The Euphoria Brass Band, a New Orleans–jazz outfit, is working out some rhythm parts on a Monday night in the band room at Mission Bay High School. When fully engaged, it is a brassy conflagration. The horn players sound as if on the verge of blowing gaskets. But in this case, the members of Euphoria are determining where the snare and bass-drum accents will land in their arrangement of “Blues for Ben.” “Less Bonerama, more Stanton Moore,” says Drew Miller by way of direction.
Miller is Euphoria’s bass drummer and host of a weekly radio program called the Second Line Parade on the City College radio station Jazz 88. Miller cofounded Euphoria Brass three months ago with a pair of New Orleans musicians who moved to San Diego post-Katrina. Oceanside guitarist Dave Bandrowski of the Zapf Dingbats and snare drummer Ron Bocian are both former students of a New Orleans wild man named Johnny Vidacovich. The two have the air of hipsters; one wonders how they came to be drawn to such traditional music.
“Living in New Orleans, you hear this stuff constantly,” says Bocian. “You hear a few second lines, then, you start looking for them. Then you’re staying out and partying and the next thing you know, you’re looking for rehab.” He laughs. Bocian says he tried to start a brass band for two years after relocating to San Diego but had no success. “You gotta speak the same [musical] language to be able to do this,” he says.
But after he heard Dave Bandrowski as a featured guest on Miller’s radio show, connections were made, says Bocian, and the band was launched. The eight-piece includes trombonist April West, Dave Jackson on tenor sax, tubist Wayne Rice, Steve Ebner and Tim Jameson on trumpets, and J.P. Balmat on bari sax and reeds. Balmat is band instructor at Mission Bay High.
Miller says that the Euphoria Brass Band is the only New Orleans jazz band in town and as such, they have been invited to play club dates and the recent Gator by the Bay and Fiesta Del Sol festivals. In keeping with tradition, they were also asked to play a funeral. “It was a guy’s death-bed request,” says Bocian. The term “second line” refers, in fact, to a funeral procession. “The first line (or main line) is the deceased, friends, and family,” says Miller. “And the second line,” he says, “is the band.”
The Euphoria Brass Band plays Dizzy’s on Sunday, July 3.