11th October | Fiddlers
As storm Callum got ready to hit our fair isle on Thursday night, the Chicago brotherhood that is the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble buffeted the inside of Fiddlers again with their exuberant brand of horn-driven hurricanes.
The progeny of the late Sun Ra trumpeter Phil Cohran, these eight brothers, schooled by their dad in the bliss of brass from early childhood, honed their craft busking on the streets of Chicago and New York before taking it to the world. Tonight, visiting this venue again, there are five on brass – two trumpets, a sax, a tuba and trombone – augmented by a funky guitar, bass and drums.
Following the ethereal, floaty, jazzy club-tinged sounds of local trio, Ishmael Ensemble who delivered a short but impressive set including a version of The Yellow Magic Orchestra’s ‘Soul Music’ (check them out at The Exchange on December 12th), the Hypnotics upped the tempo with their signature feelgood vibe: a swinging, pulsating wall of brass and homeboy bonhomie.
This bunch have always mixed up their influences from the brassy street jazz that encapsulates them to hints of Miles Davis, funk, soul and hip-hop, but the brass blast has been the mainstay. Tonight there seems to be more hip-hop than usual in the mix, possibly reflecting their collusions with rappers such as Mos Def and Snoop Dogg, but also their own tastes and background.
Favourite numbers such as their opener, the warm swooping ‘War’, the multi-layered ‘Ballicki Bone’, and the rap-brass mix of ‘Kryptonite’ sat along the Latin-tinges and stabs of New Orleans sounds, but the emphasis seemed to be about the rap and the partying. Crowd participation is always another big thing of theirs, the hands in the air, and the crouching and jumping up, while the Victor Meldrew in me just wants them to get on with the music. But, as their ‘Let’s Get The Party Started’ emphasises, these boys just wanna have fun. There is more to them than that though – much more.
That depth certainly comes through in the more reflective moods of their latest album, this year’s tribute to their father, Book Of Sound, with its spiritual jazz feel. In past gigs they’ve paid homage to his music (and of course expressed their own life music influences) with a very Sun Ra-style bliss-out (their Miles-ish ‘Pluto’ for example, last time they played here) but unfortunately tonight there is none of this and more emphasis on the brass-rap mix. We can’t have it all it seems. They still pack a punch.