There are many nouveau brass bands in New Orleans, each with its own distinctive personality. The New Orleans Nightcrawlers may be unique in their multicultural personnel and diverse musical traditions. The musicians include Kerry "Fatman" Hunter on snare drum, Jason Mingledorff on tenor sax and clarinet, Matt "Tubop" Perrine on the sousaphone, Ken "Snakebite" Jacobs on baritone and tenor sax, Barney Floyd on trumpet and flugelhorn, Craig "Sparky" Klein on trombone and vocals, Tanio Hingle on bass drum, Smiley Ricks on percussion and vocals, Kevin Clark on trumpet, Rick Trolsen on trombone, and Brent Rose on saxophone. Their arranger and co-founder is Tom McDermott. Their music is as colorful as the nicknames of some of the group's members, containing some never-before-heard sounds in brass band music made by some of the young lions of both contemporary and traditional jazz. They have kept the polyphonous sound of the traditional jazz and brass band idioms, so that each instrument's presentation is distinct. Building on the traditional, the New Orleans Nightcrawlers then go off the charts with some of the funkiest riffs and rhythms around. The accolades keep rolling in: the Big Easy Award for Best Contemporary Brass Band of 1997; numerous Best of the Beat awards from Offbeat, New Orleans' influential music magazine; and rave reviews from critics from The New York Times to Rolling Stone. Funknicity is the group's second CD, recorded live in New Orleans in 1997. The appreciative hometown crowd understands the tradition and new sound and responds with a raucous second line, making for exciting listening. The group is joined by piano wizard Henry Butler and the incredible Sista Teedy on vocals. A standout is their take on the traditional street-parade anthem "Little Liza Jane." The song's new title, "Funky Liza," says it all. Matt Perrine plays "Pick up the Pieces" on sousaphone in a way Weather Report probably never dreamed of, Bobby McFerrin must be proud of this version of his "Chicken," and the Duke Ellington piece "Purple Gazelle" has never sounded like this. These and other innovative interpretations merited the CD's selection as Best Brass Band Album of that year from Offbeat. Funknicity is funk taken over the top.
AllMusic Review by Rose of Sharon Witmer