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Youngblood Brass Band: center:level:roar

AAJ Staff By

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In some sense, we're all children to the end... the day we quit playing is the day we quit living.

The Youngblood Brass Band embodies that principle in everything they do, however serious the music may become. Billing themselves as "6 horns, 2 drummers, a sousaphonist, and an MC," the group was founded in 1995 when these young men were high school students in Wisconsin. It's not your average brass band, for sure. With their anything-goes approach, they harness the spirit of jazz big bands, New Orleans style marching bands, hip-hop, modern composition, punk rock—and just keep on going.

With their third record, center:level:roar, the Youngbloods stir the pot some more. The disc opens with a quiet storm, Nat McIntosh's sousaphone accompanying David Henzie-Skogen's spoken word. Thirty seconds later, a stylized Afro-Cuban rhythm intercepts the gesture, leading into off-kilter funk on "Round One." Remember, this is a brass band—separate musicians are playing snare and bass drums. Soon we're soaring in the highest trumpet altitude, fully brassed out and pumped. (Arturo Sandoval's standing out there somewhere with his hands over his ears, crying. Get over it, Arturo.)

The energy that defines this introduction continues to pervade the rest of the music. Whether the YBB cooks up James Bond (or James Brown) Horns, Afro-Brazilian rhythms, uprock hip-hop, or funky swing, they serve it on a very hot platter. Fair warning, okay? The music that moves rhythmically with the bodies on the street will not sit down in your living room.

Apart from the ever-changing brass element of center:level:roar, the MC deserves some attention. Whatever else happens musically, the human voice never lags far behind, and in the end it serves as a uniting force. In sound, David Henzie-Skogen's raps retain traces of upper-Midwest twang. In content, the lyrics are activist and extremely clever. In practice, they have a punchy Brooklyn delivery. And yes, this recording is also available on vinyl.

There's definitely a philosophy underlying all the shifty change on the record. Something out of "Diaspora" sheds light on the matter:

I heard century-old griots disclose millenia-old secrets
to sleeping capoeiristas under metropolitan trees
I tasted goats' blood gumbo up in Congo Square
cook-offs in front of Armstrong's bell
I knew it was worth the wait


All one big stew. All one continuum.

"Now dance!"


Visit Young Blood Brass Band on the web.


Track Listing: to come together; round one; culture:envy:war; brooklyn; diaspora; human nature pt. 2; thursday; the movement; avalanche; nate mccavish handbills for no man; camouflage; is an elegy; under your influence; V.I.P.; and leave alone.

Personnel: Nat McIntosh - The Warrior: Sousaphone, David Henzie-Skogen - dciph: Snare Drum and Cymbal/MC, Tom Reschke: Bass Drum and Cymbal, Joseph Hulbert: Trombone, Joe Goltz: Trombone, Alex Wilkens: Tenor Saxophone, Mike Boman: Trumpet, Charles Wagner: Trumpet, Jeff Maddern: Trumpet

Title: center:level:roar | Year Released: 2003 | Record Label: Ozone/Layered


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