Footwork on the Street: The Brass Ensembles Taking it Further
WORDS BY AUSTIN COOPER
Cutting a cross-section of where the brass brand is at today around the world is something of a tall order. There’s just no point trying to snapshot an ensemble in time like that - and at any rate, many brass bands tend to spend more time on the street than in the studio. So this isn’t a comprehensive roundup, it’s just what I love to listen to - humans using their breath to make joyful sounds.
TBC Brass Band - ‘Footwork’
"TBC show how deeply hip hop has been welded into New Orleans brass bands now, as the tradition has always swam with other currents of black music in America. Their percussion section is also absolutely monstrous".
Gangbe Brass Band of Benin - ‘Les Vrais Amis’
"I love how Gangbe communicate as one body, muscles in motion. They’re so clearly friends - you have to be able to look someone in the eye as you play. Les Vrais Amis."
5th Ward Weebie ft. Stooges - ‘What’cha Workin It Fa’
"Take me there! This track is pure irrepressible Mardi Gras joy and freedom, you can’t hold it down. More young kids with chops of pure steel."
Kočani Orkestar - ‘Papigo’
"Music sung through instruments - it lets loose that untapped part of the human soul that can only be given voice by hard-as-nails horns. Play this to me as I die?"
Stooges Brass Band - ‘Why They Had To Kill Him’
"Shotgun Joe is depressingly far from being the only New Orleans musician to be lost to police brutality. In eulogy, Stooges play this out on the streets at Mardi Gras, and it doesn’t stop the party, but gives it more weight - it’s so so heavy. He was called Shotgun Joe because of his trombone slide action, by the way."
Hackney Colliery Band - ‘Reawake’
"Basically the only British ensemble it’s worth putting anywhere near the other bands on this list. It might not be street music but they’re doing something new."
Most Wanted - ‘Shorty’
"This much groove does strange things to my facial muscles."
Eyo’nle - ‘Bio Bénin’
"Can someone explain how this works, cos I don’t really see how it can - but it definitely does?"
Rebirth ft. Cheeky Blakk - ‘Pop That Pussy’
"Rebranding sleaze in one fell swoop. Rebirth have a special place in my heart, they were right there when hip-hop really started making its presence felt in the second line."
Youngblood ft. Talib Kweli - ‘Y’all Stay Up’
"My first love, I was weaned on Youngblood - been searching for more tracks like this for years."
Austin Cooper is band leader and arranger for BYOB (Bring Your Own Brass). With pots on the boil for 2017, keep your eyes peeled for more.
Article photo by Theo Pelletier:
Trombone Shorty’s young brass band performs for tips in Jackson Square, New Orleans.