Led by baritone saxophonist Rick Steiger, the MCSB are the ultimate party band; they are based in the New Orleans "second line" street tradition, fueled by layers of big-band harmonic counterpoint, and driven by tuba basslines and individual bass and snare drummers, march style. A stand up mobile, as opposed to a stationary band, the aspect of recording them in front of microphones must have been daunting, for they're inclined to be moving, just as a marching band would. But they don't here, and the sound quality captured is quite good.
The eight selections are split between originals written by band members or of their offshoot, the Sun Messengers, and well-known dance or traditional New Orleans tunes. James Brown's "Make It Funky" is as you'd expect, with group vocal chanting. They also do a street-band version of George Clinton's "Up for the Down Stroke." "Lil' Liza Jane" is rendered faithfully with a shuffle beat and a swing section, while "Jane" is paraphrased and adapted by Steiger with orgasmic stair-step scale ascensions on "Nuclear Freeze." Olatunji's power-packed "Sahara Samba" has a raucous percussion solo by the drummers, Carl Harris on snare, Terry Thunder on bass drum, and guest Akunda Hollis on djembe. The originals range from saxophonist Russ Miller's straight N.O.L.A. street march title track, William Elijah's hip-funk, tuba-led, counter melody-laden, daunting "Zorro," to Steiger's ultimate second-line anthem "Partytime." The beat is the thing here; there are no ballads or weepy moments -- all strong, rhythmically infectious songs. Hefty solos by Steiger, Miller, and trombonist John "T-Bone" Paxton are peppered throughout. Even more than great music, this band is a whole lot of fun, and if you're a fan of the Dirty Dozen, Rebirth, or more traditional groups like the Olympia Brass Band, this is a must-have recording. It stands up, loudly and proudly, for this oft neglected subgenre of the Crescent City style. Not bad for a bunch of Northerners.