Bennie Pete, an integral member of the New Orleans music scene and the leader of the Hot 8 Brass Band, has passed away at the age of 45 from COVID-19 complications. A GoFundMe has been launched in honor of the great musician, and to raise money in support of Pete’s late wife, sons and two step-daughters.
Pete and the Hot 8 Brass Band were well-regarded in the New Orleans scene for preserving the city’s big band brass culture, while blending their style with influences from funk, hip hop and world influences. The band gained prominence following their inclusion in the Spike Lee-directed documentary When the Levees Broke, which captured the city in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
“Bennie was a rock in our lives. Yes, he was a leader, a teacher, and a mentor. More than that, Bennie was an inspiration to our band and to many other musicians, and the entire musical and cultural community,” the Hot 8 Brass Band wrote in a press release. “He helped each and every one of us, from our horn players to the folks dancing in the second lines and to the entire New Orleans community, during the most difficult and darkest times. Bennie helped all of us endure, to heal by encouraging us to continuing to play our music despite any adversities.”
The Hot 8 Brass Band has also released a brief video retrospective of Pete’s life, capturing the performer playing a tuba across New Orleans. The music matches the upbeat tone of the video, which captures the joy in Pete’s life alongside eclectic brass jazz.