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Brass Funkeys: Rabble Rouser

Bruce Lindsay By

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The 8-piece Brass Funkeys might draw on the traditions of New Orleans marching bands, but the group, which formed in 2011, is based in London and takes much of its inspiration from contemporary musics. This combination of second line, R&B, hip-hop and the rest is enticing: Rabble Rouser is a fine collection of originals and covers delivered with enthusiasm and musical skill—there's plenty of brass and lots of funk, too.

From the first warm, fruity notes on "Goblins," (written by guest trumpeter Jack Banjo Courtney) it's clear that this is going to be a fun-filled, groove-laden bunch of tunes. The mix of wind instruments—trumpets, trombones, a sax and a sousaphone—ensures there's depth and richness to the ensemble's sound while Chris Brice's percussion and Scott Jowett's drums give added power and broaden the sonic palette. Adding the players' obvious enthusiasm into the mix ensures that this is a listener-and dancer-friendly set.

The band's original tunes, contributed by six of its members, are varied but never lose the Funkeys' trademark positivity and good vibes. Rob Smith's splendidly-titled "David Battenberg's Life Of Cakes" is a punchy number with an irresistible groove. "Le Sable," written by Rob Slater, is a seductive late-night number, for those times when dancing cheek-to- cheek is the only way for two people to remain upright. Trombonist Vij Prakash's "Pacha Mama" melds brass band and blues— laid-back, cool, with bursts of fiery sax and trumpet. Matt Letts' "Clave Maria" nods its hat to old-school Cuban dancehalls, Tom Green's "Dynamo Blues" does the same to classic jazz big bands.

The Brass Funkeys' performances of the four covers all impress. There's a tight, driving, take on Gorillaz' "Dirty Harry"—arranged by Chris Saunders and featuring a vocal chorus from the gentlemen of the orchestra. "Honeydripper" is slow and slinky, underpinned by big, fat, bass notes. Tune-Yards' "Bizness" features Dave Robinson's sax over fine percussion grooves from Brice and Jowett. "Zambezi"—a UK hit in 1982 for The Piranhas—is taken at a fast clip: fun, cheery, but perhaps only the fittest should consider it dance-friendly. On this hugely enjoyable evidence, the Brass Funkeys should be able to rouse any rabble.

Track Listing: Goblins; Pacha Mama; David Battenberg's Life Of Cakes; Dirty Harry; Asiro; Bizness; Honeydripper; Clave Maria; Underdue; Dynamo Blues; Zambezi; Le Sable; P.I.T.A

Personnel: Rob Smith: trumpet; Matt Letts: trumpet; Dave Robinson: saxophone; Vij Prakash: trombone; Tom Green: trombone; Rob Slater: sousaphone; Scott Jowett: drums; Chris Brice: percussion; John Caddick: sousaphone (1, 2, 4, 7, 9, 10, 13); Jack Banjo Courtney: trumpet (1); Chris Saunders: trombone (4, 8).

Title: Rabble Rouser | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: Boom Baboon Records

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