How will the Soul Rebels, the acclaimed New Orleans brass and percussion ensemble, cap the 27th annual Rosslyn Jazz Fest on Saturday? The only way they know how, says group co-founder and snare drummer Lumar LeBlanc — "with zeal, zest and personality." A lot of folks who've seen the band in concert expect nothing less.
Though rooted in Crescent City marching band traditions, the Soul Rebels embraced contemporary music from the start. Over the past two decades, they've championed an exuberant synthesis of sounds, crisscrossing jazz, funk, hip-hop, soul, reggae, rock, pop and country genres at will. But if the group's concerts come across as spontaneous eruptions, they're not. "It's a lot of work," says LeBlanc. "Years and years of practice and polish. Now it's grown into an orchestrated machine."
For all the group's ties to seminal New Orleans jazz, a pair of Washington go-go legends remain prime influences — the late Chuck Brown and his band, the Soul Searchers, and fellow trailblazers Trouble Funk. While attending grade school in New Orleans, LeBlanc became obsessed with go-go's unrelenting beats. "When Chuck heard us," he says, "he could feel our kinship, because it's the same type of energy. Now that I'm older and I look back, that's why we loved Chuck so much — and we finally got to meet him. The journey for me has been a dream."
This year's festival roster boasts a diverse array of pop, jazz, funk and Latin artists, including Lee Fields and the Expressions, Joe Keyes and the Late Bloomer Band, and Afro-Latina singer-songwriter Xenia Rubinos.
Show: Saturday at the Rosslyn Jazz Fest, Gateway Park, 1300 Lee Hwy., Arlington. The Soul Rebels perform at 5:30 p.m.; the festival runs from 1 to 7 p.m. rosslynva.org/jazzfest. Free.