Review of Hynoptic Brass Ensemble

Hypnotic Brass Ensemble – The Jazz Café, Camden, Sunday 22nd May 2011

Author: Pauline McCulloch

This was my first ever visit to the Jazz Café, having lived in London all my life,
the place is not too large, reminiscent of a student common room given the
audience a chance to see performers in an intimate setting (although the drinks here are

The crowd was an eclectic mix and my partner was filled with
trepidation at the thought of listening to live jazz. Hypnotic Brass Ensemble
(HBE) is a nine piece outfit from Chicago, consisting of eight brothers
playing brass instruments (four trumpets, two trombones, a baritone and a
sousaphone accompanied by the drummer Manuels. How can you describe
the sound of HBE? It’s hard to pin it down to one genre or another, some
might say it’s a fusion of jazz and hip hop, but it’s actually a lot more than that.

The band came on stage at 9:15pm and with a cursory warm up of their
instruments they hit the ground running. The energy emanating from the
band was awesome. There is no comparison between listening to a recording
of the guys to seeing them play live, they have to be seen to be believed! The
powerful sound emitted from their brass instruments is mesmerising. I think what
I took most from this performance was the sheer enthusiasm of the band,
they looked like they were having a really good time and this was reflected
in the quality and style of the sound. The sousaphone played by LT had the
resonance of a bass guitar and in tandem with the drums set down the rhythm
for the rest to follow. A song was played from the soon to be released E.P
Bulletproof Brass, this song was fantastic despite it being my first hearing and
I’m definitely going to purchase when available. There was a lot of interaction
with the audience, one member gave Rocco, the baritone player a Blackpool
scarf, which was worn throughout the rest of the gig.

As the show progressed some of the classics were played, the best being:
Party Started, Ballicki Bone and War which is so much more intense live! The
whole room was swaying back and forth in time to the beat, trance like to
these staple hits. At the end of the performance 10:30pm copies of the new
E.P. were handed out to some lucky people at the front. My partner remarked
upon how much he had enjoyed the concert despite his prior reservations
and said if I had told him it was hip-hop with horns he wouldn’t have been so
dismissive. I would liken HBE to a second line band, but again I think I would
be doing them a disservice, the whole is most definitely more than the sum
of its parts. HBE have supported Blur in the past and have also worked with
Albarn’s other band Gorillaz, they will be doing a few more gigs in the UK over
the next week and are then off to Australia, if they are coming to a town near
you I advise you to get tickets and see them!

Have you seen Hypnotic Brass Ensemble? What do you think? Let us know by commenting on this article.


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