Sunday, April 23, 2017

New Orleans Brass Band: Some Final Thoughts

After my survey of these bands and films and other media that focus on them I am most struck by the wide variety of different sounds you can listen to within a single genre. As many of us have written about and spoken about this semester it seems especially important to take these ideas and apply them to more traditional settings and ensembles in order to stay relevant in a changing musical landscape.

One way to do this is creating music in this style that's meant for the concert hall, or by creating local music performance series based on performing music from a variety of different cultures rather than only the western art music tradition. I will absolutely continue to research different bands and new music, but the topic of this blog will probably shift to a more personal use to give me a landing place to write about different musical goings on. With that in mind Stay tuned this week for posts about Louis Hanzlik's visit to the university of Iowa!

Youngblood Brass Band

The Youngblood Bass Band, while not from New Orleans, was my first exposure to this genre about 8 years ago. My friends and I became infatuated with the hip-hop influenced jazz sound that they produced, and tried to emulate that style for a few years ourselves with varying degrees of success.

What I continue to come back to with Youngblood are two features I believe continue to distinguish them from other groups. Those are the high level of technical and musical skill exhibited by members of the band, and their dedication to educational outreach. Many bands have a high level of skill, but the education component is especially important to growing the genre and getting kids excited about making music in general. It may just be a shrewd business decision, but I think making their sheet music available for purchase is a great way to help sell band directors and schools on the idea of having a brass band as part of the curriculum. I think their existence speaks to this musics ability to travel and make its way into the culture, even in central Wisconsin. So, with that in mind I've included a tune, that I've spent time with transcribing that captures the New Orleans spirit even with a band from far far away.

The Soul Rebels Brass Band

The Soul Rebels are a slightly newer New Orleans based band that has taken the more traditional New Orleans sound into the sphere of collaboration that Trombone Shorty uses. They have performed with artists such as Nad, Mclemore, Lettuce, and Kool and the Gang. One recording I found that is a great example of these live collaborations, and the way the brass band style shows through the glitter of pop music is their collaboration with New Orleans jam band, Galactic.

I like the way the two bands blend together with the march out and how the jam band style works seamlessly within the brass band. This is sounds fairly similar to more recent recordings of groups such as the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, but I like how this group has kept their instrumentation to the traditional brass band while using outside groups to stretch their pop music muscles.

The Whole Gritty City

Another film I haven't had time to consume, but think its important to bring to your attention is The Whole Gritty City. This documentary focus on the challenges faced by school aged children who happen to participate in their school marching bands. The first thing I wanted to point out is that the marching bands it focuses on are not a part of the "school marching band tradition" but rather a part of the New Orleans style brass band tradition.

This is absolutely a film I need to watch as it combines music that I love with my wife's commitment to serving in the community. As I pointed out in an earlier post, anything we can do as musicians to expose students to our music while giving them the skills needed just to get through life is absolutely vital. And from what I've read about his film, this is a fantastic demonstration of that fact. Another thing this film, and it's trailer, brings to my mind is how strong the connection is between southern style marching bands and New Orleans style brass band music, but that's a topic for a different class.

Olympia Brass Band

the Olympia Brass Band has been around in some form dating all the way back to the late 1800's. They are another more traditional sounding band, but what I believe separates them, in addition to their longevity, is the way they have recorded traditional tunes in a traditional way. One could argue that this is not as valuable as putting a fresh spin on old material, but I like how it preserves this music for future generations to listen to. I've included their 2008 release, appropriately titled, New Orleans Jazz Preservation below.

This album contains a wide variety of different styles of New Orleans brass band and jazz music, but my favorite tunes are the slower ones. This is where the "party" atmosphere I have referenced often on this blog fades away and you have the opportunity to hear individual players make beautiful music. I strongly suggest checking out the song "In the Sweet Bye and Bye" as an example of this slower funeral style music.

Trombone Shorty

In contrast to the more traditional sounds of Treme and Algiers, Trombone Shorty is perhaps an artist best known for taking the New Orleans style genre and turning it on its head. While this is not a brass band in the traditional sense I think it's important to point out where Trombone Shorty and his backing band, Orleans Avenue, came from musically and how the mostly hip-hop and jazz music they perform relates back to the more traditional style of brass band music.

According to his website bio page, Trombone Shorty, Troy Andrews, grew up in New Orleans playing in brass bands and attended the prestigious New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts high school where he received formal training. I think that part of his history helps to put his more recent music in perspective as an evolution of the brass band style.

While his most recent release, No Good Time, bares little resemblance to brass band or traditional music the song, Quiet and Kept, off his 2010 album Backatown demonstrates the musical heritage that he came up in.

I enjoy the way this track captures elements of the brass band sound such as group improvisation and second line beats while also bringing in more popular elements such as guitar and other electronic manipulation. I believe music like this is important for connecting the genre as it existed in the past to what it needs to become to stay commercially viable in the current age of hip-hop.

Algiers Brass Band

Another "traditional" style brass band similar to the Treme Brass Band, the Algiers Brass Band has a reputation for producing a more traditional funeral band sound. I was unsure whether it would be appropriate to include this band in a post since most of what I found online indicates that they are mostly a band for hire. I gave it some thought, and decided to include them, because I think these lesser known bands are the most important bands to the fabric of their community.

In the above recording from 1999 you can here the influence of dixieland music on this traditional parade tune. It calls to mind some of the earliest jazz recordings that I've listened to. I thought my focus on these posts would take me more to the hip-hop and funk oriented records that I've enjoyed listening to for years, but I've found this older style to be equally enjoyable. One thing I love about this recording are all the little details you can uncover on each successive listening, whether it's the sweeping clarinet lines, small intricacies in beat pattern on the snare drum, or the somewhat out of tune melody in the trumpets. This music has life even on a record.

The Roots of Music

Another non music related item I believe is much more important tan pointing you towards watching a prestige cable drama is directing you to the many different ways bands have engaged to support the communities they live in as well as other parts of the country.

The Rebirth Brass Band was affiliated with the founding go the Roots of Music, which is an after school program where students have the opportunity to learn instruments and perform New Orleans style brass music. The academy now serves over 140 students who participate in a parade band during Mardi Gras season.

I like how this organization serves multiple important purposes. It provides kids with an activity and a place that keeps them off the street during the late afternoon and early evening hours, provides music for the community, and helps teach students a skill that they can build a career from.

This is just one example of the many ways this type of traditional music can be used to get students involved and excited about making music in their community. I know there are other programs that focus on classical, jazz, and rock music in other cities throughout the country, but I've often wondered about a program such as this would function where students receive classical music training on "band" instruments and then apply them to a popular music style. I'm certainly glad to have come across this organization.

Treme (The TV Show)

I wanted to take a quick break from just plowing through different bands to turn your attention to a HBO show that ran from 2010 to 2013 called Treme. David Simon, who was also the creator of The Wire created this show to dramatize the way the Treme neighborhood in New Orleans worked to come back from the devastation brought by Hurricane Katrina and the government response that followed. I have not watched the whole series, but have caught a few episodes, and I love the way Simon uses a wide variety of characters, especially musicians, to show how vital each person is to their community.

Many of the New Orleans based acts I've posted about were featured on camera or on the soundtrack for many of the episodes. Critics have commented on how Simon effectively captures the spirit of New Orleans, and I was struck by how important brass band music is to the culture there. I realize that this is fictional, but I think that it's a fun way to get exposed to the culture I've been trying to write about.

Treme Brass Band

The Treme Brass Band may be one the most well known traditional New Orleans style brass bands. They have been featured in the documentary, Tradition is a Temple, and David Simon's television show, Treme. This band has been active since 1990 and dress in the style of early 1900's parade bands wearing white captain's hats, white shirts, black pants, and black shoes. I think it's important that this group has embraced the traditional New Orleans style, which is not to say there is anything wrong with bands that are trying to break the mold.

