This article was originally written by by Owen Legendre of the Nola Defender
The Brass-A-Holics, with their distinctive blend of go-go and brass band pomp, released their first studio album last week. NoDef caught up with saxophonist Robin Clabby before their album release show on Tuesday night at The Republic to talk about the new album and delineate the meaning of Go-Go Brass Funk.
Since forming in 2010, Winston Turner (formerly of Soul Rebels and Pinstripes Brass Band) and his small army of equally seasoned musicians have been making waves throughout the United States by intrepidly inventing their own genre of music that has come to be known as “Go-Go Brass Funk.”
Already known to New Orleans’ many live music mavens, the band is now stepping into the realm of recorded music, with their first studio album. I Am A Brass-A-Holic, was recorded in bits and pieces over the past six months at Axis Studios, The Music Shed, and Piety Street. With the help of engineering wizard Misha Kachkachishvili and Grammy-winning jazz legend Irvin Mayfield on board as producer, the band manages to channel the intoxicating energy of their live show into their recordings.
“The most interesting thing about this record to me is that we had to figure out a way to compress these three hour sets with no breaks into ten functional songs. We hit so many styles throughout [a show] that we wanted to make sure we represent all that without making a record that’s completely chaotic,”
Clabby credits Mayfield with “sweetening” their already refined sound from extensive gigging. The first track of the album, a fast-paced instrumental funk jam duly titled, “Alien Love Factory”, also features Mayfield’s iconic horn playing, propelling your booty into motion for the rest of the record.
If you haven’t caught a Brass-A-Holics show yet, you should probably know that Robin was not kidding when he said “no breaks”. The pace of Go-Go music, which originated in the Washington DC area in the 1970’s, is quite literal- and it wasn’t uncommon for live performances to go on for upwards of nine hours, with the playing, dancing, and sweating continuing until sunrise. The way Brass-A-Holics have serendipitously merged DC Go-Go’s rhythmic spirit and the more familiar New Orleans brass sound is delightfully funky and they have gained acclaim in both regions respectively playing both the DC jazz festival and New Orleans jazz fest on the Acura stage.
“We’ve gone up to DC and played with a lot of those original Go-Go guys like Gregory “Sugar Bear” Elliot and Experience Unlimited, and we actually were supposed to play with (Go-Go Godfather) Chuck Brown before he died, but ended up doing a tribute concert for him instead,” recounted Clabby.
Go-Go Brass Funk is both a blend of regional culture as well as musicality.
“The tie-in is this real rhythmic percussive element to Go-go music, a certain kind of swinging beat and clave that we fold on top of the New Orleans clave to create this distinctive kind of beat,” said Clabby.
Influenced by a variety of musical styles, elements of jazz, rock n’ roll, pop, funk, and hip-hop that is their songs. The band initially formed to create a platform to play literally whatever they wanted. On any given night, you’ll hear versions of Cyndi Lauper and Nirvana songs followed by traditional New Orleans brass tunes. Because brass music is so intrinsically absorbant of styles, it’s sheer fate that the Brass-A-Holics have tapped into the genre-hopping groove lifeline. Check out their version of Paul Simon’s “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover” for the Grammy’s ReImagined series: