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The Brighton Beat at The Peekskill Brewery

The Brighton Beat at The Peekskill Brewery

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The Brighton Beat
Peekskill Brewery
Peekskill, NY
August 26, 2023

Seemingly never at a loss for a full bore groove or a reason to shake the dust up on the dance floor, the Brighton Beat—a full tilt band of eleven: five horns, two guitars, bass, drums, and two percussionists—took this riverside night by the horns and shook the bull loose.

Led by the indefatigable drummer Sammy Wags (ne: Wagner) the Brighton Beat come at you equal parts Tower of Power, post punk bop, Motown, The Hot Fives, and Count Basie. They come at you without a set list, choosing too, as Wags takes great pride in saying, "read the energy in the room, match it, then ratchet it up."

And man oh man can these guys read a room! Inspired no less by the late, great Fela Kuti, Wags wheels this tight-as-a-snare—drum ensemble—Nat Ranson (trombone), Drew Vandewinckel (tenor saxophone), Jaedon Alvira (alto saxophone), Nick Benitez (trumpet), Joe Natale (baritone saxophone), guitarists Ryan Datino and Michael Iaciofano, Derek Van Wormer (bass), Ryan Nava (percussion/vocals), and Matt Graff (percussion) through a combustible fusion of Afrobeat's key ingredients: jazz, funk, highlife, West African rhythms, and Harlem shuffle. It is a sound and force that shakes the rafters (or the stars if you happen to be at any one of the outdoor festivals they leave their brand on) with a riotous, righteous noise.

Morphing from a 2009 post Berklee reggae unit making the rounds of Boston's Brighton area (thus the sobriquet), by 2010 The Brighton Afrobeat Project was taking shape. From writing charts in the van on the way to gigs, (a practice that, as Wags notes, works very well to this day) to this night at the Peekskill Brewery (celebrating the drummer's birthday) it becomes immediate knowledge that nothing, no musical kink or thrill, gets past this team.

The joyful pandemonium of "Sweet Baby Chazz" gets the hands clapping and the bodies swaying. Each solo finding its space amid the ever malleable beat. Written by Wags (who writes most of the band's material but, as he insists on saying what the ears readily perceive, each player brings something to the tune.) "Serengeti Waltz" a cooking beat that dares you to dance breaks into Stevie Wonder's roiling "Higher Ground" and from there it is off to the races.

"Changing Elevators" is a calypso pirouette with a Steely Dan-like, rock n roll heart that spotlights the power of the twin guitarists. Percussionist Ryan Nava takes center stage for a fire breathing rave up on the Beatles Motown drenched "Got To Get You Into My Life." The hijinks percolate full speed ahead on such road tested fan faves as "Hot Sand Cold Feet" and the chugging "Genghis Khan." Then there's "Fancy Beast" with a blast of Zeppelin's riff riot "Kashmir" blowing mighty from the horn section. A smooth cool vamp through the Talking Heads iconic "This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)" keeps the fire simmering. Even freshly minted, previously unheard music like "Feet First Head Last" and "Time Marches On" leaves the novice and the faithful ecstatic.

Music this pure of joy rarely makes the headlines, the big venues, or airwaves. But you can check The Brighton Beat out on various streaming services (Spotify, Amazon, iTunes) The BB also have four self released discs, Live at the Clayton Opera House (2018), Hear and Now (2016), Off We Go (2015), and The Brighton Beat (2011.) Any platform you choose will get the party started big, big time.

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