Treme Brass Band2.jpg
Photo by Tom Pich. -, Public Domain, Link
The way the Treme Brass Band has worked to preserve the earliest sounds of the genre works almost like a time capsule as other more popular bands continue to evolve around them. While evolution is an important part of any style of music, and is certainly something this style owes its existence to, it is nice to have a more traditional sound to refer back to. To demonstrate this "more traditional" sound I've included The Bugle Boy March, which show a more stripped down sound than other recordings I've chosen. They playing on this track is also less than perfect, which I think gives it life. I hope you enjoy it!

Preservation Hall Jazz Band

The Preservation Hall Jazz Band is truly a link to a time long ago. Even though this band trends much closer to be a jazz ensemble than a brass band they demonstrate many elements of the New Orleans tradition, and I believe it's important to recognizing their contributions to the spread of the genre. They also exhibit style of early brass band and jazz music that musicians such as Louis Armstrong and Sidney Bechet would have played before become known throughout the world.

One of the reasons this band has been effective in spreading the New Orleans style sound is that their large stable of musicians allows them to maintain their regular schedule at Preservation Hall in New Orleans while keeping up a grueling touring schedule. To me, and important part of this style is being able to experience in person, and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band has played a large roll in making that possible for as many people as they can.

I think the record included below, Santiago, demonstrates the way the PHJB blends brass band music with the modern jazz ensemble format. This particular track is based on a latin beat which is carried mainly in the piano. Over the top of the driving rhythm you can hear the traditional party atmosphere over the top in the brass and reed sections. One thing that continues to shock me when listening to these records is how bands can bring the spontaneous atmosphere of a live performance into the recording studio.

Rebirth Brass Band

A well known brass band that has been active since 1983, the Rebirth Brass Band, has positioned themselves as one a few New Orleans based innovators in the genre. They are considered one of the first bands to bring the funk influence to their music, and this "innovation" continues today. The band maintains a standing gig at the Maple Leaf Bar in New Orleans which positions them as a true member of the New Orleans music community.

I've attached a spotify link to their 2011, Grammy winning, album, Rebirth of New Orleans, which contains some of the most traditional New Orleans style music I've posted so far. What I like about this album is the way they seamlessly mix elements of funk and other popular styles with strong roots in the New Orleans based tradition.

Brass Ensembles from Other Cultures

I really enjoyed this class and the exposure to music from other cultures. One of the things that struck me was how I could tie most of this music back to the New Orleans tradition I've been listening to and writing about periodically throughout the semester. Balkan brass band music and Banda seemed to have the greatest level of similarities both in terms of instrumentation and style of performance.

Despite the poor video quality I believe the video below does a fantastic job capturing the energy and musical quality of Band El Recordo, which is one of the most popular Banda groups in Mexico.

One of the things I like about this recording is how it strips away some of the over produced elements found on most Banda records. The energy and style of the music make it easy to see why it continues to be popular in both Mexico and in Texas, especially the Rio Grande Valley. When living in Texas I was surprised by how many of my peers listened to Banda and Mariachi compared to other popular music. I wonder if New Orleans style brass bands were more commercial if their music would be just as popular in the United States.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Cake Trio Recital: Why aren't there more recitals like this?

If you were playing word association games, I highly doubt the words, brass trio, would invoke the response, coffee shop, but that is exactly what people were treated to with Caleb, Anna, and Kenken's performance this past Sunday at the High Ground Cafe in Iowa City. The success of their performance helped me pull together some ideas floating around in my head regarding how, why and where we perform as brass musicians.

First, some background, back in February I came across this article in the New York Times about the world of open mic comedy in New York City. One idea that I took away from this is the amount of performing a comedian, amateur or professional, does to hone their craft in front of people. Really when you think about music, art music or pop music, has  broader audience than comedy, and can be performed in a wider variety of spaces. Another group of performers who log more time in front of live audiences are jazz performers who will relentlessly pursue opportunities to play at open mics and jam sessions where they can work on new material or play old material for a new audience. The new audience perspective adds another dimension to this idea, jazz musicians and comedians when traveling will often seek out the local mics and jams where they can meet new people and get performance reps in a new city. I've done quite a bit of traveling over the past three years, and in most of the cities my playing has been restricted to hotel rooms or my sister-in-laws back patio.

