Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Storyville Stompers

The Storyville Stompers is an 8-piece New Orleans style brass band. They were founded in 1981 and began regularly performing during Mardi Gras. They currently play parades, conventions, festivals, concerts, weddings, parties, receptions, and [get this...] airport greetings. They regularly perform at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival as well as the French Quarter Festival. Unlike most street or New Orleans bands (other than the very famous ones like Dirty Dozen), they have toured both Asia and Europe.

Second Line Social Aid & Pleasure Society Brass Band

The Second Line Social Aid & Pleasure Society Brass Band is a 15-piece New Orleans style group from Cambridge, MA. They can be heard playing parades, peace rallies, street festivals, funerals, and benefits.

The Barrage Band Orchestra

The Barrage Band Orchestra is a 7-piece brass ensemble out of Baltimore, MD. From the bands I've posted before, no one has yet to combine the Balkan/Gypsy style with the New Orleans tradition of brass band performance until Barrage. The group states the following, "The band feels that music is too important to be played only by professional musicians dictated by industry for consumers. This is why we play on the streets and practice in the parks."

and now for some bad brass ensemble music...

The Chaotic Insurrection Ensemble of Montreal, Quebec, Canada consists of a smorgasbord of instruments, some of which are brass instruments. They consider themselves "street activist musicians." This 16-piece ensemble plays in a Klezmer, gypsy style. It appears that they realize that they are not the most accomplished ensemble, based on their MySpace page.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Hungry March Band

The Hungry March Band of Brooklyn, NY consists of anywhere up to 20 members. They were formed in 1997 for the Coney Island Mermaid Day Parade. HMB does not display a true New Orleans style, yet they mainly stick to big jazz standards (e.g. Charles Mingus, Duke Ellington) and other alternative music (e.g. Black Sabbath).

The Brass Messengers

The Brass Messengers is a ten-piece brass band from Minneapolis, MN. They state that they play "whatever music they can fit in their horns." After listening to them on Youtube and their MySpace page, they present a gypsy-style that is prevalent in Romania.

Funky Butt Brass Band

The Funky Butt Brass Band originates from St. Louis. This 6-piece brass band fuses traditional New Orleans brass band styles with Chicago blues and jazz. It is obvious that they have been highly influenced by both the Dirty Dozen and Rebirth Brass Bands.

Olympia Brass Band

The Olympia Brass Band was one of the first known New Orleans style brass bands. Olympia was formed in 1883 and were active during World War I. They were often heard and seen playing parades and parties and also had a regular, weekly gig at Preservation Hall on Sunday nights. The first Youtube clip is Olympia Brass Band performing a dirge in the 1973 James Bond film, Live and Let Die.

Dirty Dozen Brass Band

The Dirty Dozen Brass Band is the most popular New Orleans style brass band. Founded by New Orleans native, Benny Jones in 1973, the Dirty Dozen BB revolutionized the urban brass band by incorporating funk and bebop to traditional brass band playing. Many New Orleans brass bands have incorporated Dirty Dozen's style and have found inspiration in the funk and jazz aspects to the brass band art.

Rebirth Brass Band

The Rebirth Brass Band was formed in 1982 by three native musicians of New Orleans. Including the strong New Orleans tradition, Rebirth BB incorporates jazz, funk, soul, and hip-hop in their music. In terms of popularity, Rebirth stands second only to Dirty Dozen Brass Band - Rebirth concertizes throughout North America and Europe and have produced 14 albums.

UCC Royal Brass Band

The Unity Community Center Royal Brass Band of Camden, NJ is a 10-piece brass band specializing in the New Orleans style and Christian music. A large portion of their recent activity has gone towards the Hurricane Katrina recovery. Here is a site where you can sample music from their DO IT: "We're Outta Here" album. UCC's mission is "to keep legacy, music, and history of musicians such as those of the New Orleans and Southern area alive." The Youtube examples below will definitely prove this.

Youngblood Brass Band

The Youngblood Brass Band started in my college-town, Madison, WI. The group was started in 1994 by sousaphonist (and now tubist for the Sotto Voce Quartet) Nat McIntosh and MC/snare-drummer D.H. Skogen, both high school students. YBB is a New Orleans style brass band that incorporates jazz, hip-hop, and punk qualities. Youngblood's current roster includes 11 members: D.H. on snare/vocals, 3 on percussion, 2 trumpets, 2 trombones, 2 saxes, and a sousaphone - Nat is no longer with the group. A popular facet to Youngblood was Nat's sousaphone extended techniques. He was able to vocalize Disc Jockey scratches and zips, among other DJ techniques.

Brass Monkey Brass Band

The Brass Monkey Brass Band is an eight-piece New Orleans style brass band located in the SF Bay area. The group consists of one trumpet, two trombones, two sax, two rhythm, and a tuba. BMBB originally formed after playing a Fat Tuesday party in 1999 - bandleaders started writing and arranging music for the band and added it to their long list of other side-music jobs. BMBB group members also play for Santana, Sly and the Family Stone, KC and the Sunshine Band, and the Glenn Miller Orchestra. They have appeared on a 2002 Coca-Cola commercial, sporting events for the San Francisco Giants, as well as with Bobby McFerrin at the SFJAZZ Festival.

