Brass Monkey - "Live In Time And Space"
(Weed Records 2001, WEED 7905)
From Aural Innovations #17 (September 2001)
From San Francisco, the Brass Monkeys play a rollicking brand of New Orleans styled jazz that's heavy on the swing and often veers into freejazz territory. There's plenty of BRASS in the Brass Monkeys lineup. The band consists of Jon Birdsong on sousaphone (a name AI readers should recognize from his involvement with Mushroom), Elton 'Shyam' Bradman on bass drum and cymbal, Joe Cohen on alto sax and percussion, Tom Griesser on baritone sax and percussion, Mike Rinta on trombone and percussion, Dave Scott on trumpet and percussion, Kevin Stevens on snare drum, hi-hat, and cymbal, Adam Theis on trombone and bass drum, plus guests on sax, clarinet, and piccolo.
Overall, the Brass Monkeys' music is a bit "normal" for Aural Innovations, though that's not to say it isn't enjoyable because these guys know how to SWING. When I lived in Atlanta in the 1980s I made several trips to New Orleans and would spend nearly my entire visits in the French Quarter jazz clubs. Believe me, this is the kind of music that makes you want to toddle down the street with a Hurricane in one hand and a Mint Julep in the other. (Perfectly legal in the French Quarter.)
The set opens with "Saints", the Brass Monkeys' interpretation of the classic "When The Saints Go Marchin In". The next four track are originals which take off a bit into more freejazz territory though the New Orleans swing is very much in evidence. If you're into horn dominated jazz then there's an orgy waiting for you here. "Voodoo Duty" is one of my favorites. It's an enormous big band jam session which clearly had the crowd at this live performance toe tapping and cheering. Brass Monkeys also do covers of Duke Ellingtons's "Limbo Jazz" (big band meets Mexican cantina) and Stevie Wonder's "I Wish". With "I Wish" the Brass Monkeys have conjured up sweet memories for this listener. I well remember how this song (and many others from the great Songs In The Key Of Life) dominated the airwaves years ago. And they've made it their own by playing it in the style heard throughout the rest of their set. There's a few minutes of silence at the end of the song, but soon a grungier space jazz rocking jam with bits of funk kicks in. The horns blast off into territory that reminded me a little of Gong. Definitely different from the rest of the music.
For more information you can visit the Brass Monkeys web site at: http://www.brassmonkeybrassband.com.
Live In Time And Space is distributed by Weed Records. You can visit their web site at: http://www.weedrecords.com.
Contact via snail mail c/o Weed Records; 3014 Shattuck Ave; Berkeley, CA 94705.
Reviewed by Jerry Kranitz