My goal moving forward is to find more untraditional venues to play in as a soloist, and with any ensembles I play in. To this this back to my topic on this blog, this is something that is very much a part of the New Orleans brass band tradition. Brass Bands play in bars, at funerals, in parades, in concert halls, and festivals. The portable and acoustic nature of our instruments allow brass ensembles to play really anywhere. So go out and play!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Listening Party

Fugue in D Minor (Originally in G) Arr. Mexi- Budapest Festival Horn Quartet

I really enjoy the different colors that the horns are able to access throughout this work. This allows the music to sound much more diverse aside from the trading of lines in the fugue. The low horn playing here was especially impressive.

Victory Fanfare Benjimann Blasko- Tromba Mundi w/ Wind Ensemble

This sounds quite Ewazen(y) to my ears especially at first. I don't mind the optimistic sounding melodic and harmonic ideas. The playing on this record is great overall, and I know the individuals in the ensemble are all fantastic. However, I'm not sure if I'm completely in love with trumpet ensemble as featured ensemble in a traditional sense. I feel as though with the contrast against a wind ensemble the trumpets sound brighter than they may be in real life, and this contrast leads to a less than ideal quality on the record.

Divertimento for Brass and Percussion Karel Husa- UNT Brass Choir

I forget how nice Husa's works are to listen to especially when they are executed this well. I'm much more familiar with Perseichetti and Dahl, which Husa reminds me of quite a bit in this piece.

Quidditch John Williams- Boston Symphony Brass

I enjoyed this short little arrangement, and think it could make a great piece to close a brass ensemble concert.

Jazz Suite for 4 Horns, Harpsichord, Guitar, Bass, and Drum Alec Wilder

I. Horns O' Plenty

Another composer I often forget about. I love the way Wilder brings harpsichord into the jazz idiom, which plays with expectations quite a bit. My favorite part of jazz music is how musicians create and then break expectations, and I believe Wilder accomplished that with the instrumentation here.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Carter and Tymoczko

Below I have written my thoughts on Elliot Carter's Brass Quintet and Dmitri Tymoczko's Rube Goldberg Variations.

First, my thoughts on the Carter:

To me, the overarching theme of this work is chaos. When listening without paying careful attention to the notes in the score the piece sounds chaotic and disorganized. It feels that each listening could provide me with a new experience based on what parts I chose to listen for, especially in the full quintet sections. Having pointed out the chaos in the listening experience, I believe that there are clear elements of organization that would be evident even on the first listening with no score. He does this by creating smaller ensembles within the quintet and having duets and trios carved out of the larger ensemble. Some of these short sections sound like miniature complete works.

On the other hand the Tymoczko left me feeling like the work had been planned out meticulously. The first thing that makes this clear is how the prepared piano sounds "marimba like"before the changes start getting removed following the first movement. There are also several elements to this piece that hint at carefully constructed minimalism. I found that this appearance of careful construction meshed well with the title of the work, which appears to be an homage to both the Goldberg Variations and Rube Goldberg Machines. The mechanical nature of the work comes not from the prepared piano, but in the way the brass is written to sound like the part of a larger machine. I found this to be in strong contrast to the way the Carter sounded.

A deeper dive into the scores revealed some interesting details in both works.

First, in the Carter from measure 30 to 38 is one of the spots I heard as absolute chaos, however this section is carefully constructed both rhythmically and melodically with hocketed lines between the entire ensemble. Another example of how Carter carefully plans out each line between instruments is in the horn and 2nd trumpet duet from mm. 70-94. In this instance, specifically mm. 70-74 he uses dashed lines to indicate how the melodic notes are shared between each part. Lastly, I was struck by mm. 371-391, where the chaos dissipates and the ensemble steps on the breaks to produce long sustained chords. Upon listening this part was quite surprising with a score in my hands, and I can imagine a listener with no score would feel even more put off.

