn-driven band that hails from New Orleans. But it gives a unique twist to the conventional Crescent City sounds.
You won’t see a tuba or a clarinet or a trombone in the front line, and you won’t hear traditional New Orleans tunes such as “When the Saints Go Marching In.” What you get is an energetic and adventurous band of young iconoclasts performing original instrumentals with roots in jazz, funk, rock and even hip-hop. As it proved Tuesday, Naughty Professor is part of an exciting renaissance in post-Katrina New Orleans music.
Among the most outrageously engaging tunes was “The Elephant Hunt,” a guitar-heavy tune with a beat that might be described as “pachyderm punk.”
Like more conventional New Orleans music, there is an intense rhythmic undercurrent in the band’s approach, driven by dynamic drummer Sam Shahin and further enhanced by Noah Young on electric bass and “Wild” Bill Daniel on guitar.
The three-horn front line of Ian Bowman on tenor sax, Nick Elman on alto and baritone sax and John Culbreth on trumpet is the link to the brass band tradition of the Dirty Dozen and others. Conservatory-trained at Loyola University’s jazz program, the sextet has honed its razor-sharp chops and funk timing in performances and recording sessions with members of other Crescent City bands, including the Soul Rebels, Galactic and Dumpstaphunk.
While straddling the boundaries between jazz, funk, rock and even hip-hop, the band maintains ties to the street-marching beat, the collective improvisation and the brass polyphony that defines the New Orleans tradition. The result is music that is simultaneously thought-provoking and foot-tapping.