Bennie Pete, Bandleader Who Kept the Beat After Katrina, Dies at 45
Bennie Pete, a New Orleans tuba participant who co-founded and led the Sizzling 8, one of many metropolis’s high-profile brass bands, and devoted himself to preserving the musical traditions of the Huge Simple after Hurricane Katrina, died on Sept. 6 at a hospital there. He was 45.
His spouse, Lameka Segura-Pete, mentioned the trigger was problems of sarcoidosis, an inflammatory illness, and Covid-19.
The soul of New Orleans is rooted in music. Second-line parades march for hours down its streets, with brass bands adopted by dancers holding feathered parasols and sipping drinks. New Orleans honors its lifeless with jazz funerals that strut via city, celebrating life via a musical sacrament with the town.
Born and raised within the Higher Ninth Ward, Mr. Pete embraced this heritage. He began taking part in the tuba at 10 and joined a marching band in center college. At 18, he helped deliver collectively two brass bands, the Looney Tunes and the Excessive Steppers, to kind the Hot 8.
The Sizzling 8 started taking part in for tips about Bourbon Avenue and in Jackson Sq., within the coronary heart of the French Quarter. They carried out exterior a housing challenge within the Central Metropolis neighborhood, the place folks sat down with baggage of crawfish and bottles of Abita beer to pay attention. Mr. Pete as soon as discovered himself main a jazz funeral for a canine.
“He was a well-liked canine for one of many in style musicians,” he told Esquire journal in 2014, “and so they threw a giant second-line parade via the streets for him. They’d make a cause to social gathering.”
By 2000, the Sizzling 8 had established itself as a part of a vanguard of younger brass bands that had been upholding the jazz and funk traditions of New Orleans but taking part in with a recent sound. The Sizzling 8’s repertoire included songs by the Specials and Marvin Gaye, and the band included rap and hip-hop into its model. The musicians led second lines on Sundays for social assist and pleasure golf equipment; crowds shaped at evening to look at them play in bars within the Treme neighborhood.
After Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, the preservation of New Orleans’s musical heritage turned a matter of great concern. Numerous musicians had been displaced and evacuated, and longstanding jazz and blues golf equipment had been left in break. Mr. Pete and some bandmates ended up in Atlanta.
Two months later, the Sizzling 8 regrouped to steer the primary jazz funeral in New Orleans after the storm. The band performed with donated devices, and members of the procession wore salvaged items of finery. The parade, which honored a celebrated chef, Austin Leslie, began at Pampy’s Creole Kitchen within the Seventh Ward earlier than ambling to the previous website of Chez Helene, the place an indication greeted the marchers: “We gained’t bow down. Save our soul.”
As despair weighed on the town, the Sizzling 8 started acting at evacuation shelters and emergency medical facilities. They drove round in a van, stopping to jam for crowds till little second strains shaped, earlier than heading to a different a part of city. It wasn’t lengthy earlier than they became native heroes.
“Bennie needed to play for these folks to provide them that New Orleans love that was lacking,” his spouse mentioned. “He and the band obtained busy spreading the tradition round.”
When Spike Lee discovered of the Sizzling 8, he determined to function them in his 2006 documentary about New Orleans, “When the Levees Broke.” The movie introduced them nationwide consideration. They had been signed to a British report label, toured with Lauryn Hill and carried out with Mos Def. They appeared on the HBO present “Treme” and recorded with the gospel group the Blind Boys of Alabama.
However whilst music returned to New Orleans after the storm, the Sizzling 8 endured extra misfortune. Their snare drummer, Dinerral Shavers, was shot lifeless in his automotive in December 2006. It was solely the newest in a sequence of tragedies for the band.
In 1996, the trumpet participant Jacob Johnson was shot within the head at his dwelling. In 2004, the trombonist Joseph Williams was killed in an encounter with the police. And simply after Katrina, the trumpeter Terrell Batiste misplaced his legs in a highway accident.
Mr. Shavers’s homicide particularly rattled Mr. Pete.
“I needed to maneuver,” he told OffBeat journal. “I used to be uninterested in New Orleans. I felt like I’d be the one subsequent.”
In the end he resolved to remain, and the Sizzling 8 recorded an album to honor their fallen bandmates.
Launched in 2012, “The Life & Times Of …” was nominated for a Grammy Award as greatest regional roots music album. The group launched “Tombstone,” a sister album additionally primarily based on the theme of remembrance, the following yr. The Sizzling 8 was additionally featured on a 2015 compilation album, “New Orleans Brass Bands: Through the Streets of the City,” on the Smithsonian’s Folkways label.
“Every thing form of labored,” Mr. Pete instructed Esquire. “Yeah, we’re the Sizzling 8 who went via these items, however we’re nonetheless right here, and that is who we’re after the storm.”
Bennie Gerald Pete Jr. was born on July 10, 1976. His father was a upkeep employee within the Backyard District. His mom, Terry (Thomas) Pete, was a homemaker.
As a boy, Bennie attended a Baptist church within the Seventh Ward, the place his maternal grandfather was pastor, and he danced within the aisles as he sang gospel music. He graduated from Alcée Fortier High School in 1994.
Along with his spouse, Mr. Pete is survived by three sons, Brannon, Brennon and Bennie III; two stepdaughters, La’Shae Joseph and Laila Trask; and two sisters, Yvete and Terneisha Pete.
Mr. Pete suffered a seizure in 2014 and was identified with sarcoidosis. In 2018, he underwent surgical procedure for prostate most cancers. In the course of the lockdown, his well being deteriorated, and he misplaced 100 kilos. When the Sizzling 8 just lately resumed their Sunday residency on the Howlin’ Wolf, Mr. Pete didn’t be part of them onstage.
Within the days after his dying, brass bands in New Orleans mourned him with music. They led second strains via Treme, Central Metropolis and the Backyard District. The soulful notes of “Only a Nearer Stroll With Thee,” a hymn performed to ship off the lifeless, echoed into the evening.