In the Tymoczko I really enjoy the way the piano functions as the driving force behind the work. It was in the the first 12 bars of movement one before the full quintet entered that it sounded most like a marimba to me. I find this interesting because it began to set my expectations for a wind ensemble rather than quintet. In the second movement at measure 22 we finally have the opportunity to hear a single cohesive melodic line from the upper brass. Prior to that measure Tymoczko seems to play with our ears as he builds to the release of rhythmic tension that had built to that point. I found movement four to be the most harmonically interesting movement overall, this may be due to the piano being normal except for two pitches. This allows the chords of the piano to function not only as color, but as  a valuable part the harmonic and melodic product. This is especially apparent when the piano becomes th featured element of the ensemble at rehearsal number 14. If this same figure had appeared in the first movement it is likely the piano would have sounded more percussive, but now we are able to hear the richness of the open piano strings.

Each work was also unique in terms of the feeling created by the language it used. The Carter seemed to dip into darker harmonic ideas overall with strong hinting at atonality. I also found that the way melodies are constructed in the Carter Quintet bring to mind ideas of serialism, I would have to do some closer reading and study to determine if serialism is actually at play in the Carter, but the divided melodies and disjunct solo passages give a strong vibe of serialism. The Carter is a tremendous work, but is a very difficult listen.

The Rube Goldberg Variations surprised me with how bright and optimistic the piece sounded overall. I already referenced the way the piano sounds like marimba or even vibraphone, but I think this plays an important role in how the harmonic language is perceived. Prepared piano could have the tendency to sound "clangy" or atonal, but the way it's used in this work it sets up the "major" open sounding optimistic feel. Overall I thought these optimistic minimalist elements made for an enjoyable listening experience.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Hot 8 Brass Band

The next band I've chosen to feature is the Hot 8 Brass Band, and their recording of Rastafunk from 2007's Rock With the Hot 8. I like how this band has been able to situate themselves as a young group performing the genre of Brass Band music as close to its original style as possible. With their record label debut in 2007 they have come up along bands such as Youngblood Brass Band and the Dirty Dozen, but where those other groups have trended toward producing a more hip hop influenced product the Hot 8 have kept that hip hop influence within the original instrumentation.

I really enjoy the riff based head of Rastafunk, and I think if you didn't know the name of the band it would be easy to believe this was an older chart and recording. Despite the simplicity of the melodies the the level of the playing on this record is quite high. There is also a traditional "chant" section where members sing in unison. This is where the influence of hip hop is most evident. Below I've included a Spotify link to a more recent recording to show how even in the bands continued evolution they have held true to the traditional style.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Off Topic Post: National Trumpet Competition

Good Morning From the Denver International Airport! This weekend i had the pleasure of performing at the National Trumpet Competition with the University of Iowa trumpet ensemble, and as a soloist in the graduate solo division.

This was my third year attending the competition, and I continue to be amazed by the level of playing across each division. According to Dr. Dennis Edelbrock, founder, NTC provides students with an opportunity to perform on a national platform where they can meet and interact with major figures in the trumpet world. I took the opportunity to listen to numerous student performances throughout the weekend and noticed a thread running between soloists especially in the graduate and under-graduate solo divisions. This commonality between most players was a well defined sound concept and exceptional musicality. It's incredible to me that the level of trumpet playing across the country is at an extremely high level regardless of the size or stature of their university.

I was also impressed the high school division, where many students played their solos from memory. Though the sound and musical ideas may not have been quite as mature as the older students these young people were stars when they stepped on stage. I found myself getting quite nervous for these kids especially when i knew their pieces well.

The ensemble divisions were enlightening, especially in terms of the variety of repertoire performed. Many of the pieces were what i would categorize as, high, loud, and fast (even some with choreography), but my favorite works, and performances, were those where the ensembles came out, read off of music, and just played beautiful sounding music at the highest level as an ensemble. I called this approach, "Just roll the ball out there and play, no fancy stuff," I believed these were the most effective performances.

Lastly, the jazz finals performances were the highlight of the students that played this week. These students had mature ideas, stage presence, and distinct sounds. Some of my friends caught a high school student that we think should have a record deal.

In addition to great student performances we heard master classes and performances from: Caleb Hudson, Chris Coletti, Marvin Stamm, Randy Brecker, The USAFA Bands, and Ruben Simeo. Overall this experience continues to open my ears and bolster my love for performing the trumpet as much as humanly possible

Monday, March 20, 2017

Hypnotic Brass Ensemble

I first heard of the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble from a classmates presentation this semester. I was drawn not only their unique story, but their unique instrumentation. Although this group may not truly be classified as a "New Orleans Style" band I believe that elements of their music and performances are true to the style I've chosen to write about.

