It’s unexpected that an album by a New Orleans ensemble named the Mainline Brass Band would open with a guitar solo instead of a big sousaphone beat or a blast of horns. Considering this and other stylistic diversions, one might wonder if this self-titled disc really boasts brass band music. In today’s world where non-street instruments like the guitar and keyboards and hot-styled, rap and funk influences have made their way into the tradition, the answer, reservedly, is yes. Think Soul Rebels and the Dirty Dozen, for instance.
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Led by sousaphonist Edward Lee Jr., who contributes a bulk of the compositions and has been heard with brass outfits including the Rebels, the Mainline Brass Band can absolutely be defined as playing dance music. The eight-man group soon gets into a soul groove on the above mentioned opener, Lee’s “Cleveland and the Penguin.” When the horns do jump in, they do so with precision on this well-orchestrated instrumentals. Tonally, the musicians shine with strong solos by saxophonist Erion Williams and trombonist Paul Robertson.
The riff-oriented party music continues throughout the album and occasionally adds some rap. The reggae sway of “Village People” is a much appreciated change of pace as are the vocals of guest Mike Spitta.
A funk/soul standard or two on the disc might have served as an invitation to audiences new to the band and added some needed rhythmic and melodic diversity. Still, the Mainline Brass Band group and CD deliver with fine musicianship and execution.