Tuesday, 10 September 2013

#CRUSHWORTHY - High And Mighty Brass Band!

Story by Marc Watley

                                                                                                                                 Photo: Megan Blackburn

High And Mighty Brass Band! High and mighty, indeed. The band's collaborators include such music stalwarts as Galactic and DJ Logic, and they've shared the stage with such legends as Dr. John, Rebirth Brass Band, and Trombone Shorty. Their acronym [HMBB!] even commands attention.

Just before an eight-member HMBB! rained fire upon a mostly unsuspecting Brooklyn crowd last month, I sat down with the band over drinks and Brooklyn Bowl’s fittingly New Orleans-inspired grub, and had a chat with founder and bandleader Evan Howard. 

How did you guys get started? 

The band was actually started here in New York City. 

New York City?!?

“[Laughs] Yeah. I went to University of New Orleans to study music. Funny thing is that I didn't play any brass band music. It wasn't until I came back to New York for grad school at the Manhattan School of Music – it was after this that I wanted to do something that was the perfect mix of jazz and party music. Something where I could have the enjoyment of improvisation and solos, but also have a groove.” 

The brass band sound brought this all together for you.

“Right. Brass band music was something I could do that took me from being one of thousands of jazz drummers to what only a few people can do. Also, it's lot more fun to say 'hey, come out to my gig at Brooklyn Bowl, where we're opening up for Galactic, than hey, come to this little jazz club.'"

You bring the NOLA vibe hard, but I've also heard everything from Earth Wind & Fire to Soca and Brazilian in your sounds. Where do you draw influence?

“I love this instrumentation so much because you can literally do anything with it. There’s something about the brass instruments that is just so versatile. The way I write is to approach the music from different kinds of grooves – it always starts with bass line, and builds from there.

We’re interrupted by an order of chicken muffaletta and bread pudding.

We also get a lot of people coming through and adding to our sound. One of the girls sitting in with us tonight [the amazing Mayteana Morales] plays with the Pimps of Joytime.”

That's brass band culture, right there.

“It is. Brass band culture is people flowing through all the time. It’s complicated to have a band this big, especially with horn players. It’s kind of like herding cats sometimes.”

“Chad was one of the O.G’s!”, says dancer and percussionist Jamie Newman, referring to saxophonist Chad Gales, who is seated down the table from us. Evan chimes back in:

“Exactly. Chad was with us from the beginning, and then spent the last few years away, on a cruise ship, and now he’s back, playing with us.” 

Obviously you’ve got a fluid vibe going. You guys recently played Pork in the Park festival up in Connecticut. How was that, and how many ribs did you guys eat? 

“Ahh, yeah – we did Pork in the Park, which was good. It was lots of music, and plates upon plates of ribs. The fortunate thing, too, is we get to do fun private functions. We just did the Bloomberg company picnic, which might sound crazy, but I'm told it's one of the largest corporate parties in the world. They took over Randall's Island, and had literally thousands of people there. It was fantastic, playing our music amongst all the people and stilt-walkers.”

So, we'll be seeing HMBB! at more festivals?

“Our goal is to do more and more festivals and, I mean, I won't really be happy until we're just out on the road and playing as much as possible.” 

What’s next for you guys? You released "Round I" back in 2010, which you have up on iTunes. Any plans for recording new sounds in between your touring? 

“Definitely. Right now, the plan is to get a consistent stable of [band members] so we can go on the road, then in the next few months, we'll be ready to get back into the studio and we'll be recording something new.”

The energy from HMBB! at live shows is legendary, and their Brooklyn Bowl show later that night with the almighty Galactic was no exception. After a procession through the bowlers, diners, and partiers, HMBB! turned up the heat on stage for what seemed like hours, then ended with their trademark off-stage 'lagniappe' – a 20-minute long, impromptu second line in the middle of the crowd. 

This was obviously not lost on the Galactic crew, who called HMBB! back to the stage to sit in on two of their encore tunes. HMBB! is always a party in progress – one  that's clearly never over with these guys. Even when the venue says so. 


HMBB! on Facebook 

HMBB! on Soundcloud