Hot 8 Brass Band

The Hot 8 Brass Band consists of 8 New Orleans natives. Many of them started playing together in high school and eventually started playing professionally in 1995. While they were popular within the city, they became internationally known after Hurricane Katrina. They were featured on CNN, Nightline, the New York Times, and were showcased in Spike Lee's documentary When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in 4 Acts. Their last tour, entitled Finding Our Folk Tour, brought their music to evacuee shelters, temporary trailer parks, and cities in the US that have provided shelter to displaced victims of Hurricane Katrina.

American Brass Quintet - UW-Madison (pt. 2)

Just like the 50+ recordings American Brass Quintet has produced or been featured on, their live concert was just as good, if not better. The trumpets are able to blend in such a way that one often loses track of who's play which part. The entire group's sound is very well balanced and on the brilliant side - I assume this could be due to the bass trombone which is able to match the more brilliant qualities of the higher instruments than a tuba.

They opened the show with three canzoni by different composers. The canzona by Anthony Troilo featured the trumpets players using flugelhorns on rapid, "note-y" passages - this seemed unusual since flugelhorns are typically employed for slow, ballad-like music. This instrumentation worked well for the group since everyone had a relatively dark, mellow sound. The recital continued with a piece by Osvaldo Lacerda (b. 1927), Fantasia e Rondo. The final piece of the first half was by Shafer Mahoney, who was a winner of the ABQ commission contest ($6000 each to 4 composers). The parameters of this commission was very peculiar. The composer had to be from either one of the five boroughs of New York City, or else Minnesota. Mahoney was one of the recipients and won writing the three movement, Brass Quintet.

The second half opened with a very popular composer for the ABQ, David Sampson. Entrance, was originally entitled Exit until ABQ contacted Sampson and told him they were using it as an opener instead of a final piece. Powell joked with the audience that when one searches through Sampson's brass quintet compositions, they'll see two published works among the many: one titled Entrance, and one Exit. ABQ continued with the Maurer Five Pieces. Most brass musicians know of this pieces as having only three movements, but Maurer actually composed twelve. Thier concert ended with a Joan Tower piece called Copperwave. Tower, a prolific composer for brass instruments, was commissioned to write this piece for the ABQ.

The American Brass Quintet then held a masterclass the following morning after a quick hang atthe bar with UW-Madison brass musicians. They talked about each quintet member's role in quintet duties. They each had duties from arranging, to website upkeep, to travel and accommodation planning. They talked about how every group needs a leader and how Ray fits that position well. I noticed when Ray was speaking both about the quintet and about specific pieces, his public speaking was very conversational and made it appear that he thoroughly knew the material he was discussing. The quintet finished by coaching a student brass quintet.

American Brass Quintet - UW-Madison Residency (pt. 1

Last week I visited my old stomping grounds, UW-Madison, to attend the American Brass Quintet 2-day residency at the school of music. The group is currently on tour, celebrating their 50th anniversary. I was very fortunate to attend two rehearsals, a masterclass, and a recital (and even get a lesson from Kevin Cobb). ABQ's mission, from their website, states:

"Founded in 1960, the American Brass Quintet seeks to promote brass chamber music as a serious chamber music medium. We continue to enlarge the repertoire for brass quintet by commissioning, performing, and recording new works for brass quintet; and unearthing earlier music and compiling pieces into viable suites. In addition, within this site, we have made available a database of original works for brass quintet - more than 1400 works written since 1950. It is our desire that the availability of this database will encourage student and professional groups alike to perform original works for brass quintet."

The American Brass Quintet resides as chamber music and brass instrumental faculty at the Juilliard School of Music. Musicians include Ray Mase and Kevin Cobb on trumpet, hornist David Wakefield, trombonist Mike Powell, and John Rojak on bass trombone. During their visit to UW-Madison, they were greeted by two former members of ABQ: Prof. John Aley (trumpet) and Prof. John Stevens (tuba).

Aside from my lesson with Kevin, the most interesting ABQ event was their rehearsal. A few members of the Wisconsin Brass Quintet and I were the only audience members (I'm still not sure if the rehearsal was open to the public). While it is always special to see great artists perform, I think it's even better to see them work and rehearse. They played very little in their rehearsal, only running predetermined sections. Some rehearsal techniques I found very interesting included a member playing his part in the style he imagines the composer intended while the others simply listen and decide whether to follow or offer a different musical approach. They were very concise with their comments and each one was directed specifically to an individual, sub-group (e.g. low brass trio, trumpets), or the whole group. I saw very little of typical chamber music critiquing - namely, "I know I've been making this mistake or playing too loud" [whether that's true or not], "but we are too loud or making a mistake here..." They were very straightforward with no sugar coating, yet also not condescending. Powell said, "Kevin, you're too loud at rehearsal E." And that was that. I also remember Powell saying he thought the composer didn't intend for the style the trumpets were employing in a section and then followed up with his evidence.

ABQ's rehearsal was efficient and highly productive. Their second rehearsal which I attended was the morning after their recital. They briefly talked about (and rehearsed) sections of works that didn't go quite well in the performance and then moved onto other works they needed to prepare for the rest of their tour. I will post next on their recital and masterclass.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Worst Brass Ensemble Contest

Here are my three entries for the worst brass ensemble recordings/videos...


*In all honesty, I didn't get past minute mark 1 on this...