What makes this group interesting is that they are seven brothers, all sons of trumpeter Kelan Phil Cohran. Cohran played trumpet with Sun Ra and Earth, Wind, and Fire during his career. The ensemble is made up of 4 trumpets, 2 trombones, and baritone with different members of the ensemble doubling on guitar, bass, and drums. Their music contains both a second line and hip hop influence that I find to be extremely unique in both genres.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Ewald Quintet Article Response

  • What did you know about Ewald and his brass quintet before reading this article? 
    • Before reading the article I knew that the amount of research was very limited. I also was aware that the editions I had performed from had been edited significantly from the original to allow for performance with a modern ensemble. Lastly I knew that the instruments and instrumentation of the modern brass quintet was likely quite different from what Ewald had written for.
  • What did this article teach you about proper research?
    • This article teaches the importance of being relentless when chasing down leads. it also demonstrates the importance of maintaining a consistent plan, and making sure that the research is truly complete before it goes to a publisher.
  • What questions did this article raise?
    • I wonder what other works from pre revolution Russia have been potentially lost to time or exist in the personal archives of people throughout the world who may have traveled to the Soviet Union.
  • What are your thoughts on rotary vs. piston valve preferences mentioned in the article?
    • I appreciate the lengths to which the Smith goes to seek out the valve preference in Russia during the time of composition and early performance. I found it interesting that he found that there was no real preference, if any there was preference for the valve, and how occasionally the tow designs mix in ensembles.
  • Do you agree with Forsyth who wrote, "There is in general no true legato on the trombone"
    • No, I disagree. In my opinion some of the most beautiful legato I've heard comes from trombonists. In my mind I liken the trombone slide to a cello string. So with this thought in mind I believe the trombone offers a truer opportunity for legato rather than a valved instrument.
  • What are your thoughts about Smith's ideas on instrumentation mentioned on page 13.
    • To me it seems that Smith may be thinking it's likely Ewald would have written for valved trombones, which may have been easier for apertures to learn and play. I wonder if apertures may have been more likely to play the slide trombone that they likely would have observed in the orchestras of the time.
  • In regards to the modern revival of Ewald's brass quintets, what roles did the following people play? Froides Werke, the American Brass Quintet, the Empire Brass Quintet?
    • Froides Werke passed along copies of Ewald Quinet's 2 and 3 to the Empire Brass Quintet
    • The Empire Brass Quintet recorded and performed those quintets, which made the music part of the modern cannon
    • The American Brass Quintet worked with Smith to create and perform the most accurate modern editions possible.
  • What has been your experience both playing and listening to the Ewald quintets? 
    • My experience performing these works has been exciting because romantic music gives us so much more room to flex our musical muscles in the ensemble. Interestingly the relative lack of definitive historical information leaves the door open for interpretation which makes every recording and performance even more different than those of other works. Also, when preparing these works, it allows the ensembles I've played to make musical decisions that differ from other groups while having the ability to back those decisions up with historical evidence we have the ability to research ourselves. This makes the performance of these works particularly exciting despite the frequency of their performance and notoriety overall.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Listening Playlist from 2/15

I've included the full playlist of music from today. I plan to come back and address some of the personnel on the recordings after further investigation. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017


One of the elements of the New Orleans Style brass band that fascinates me is the origin of the genre. I believe it would be impossible for me to add anything to the discourse on this topic. Instead of writing about history I would like to share my reactions to a few articles I read on my first "deep dive" into the origins of New Orleans Style brass band music.

NOLA History: The Brass Bands of New Orleans

This article from Edward Branley, a writer for the New Orleans tourism bureau website, serves as a good entry point into some of the basic history of New Orleans' brass bands. I like to call this a 30,000 foot view since it throws out several points but doesn't go into very much depth.

Branley address the belief that street band music in the 1880's rose out of the need for music at events such as funerals or weddings being combined with the instruments that remained from the Civil War era brass bands. That music eventually began to fuse with early elements of jazz within the bars and brothers of Storyville.

