LIVE: HYPNOTIC BRASS ENSEMBLE – BAND ON THE WALL, MANCHESTER

Summer has arrived and Manchester’s Band on the Wall played host to an act on Saturday that could not be better placed to get the carnival atmosphere into full swing.

Just the natural chemistry alone of Hypnotic Brass Ensemble’s makeup is enough to draw in a listener, but beyond that they have built up a loyal following of fans – perhaps not people that would normally be so excited at the thought of spending their weekend watching a brass band.

But this project brings the most traditional of instrumentation right up to date in a way that enthralls and captivates with unbridled energy.

Made up of set of brothers who have been playing shows since they were children; performance, extravagance and dedication were in their blood since day one given that their father is the iconic jazz trumpeter Phil Cochrane, of the Sun Ra Arkestra.

Cochrane was known for being one of the spearheads of an immersive project, fusing music that was influenced by the avant garde and the infectious nature of pop hooks in equal measure.

It could be said that Hypnotic Brass Ensemble try to do the same thing, but the resulting sound is one that is very different. One of the criticisms of bringing hip-hop to the live stage can often be that the tangibility of the music can become lost in a world of pre-recorded DJ loops and babbling MCs.

But the phrase ‘backing track’ isn’t one that the brothers seem to have ever even slightly considered. Although they have basically never known anything else, having been ordered by their father to wake up at 6am everyday to practice before school, Hypnotic Brass Ensemble never miss a beat – to the full appreciation of the packed out crowd at Band on the Wall.

The seven-piece horn group is accompanied by guitar, bass and drums in a way that offers a nice role reversal of the purpose that brass would normally serve while backing up a rock band. This also adds a fluidity to the performance with an MC who comes and goes at his own leisure and band members swapping their horns for the mic at numerous junctures to get the audience going.

Trademark ‘Balicki Bone’ is probably the quintessential demonstration of what the band are about. It seamlessly combines soul, jazz, hip-hop, funk, blues and R&B in a way that is organic and full of energy.

There’s something about this limitless enthusiasm the band have for the audience and the ability of Manchester crowds set of any party that explodes on the night. Band on the Wall has long had a reputation for being the venue of choice for the world’s finest to perform within relatively intimate surroundings, and based on this show Hypnotic Brass Ensemble must be considered among the best of them.

Inevitable crowd pleasers ‘War’ and ‘Kryptonite’ work perfectly alongside more recent material, creating an atmosphere that is not so much a rollercoaster of a show, but more of a constant peak that never comes down. It’s been one of the hottest days of the year so far and the visit of Hypnotic Brass Ensemble has ensured it continues to be a sizzler even after the sun has disappeared.

Patrick Davies

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