FUNKY AND GROOVIN’ WITH THE BRASS-A-HOLICS
This article was originally written by Jackson Sinnenberg for ON TAP online.
Around the two hour mark of the Brass-A-Holics’ set at the Hamilton on June 24th, part of the Tenth Anniversary DC Jazz Festival, front man/trombone player Winston Turner grabbed his mic and roared to the energized crowd, “We don’t stop. We do this.” This statement, in so few words, perfectly captures everything that makes up the Brass-A-Holics Go-Go Brass Funk band and their live shows. Those in the audience knew how true these words were; the band did not take a single pause between songs until almost an hour and a half into the show.
In this way, the Brass-A-Holics exist as a version 21st century, New Orleans-born version of the Grateful Dead. Much like the Dead’s legendary live sets, the Brass-A-Holics’ set is a constantly evolving and lively flow of widely diverse music. Brass band, funk based jams flow into medleys of Naughty by Nature and Wreckx-N-Effect, which then turn into full blown covers of “Roar” and “Royals,” all with a highly original spin.
What helps to create is energizer bunny effect is the percussion, provided by Dwayne Muhammad. Go-Go music thrives on the rhythms created by Afro-Cuban percussion instruments like congas and bongos, and this beat is what both propelled and anchored the Brass-A-Holics throughout the night. The show, in fact, began by Mr. Muhammad stepping alone onto the Hamilton’s stage to begin playing the Go-Go beat – the beat that did not stop.
Propelled by the non-stop, grooving Go-Go beat, the Brass-A-Holics built their sent around songs and styles that could easily be accentuated by the beat like funk and hip-hop. However, one of the true joys of the Brass-A-Holics’ shows is seeing how they play around with and make widely different styles of music their own. One of the show’s clear highlights was a Top 40 medley that evolved into a very Afro-Cuban-influenced yet hard rocking cover of “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Hearing the band put a whole new spin on “Fancy,” Thrift Shop,’ and “Let’s Get It Started” was already rewarding, but when the crowd first heard those iconic Teen Spirit chords, they completely lost it.
With their sound that combines brass band and large scale rock/jam band, the Brass-A-Holics can play anything. With the make-up of horn players/vocalists—Turner (Trombone), Tannon Williams (Trumpet), and Robin Clabby (tenor sax)—a guitar shredder, a fierce organist/keyboardist, and a slamming rhythm section the band has the make up to draw on virtually every thread of America popular music, allowing them to reach nearly an audience. From a hot jazz version of “The Saints Go Marching In” to an all brass interpretation of “Paint It, Black” and a one of the most on-point covers of Stevie Wonders’ “I Wish,” the band can pull anything out of their magical music hat. The member’s formidable musical chops are only bolstered by their front men’s sheer dynamite performance ability and charisma. Clabby, Williams, and Turner dance, hype up the crowd, harmonize beautifully, and spit fierce rhymes as naturally as the best entertainers.
The Brass-A-Holics are not a band to be missed. Whether you’re looking for a three hour dance party (at least 50% of the crowd was on the dance floor for most of the evening) or a group with serious musicianship and performance ability, you will find a place at a Brass-A-Holics show. Just be careful. By the end of the night, you too will be saying “I am a Brass-A-Holic.”