Music Reviews
5:07 pm
Mon July 8, 2013

On Two New Albums, A Modern-Minded Brass Band Cuts Loose

Originally published on Tue July 9, 2013 11:36 am

Brass bands often bring New Orleans to mind. But some 1,000 miles away from southeast Louisiana, there's a different kind of brass band at work: the No BS! Brass Band of Richmond, Va.

Since the late 1970s, the brass-band repertoire has morphed into a new sound with the addition of funk, hip-hop and post-bop jazz. With as many as 13 members, No BS! Brass Band picks up on — and expands — that new tradition.

RVA All Day, one of the group's two new albums, is a party soundtrack with a wild and deep groove — and airtight playing by musicians who are conservatory-trained but at ease when they cut loose. The influence here may be more The JB Horns and postwar big bands, and not so much the New Orleans brass-band tradition. But when they take on Michael Jackson's "Thriller," they bring it all together.

The group's second new album, Fight Song, pays tribute to jazz master Charles Mingus, whose compositions weren't designed for brass bands. Here, No BS! reminds us that jazz resides at the heart of all brass-band music.

I like the No BS! Brass Band either way: kicking it with funk or clearing room for a screeching free-jazz solo. The point isn't to redefine what a brass band can do, but that's what No BS! achieves. From Virginia comes a storm of a brass ensemble that has decided it can do what it wants as long as it does it very, very well.

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Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

The notion of a brass band playing jazz brings to mind New Orleans.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIEGEL: But that sound comes from a thousand miles away in Richmond, Virginia, where a different kind of brass band is at work - The No BS Brass Band. Here's music critic Jim Fusilli with more about the band and their two recent albums.

JIM FUSILLI, BYLINE: Since the late 1970s, the brass band repertoire has morphed into a new sound with the addition of funk, hip-hop and post-bop jazz. The 13-piece No BS Brass Band picks up on and expands that new tradition.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

NO BS BRASS BAND: (Singing) RVA all day. RVA all day.

FUSILLI: That's the title track "RVA All Day."

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

BAND: (Singing) RVA all day. RVA all day.

FUSILLI: The album is a party soundtrack with a wild and deep groove and airtight playing by musicians who are conservatory-trained, but at ease when they cut loose.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

FUSILLI: The influence here may be more The JB Horns and postwar big bands, and not so much the New Orleans brass band tradition. But when they take on Michael Jackson's "Thriller," they bring it all together.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

FUSILLI: The second new album is "Fight Song," a tribute to Charles Mingus, the jazz master whose compositions weren't designed for brass bands. Here, No BS reminds us that jazz is at the heart of all brass band music.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

FUSILLI: That's "Haitian Fight Song" by the great Charles Mingus.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

FUSILLI: I like the No BS Brass Band either way, kicking it with funk or making room for a screeching free-jazz solo. The point isn't to redefine what a brass band can do but that's what No BS achieves with their two recent albums. From Richmond, Virginia comes a storm of a brass band that's decided it can do what it wants as long as it does it very, very well.

SIEGEL: Jim Fusilli is the rock and pop critic for The Wall Street Journal.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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