‘Rabble Rouser’ – The Brass Funkeys

THERE’s a thriving strain of New Orleans-style acoustic bands marching through the UK festival scene – and right up there are effervescent eight-piece The Brass Funkeys.

Following-up their eponymous debut album of 2014, new release Rabble Rouser continues the typically boisterous horn-and-percussion fervour as they rattle through thirteen, often quirkily-titled numbers – mostly band originals, plus a smattering of arrangements. Importantly, the Funkeys’ relentless, fun-filled energy doesn’t gloss-over technical precision, ensuring it’s a delight from beginning to end. Sousaphone, drums and percussion provide the crisp rhythm section, solidly framing a slick ensemble of two trumpets, two trombones and sax; and whilst it’s unashamedly about that live, festive spirit, here’s an octet which also colours its hot jazz euphoria with refreshing shades of ska, disco, funk, tijuana, big band, movie soundtrack…

The graffiti/cartoon cover art might imply it’s not ‘your thing’. But turn up the volume, launch into these fifty-four minutes anywhere you choose, and the feel-good is instant; from the infectious riff-and-chant of Dirty Harry to a canonic calypso conviviality in Bizness; from the rapid, madcap African knees-up of Zambezi to ‘Strictly’-showband-shimmying Clave Maria; and Honeydripper‘s soulful Dexys-like stomp, electronic wah-wahs and anarchic wails are delectable.

Sounding breathless? Well, yes! But these guys make this music increasingly irresistible, not least because of the stylistic contrasts. Mexican trumpets anchor the grungy groove of Pacha Mama, whilst Underdub‘s cool, crescendoed phrasing and sparkly percussion bolster Dave Robinson’s lush sax improv. Here, the sousaphone’s endearing harmonic brays offer an atmosphere that no string bass could match, and in Tom Green’s theme-tune-like Dynamo Blues, it bubbles under the trombonist’s own feature. Cheeky, slothful Goblins evokes the ska of Madness or Bad Manners, and who could resist a groove entitled David Battenberg’s Life of Cakes or the overexcited pulse of P.I.T.A. (‘love that acronym)?

Although The Brass Funkeys are well suited to the live environment (warmly received at Glastonbury, North Sea Jazz, London Jazz Festival, etc.), this is certainly a vibrant studio recording in which to revel and dig more deeply.

Released on 18 September 2017, Rabble Rouser is available as CD or digital download from Bandcamp.

 

Rob Smith trumpet
Matt Letts trumpet
Dave Robinson saxophone
Vij Prakash trombone
Tom Green trombone
Rob Slater sousaphone (tracks 3, 5, 6, 8, 11, 12, 13)
John Caddick sousaphone (tracks 1, 2, 4, 7, 9, 10, 13)
Scott Jowett drums
Chris Brice percussion
with special guests
Jack Banjo Courtney trumpet (track 1)
Chris Saunders trombone (tracks 4, 8)

brassfunkeys.com

Boom Baboon Records – BB002 (2017)

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‘Entanglement’ EP – Paradox Ensemble

Paradox

NICK WALTERS’ Manchester-based nonet, Paradox Ensemble, certainly packs a punch thanks to the earthy grooving of trumpet, tenor and alto saxes, sousaphone, trombone, electric bass, drums and piano, as well as the inventive inclusion of accordion and electronics. And this 30-minute four-track EP captures much of the excitement and exuberance of their live jazz performances.

Hitch Slap, building electronically and organically from a single 5/4 sousaphone riff, sets the pace – Walters’ trumpet combining closely with both the tenor sax of Ed Cawthorne and the alto of Tom Harrison to create a powerful front line. The recorded sound is pleasingly close and immediate – Tim Cox’s rasping, echoic trombone soloing adding greater depth – and the brightness of Aidan Shepherd’s agile accordion and the electric piano of Rebecca Nash (with beautifully gyrating electric bass from Paul Michael) contrasts well. The whole ensemble at full tilt creates an intensely strong and original sound… and this is an irresistible opener!

Over a mesmerising, swift 7/8 walking bass, LJM finds Cawthorne’s simple bass clarinet motif shared and elaborated by the horns, Walters soloing on trumpet above the resulting ‘big band’ sound. Once again, the intensity of the forces is impressive, Yussuf Dayes’ solid drumming a key factor in the band’s pulsating energy.

At rhythmic ‘6s and 7s’, Entanglement twines together alto and tenor saxes, whilst accordion also demands a piece of the action (such a pleasing, folky timbre amongst the overall scale and brashness). Retro electric piano, bass and brightly ticking drums create a captivating interlude ahead of the final ‘tousle’.

Finally, Photo 51 showcases the tenor soloing of Ed Cawthorne over Michael’s propulsive 5/4 bass lick. Shepherd’s spiralling accordion, in conjunction with Dayes’ drumming, is a real treat before a triumphant and characteristically cacophonous close!

Nick Walters and his colleagues can be justifiably proud of Paradox – and the enthusiastic reaction to their live shows (as I witnessed at 2013’s Manchester Jazz Festival) is testament to their broad appeal. Meanwhile, fans will await… the album!

For further information on this and other Efpi albums, and to purchase, visit efpirecords.com.


Nick Walters
trumpet, electronics
Tom Harrison alto sax
Ed Cawthorne tenor sax , bass clarinet, vibraphone
Tim Cox trombone
Ben Kelly sousaphone
Aidan Shepherd accordion
Rebecca Nash piano, keyboards
Paul Michael bass
Yussuf Dayes drums

Efpi Records – FP012 (2013)