Review: Hypnotic Brass Ensemble in Wellington

SIMON SWEETMAN
Last updated 15:59 25/07/2012
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HORNS OF PLENTY: The Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, who feature on the soundtrack to The Hunger Games, play Wellington on Sunday.

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Hypnotic Brass Ensemble

Bodega, Wellington, July 22

Reviewed by Simon Sweetman

The hypnotic Brass Ensemble features a horn section comprised of eight brothers. They are supported by a drummer, the one non-family member. The brothers inherited their musical ability from their father, Phil Cohran. He was a member of the cosmic jazz ship captained by Sun Ra and is known for his own work, including his involvement with the non-profit Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians.

Returning to New Zealand after wowing audiences at the 2010 Womad festival, the Chicago-based ensemble energised the audience packed into Wellington's least practical concert environment.

For some, all that could be seen was the nod of the giant sousaphone and the side-to-side sway of proud trumpets as joyous, celebratory, infectious parping filled the room. The rise and swell of the brass was carried by a conviction to serve soul, funk, jazz and hip-hop; to keep each musical adventure short and full of punch.

The band picked from a deep pocket of funk to offer marching band music with soul - and if, cynically, it was simply a case of Salvation Army Band does hip-hop, which is ultimately a fair summary, it was lapped up lovingly by an audience prepared to throw themselves into the performance, hands waving side to side when instructed.

And hopefully, given the many reminders, they rushed home to "like" the band on Facebook.

The hip-hop element feels like a circus trick when played out on stage, a gimmick to keep people enthused, to rally and pump the crowd and all but take the heat off the fact that as talented as this band is, it is, after a while, one- note. It is about the performance energy more than the soul within the sound. It is not so much hypnotic as repetitive.

That said, it is easy to see why it works - there's happiness in every step, there's a feeling of unity from watching the side-to-side sway of the horns as the short, sharp blasts of brass are pushed out into space. And there was an ecstatic throng of fans at the end of a high-energy show.

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- The Dominion Post

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