Update (7/20): The location has changed, due to weather concerns, to Colden Auditorium at the Kupferberg Center for the Arts (65-30 Kissena Blvd.), Flushing. Seats will be first come, first served.
When Lumar Leblanc called in from Houston and Julian Gosin from New Orleans, both representing the Crescent City jazz-funk band Soul Rebels, it was a seemingly rare day — one in which the band did not have a performance.
“A couple of days without a show,” Leblanc, one of the band’s founding members, said, “but not a day without thinking about playing music.”
The Rebels’ calendar is almost always full; the band has backed up everyone from Nas to Metallica. On Saturday at Louis Armstrong’s Wonderful World in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park the band will perform in support of Action Bronson.
They’ve released several albums, dating back to the ’90s. And when the crew is home in New Orleans, there’s no rest: the band performs weekly at the city’s famed Le Bon Temps Roule, along with one-offs at many other venues.
amNewYork caught up with Leblanc and Gosin on their rare day off to talk albums and collaborations.
It’s been four years since your “Power=Power” mixtape and six since your album “Unlock Your Mind.” How do you keep the band’s own catalog moving forward while consistently playing with as many collaborators as you do?
Lumar Leblanc: It’s not that we didn’t want to put out an album. I always tell people that Soul Rebels is more than just guys playing horns and drums. Some people don’t realize the weight that we carry, trying to revolutionize New Orleans jazz or brass band music and bring it to a main stage. It carries a whole lot of weight and responsibility. It’s like someone wanting to call Muhammad Ali Cassius Clay, but he keeps telling you his name is Muhammad Ali. We keep telling the world that we’re not a brass band. Thank god for Nas, and Joey Bada$$, and Marilyn Manson, and Metallica, who’ve given us a chance to stretch out. We’ve got a whole lot of material that we’re constantly creating, constantly putting down . . . [but] the CD we’re doing now is not just purely to record a new album, but it’s really the right piece, where we have the freedom to express ourselves and the type of music we’re doing.
What do you look for in a collaborator?
Julian Gosin: We are very open to all kinds of music — I can’t remember a time that we actually turned down someone. Every chance we get we want to broaden our horizon musically, to diversify our portfolio. Any artist that approaches us, we’re willing to go. And it tests our musical ability and our awareness of what we’re able to do, what we need to work on, different genres we haven’t played in years, some genres that we thought weren’t even possible to play. The Metallica thing is still mind-blowing because we played an entire set of heavy metal rock music, with brass instruments. It was unbelievable that we could pull it off. At the end of the day, it’s just music. That’s how we approach it. And the artists take us as seriously as we take them.
You’ve already worked with so many artists. Who’s on your wish list?
LL: It’s so many different people. Who comes fresh to your mind?
JG: Kendrick Lamar.
LL: Yeah. J. Cole.
JG: Erykah Badu, Jill Scott.
LL: There’s so many different people. I wish Rage Against the Machine would get back together and work with them — no disrespect to the current group they have, I’d play with them too. The whole Wu-Tang Clan. Quincy Jones is obviously a mentor of ours; we’d love to do that.
If You Go: The Soul Rebels perform with Action Bronson during the Louis Armstrong’s Wonderful World Festival on Saturday in Colden Auditorium at the Kupferberg Center for the Arts (65-30 Kissena Blvd, Flushing), armstrongswonderfulworld.com.