Producer/entrepreneur Ben Coltrane boldly goes where no man or label has gone before, releasing seven brass-band CDs in seven days, six by local bands and one by a Japanese band. Coltrane recorded a single band, To Be Continued, in 2009, then We Are One and Young Fellaz in 2010. Next year, the producer/entrepreneur intends to recreate the entire seven-in-seven effort again.
“In one sense,” Coltrane says, “I feel like what I’ve set out to do is partly a way of recording history, of preserving the history of this genre at this moment as it’s being reinterpreted by this generation of musicians. I’m operating on the belief that not enough people in the world know about or understand this music, so my intent is to put it out there for them to hear and let decide if they like it. I think they’ll like it enough for us to make a profit on it. That’s why I’ve been making plans to record some bands two and three times—because eventually, when all the music gets out there and people find out about this music and these bands, it would be a pity if someone discovers they have a favorite band, but that band has only one CD out.”
At press time, none of the albums were available in their entirety, so it would be unfair to render an absolute judgment. Instead, here’s a thumbnail consumer guide based on the available tracks:
Blitz and Squash Brass Band
Based in Osaka, encouraged by the New Orleans-based Free Agents Brass Band (the majority of whom record for Blue Train as the We Are One Brass Band), Blitz and Squash is a band with a light touch and lively sound (albeit a shaky grasp of English intonation), making them especially suited to covers of pop-oriented tunes like Allen Toussaint’s “Southern Nights.”
New Boyz Brass Band
A Night at the Infirmary
Formerly the Baby Boyz Brass Band, the New Boyz traffic in a full-bodied, modern brass band sound that’s got just a little smooth R&B mixed in (check out their mellow cover of The Temptations’ “Just My Imagination”) and a hip-hop sensibility coloring the rhythmic interplay of their second-line beats.
To Be Continued Brass Band
A Long Way from Home (Live in L.A.) and Magic City
The first of the new-breed bands to establish a dominating street presence, TBC’s got a high-octane sound that comes at you from all angles, featuring high trumpet choruses and double-tuba bass lines along with relentless rhythmic propulsion and sharply enunciated syncopation, weaving a mesmerizing force-field of hip brass-band music.
Young Fellaz Brass Band
From the minute the Young Fellaz hit the streets, they were overflowing with hip-hop bravado, encouraging some contemporaries to recalibrate their games. Musically, they’ve actually adopted an elemental approach with stripped down arrangements, tight horn choruses, and lots of brass soloing that’s far more interesting than the excess of attitude would have you believe.
We Are One Brass Band
I Left My Trombone on a Train in Paris
A 10-piece ensemble with yet another approach, this one based on a laid-back rhythmic pulse, carefully choreographed choruses, and a premium on extended soloing, esp. by saxophonist Clarence Slaughter, who has made a name for himself as a fluid and inventive soloist.
Young PinStripe Brass Band
Young PinStripe Brass Band: The YPS has a disciplined sound based on superlative musicianship and carefully crafted arrangements, making a specialty of covering classic R&B and soul tunes like “If You Want Me to Stay,” “Just the Two of Us,” and “Mercy, Mercy Me.”