The fine and funky Rebirth Brass Band -- a truly great representative of the New Orleans musical tradition -- was in town last weekend to play a benefit concert for the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center.
The band was an absolutely appropriate choice. The center is a brand new enterprise, with a mission to preserve and promote the black heritage and legacy of the Charlottesville, Virginia, region. It's housed in the Jefferson School City Center, which was built in 1926 to serve as a segregated, all-black high school and is now being reborn as a community center for all of the city's residents.
The Rebirth Brass Band leading the way from the West Haven neighborhood to downtown Charlottesville, 1 September 2012. [Click on any image to see a larger version. All photos copyright John Edwin Mason, 2012.]
Andrea Douglas, the heritage center's director, had the brilliant idea of having Rebirth lead a parade from one Charlottesville's historically black neighborhoods to the downtown pedestrian mall, where the band would play its evening concert. To put it another way, Andrea wanted Charlottesvillians to form a second line.
The Rebirth Brass Band leads the second line, 1 September 2012.
A second line is an old New Orleans tradition. It's about having a party in the streets. The first line is the band, leading an impromptu parade. The second line is made up of people dancing and strutting to the music, having a good time.
A member of the second line, 1 September 2012.
A second line isn't the kind of thing you see every day in Charlottesville. In fact, it's the kind of thing I've never seen in Charlottesville, and I've lived here close to 20 years.
Members of the Rebirth Brass Band, heading down Main Street, 1 September 2012.
But Charlottesville sure enough got into it.
The second line on its way to the Downtown Mall, 1 September 2012.
Not all of Charlottesville, of course. But the turnout -- on a day when dark gray skies constantly threatened to rain -- was pretty darn good.
Ok. So some of the spectators were a bit skeptical. 1 September 2012.
I was having fun, by the way, with a Panasonic Lumix GX1, a small, mirrorless camera that's part of the micro four thirds system. I was using for it street photography for the first time, and I like it. It's quick, responsive, and feels good in my hand. Because it has a much larger sensor than most small digital cameras and has a superb 14mm prime lens (equivalent to a 28mm lens on a 35mm camera), the image quality is terrific. There's no viewfinder, but I didn't miss it, since I was mostly shooting from the hip.
The Rebirth Brass Band on the downtown mall, outside of the Jefferson Theater, where it played its evening concert, 1 September 2012.
Rebirth nearly blew the roof off of the Jefferson Theater during their concert in the evening. The audience (including me) loved every minute of it.
The video below will give you a sense of what a second line is all about, as well as a taste of the sound of the band.
Rebirth Brass Band playing "A.P. Tureaud," at the Pigeon Town Steppers second line parade, 2009.