Brass Band Jazz, Part One

In part one of a three part series on "modern" brass bands in the late 1980's Kalamu Ya Salaam writes more in depth on the topic of the early origins of the style. One thing he discusses that I had not though of before was how popular polka bands were in the New Orleans during the late nineteenth century. He asserts the the brass band movement was the combination of polka, parade bands, and early jazz music. I'm also interested in his discussion of how the brass band movement was an essential part of early jazz music with artists such as "King" Oliver and Louis armstrong making their way in brass bands before playing more traditional jazz music.

For what it's worth Off Beat Magazine, the publication this article comes from is focused on the native music of Louisiana, which shades the discussion of brass band music being from unique to New Orleans. In the passage below Salaam writes beautifully about what less tangible elements lead to the prevalence of this form of music in New Orleans.
Although it might seem obvious that brass band music would naturally develop in New Orleans because of its cultural richness, the fact is that the jazz band was not simply an extension of existing American popular musical activity, but rather the traditional New Orleans marching jazz band was a radical synthesis and transformation that combined both traditional African cultural antecedents with the technical demands of existing European musical cultural expressions to produce a music that is profoundly American in the truest and most accurate sense of what American musical culture is and aspires to be.
Eureka Brass Band (1885)

McNeese State University

The is cited by the Grove Dictionary of American Music and several other sources as being one of the earliest known New Orleans Style Brass Bands. As you can see by the picture this is by no means what we now think of as a New Orleans style brass band, and may seem more in line with a small community marching band in the British brass band tradition, of course with the addition of clarinet.

Despite the lack of sousaphone and the "whiteness" of the group I like how this photo demonstrates the community nature of early and even present brass bands. You can see the inclusion of young children in the group as well as the inconsistencies in the uniforms indicating this was likely not a professional ensemble. The caption reads:

Here is the band that supplied the music for the 'Grand Entertainment.' For many years this was the only band in our little town. The men in the picture are, readingfrom left to right1st rowLouis RunteFrank Shellman2nd rowPaul SullivanunknownFerdinand RoyLang ClarkSteve SedlockDrKnappWillie MayoRudolph KrauseErnest TaylorWalter MoelingCharles Winterhaler and MrTaylor (father of Ernest). This picture was taken in front of the old fire station on Pujo street about where the taxi stand is nowopposite the Majestic hotelMarch 1885(This site is now (1949) occupied by the Pioneer Building.)
I really like how this photo paints a different picture than I expected to find in early New Orleans brass bands. I hope to continue to use these posts as a venue for my discoveries regarding the origins of the genre.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Dirty Dozen Brass Band

My posts will be a mix of historical information, and past and present bands that are emblematic of different versions of the style. The first band I want to spotlight is the Dirty Dozen Brass Band.

The song "Freakish" from their 1993 album Jelly is an excellent example of their earlier work which was much more emblematic of traditional New Orleans Style music. This tune features brass, reeds, and drums without electronic or amplified instruments. It also utilizes a "Second Line" style groove.

The Dirty Dozen Brass Band is one of the bands credited with the evolution of brass band music to include elements of funk, R&B, and hip hop music. One tune that is a good example of this evolution of the style is "Ain't Nothin' but a Party" from the album Medicated Magic. On this record you can here the driving rhythm guitar over the same "Second Line Groove", which is representative of both styles. I especially like the way that this tune blends the use of amplified instruments with the brass band style of using a basic riff based head with solos throughout the band over one or two different grooves.

Other than the guitar electric organ can also be heard on this track. The Dirty Dozen Brass Band eventually would replace the sousaphone with bass to accommodate changes in personnel. That change moved them into more of the realm a funk or a blues band, but they have retained their brass band roots in both the over arching style of music they perform.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

The Plan

I plan to use writing in this blog to begin to look into New Orleans style brass bands. I hope to use my posts as a way to demonstrate a timeline of development of this great tradition. I am especially interested in how the evolution of New Orleans brass band tradition relates to trends in jazz music, popular music, and art music. I'm excited to share some music with all of you!