Sound Rebels bring the 504 to the 413

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NORTH ADAMS — The Soul Rebels have forged some powerful musical alliances in disparate genres.

The eight-piece New Orleans brass band has played with hip-hop artists Nas and Rakim, metal darlings Marilyn Manson and Metallica and electronic wizards such as Pretty Lights. Through these collaborations and its own ingenuity, the group has cultivated a sound that draws from funk, soul, jazz, rock and hip-hop, appealing to a broader audience than just those occupying cramped French Quarter joints. On Saturday night, they'll aim to conquer some new terrain: Mass MoCA, where they'll perform a solo show at Courtyard C or, in the event of bad weather, the Hunter Center.

"Make sure you have your dancing shoes on," snare drummer Lumar LeBlanc told The Eagle during a telephone interview. (Trumpeter Julian Gosin joined him on the call.)

The Rebels haven't just sashayed into new musical domains. When LeBlanc and bass drummer Derrick Moss helped start the band more than a decade ago, they accepted gigs that were far from glorious.

"We were taking it from the streets of New Orleans, literally, playing jazz funerals, parades, parties," LeBlanc said.

Eventually, they made their way to higher ground, booking stage acts that allowed them to further experiment with their sound and receive more attention.

"You start seeing a little daylight after that," LeBlanc said. "You get some people patting you on the back, some people giving you credit."

Many people didn't, though.

"Mostly, we had some people who were against us, too, because they didn't want us to change the New Orleans tradition," LeBlanc said.

But LeBlanc and Moss stayed the course. Membership has changed over the years. In addition to the two founding members and Gosin, the band currently consists of Corey Peyton and Paul Robertson on trombone, Erion Williams on saxophone, Marcus Hubbard on trumpet and Manuel Perkins Jr. on sousaphone. Gosin joined permanently in about 2009 or 2010, he recalled. The group captured his willingness to innovate.

"Soul Rebels were stretching the envelope when it came to music," Gosin said. "They were redefining the guidelines of your typical New Orleans jazz band, so I saw things in them which I saw in myself."

Gosin will be one of several band members providing vocals on Saturday. For example, he'll contribute to "504," a reference to New Orleans' area code that opens the record, "Unlock Your Mind."

Of all the artists the group has played alongside, Nas has been Gosin's favorite. The Soul Rebels teamed with the acclaimed hip-hop artist at the 2017 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival as well as at other venues.

"He's just a very professional dude, very serious about his craft, very serious about the music. It meshed really well," Gosin said.

"Besides being a legend, and knowing 'Illmatic' [Nas's debut album] from the first bar to the last, we were honored to perform with Nas," LeBlanc said.

LeBlanc also mentioned Metallica near the top of his list. The Soul Rebels opened for the heavy metal band during Metallica's string of 30th anniversary concerts in 2011.

"It broadened our horizons. It made us go into a whole other mindset, whole other rhythm and a whole other musical, melodic form," LeBlanc said. "And when we got together with Metallica at the private studio to just vibe off of the tunes, they were so inspired by what we could produce with the horns and the drums."

Lately, the group has been working with one of LeBlanc's personal favorites, GZA of Wu-Tang. LeBlanc had to mention some others, too.

"Raekwon, perform with him also, and all of the other legends: Rakim, Slick Rick — it's just a whole array of people we've been blessed to perform with. Those are at the top of my list. I still have some others," he said, alluding to acts on his wish list.

But the Rebels are a force in their own right, one that lets hope reign over fear.

"Soul Rebels is about giving the world a positive beacon of energy," LeBlanc said, "a positive beacon of material that they can take and incorporate in their daily lives."

Benjamin Cassidy can be reached at bcassidy@berkshireeagle.com, at @bybencassidy on Twitter and 413-496-6251


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