Hypnotic Brass Ensemble is comprised of eight brothers, sons of Jazz musician and one time Sun Ra Arkestra trumpeter Kelan Phil Cohran, which begs the question of whether musical talent is genetic, because their ability to play brass seems to be in their DNA.
Smoov, Baji, Yoshi and Hudah on Trumpet, Rocco on Baritone and Clef and Cid on Trombone; with LT on Sousaphone in the middle and their drummer keeping time behind.
Visually, you were immediately struck by 8 varying horns of golden proportions. In the middle was a Sousaphone Tuba – worn effortlessly like circular lifebuoy across the shoulders and chest. Fanning out on both sides of the dulcet deep sousa, were three handsome players on the left, four to the right. Each set of brothers were bopping in time and emphasis as they played, swaying in opposite directions to their counterparts on the other side. Behind this glimmering brass formation, the drummer sat keeping perfect time with the nonchalant air of perfect calm.
Nearly all the members showed their skill and ability at MCing – either cajoling or encouraging the crowd, rapping along to the hip hop beats and brassy flourishes that Hypnotic Brass Ensemble specialise in.
Their synchronised body rocking was just as mesmerising as the sounds they generated, taking turns between unison and solo. You really didn’t feel the lack of any other instrument – brass had all the tonal registers and flavours you might desire.
They played a lot of the material from their Bulletproof Brass EP, showing that brass can do bust out party dance when handled right. Their banter and encouragement of the crowd was skilful, they had us eating out of their hands, obeying commands and spurring left-right rivalry.
The symmetry and opposition of their movements was a joy to behold, and the synergy of crunchy muddy deep tuba with soaring sweet elongated trumpet made it a great show and one that had people grinning all around.
“What we just explained to you was our heart and soul through music,” said one of the players as he stepped forward to take the roving microphone. Indeed, the joy and feeling behind the music was palpable, and their encouragement and command over the crowd to enjoy was infectious.
Hypnotic Brass Ensemble’s ability to conjure eminently danceable booty slapping brass, with moments of high baroque, and then to the best spy soundtracks of the 70s made them an exciting live experience.
Their phrasing – the ability to define beats and segments, simply by the expulsion of breath, was incredible. Likewise, the degree and extent of variation to what each player expressed made for exciting listening – the cohesion of it all seamless and exact.
At one point, they dimmed the lights and requested all the mobile phones to be held up – and the fairy light filled Forum was truly hypnotised. They never faltered, easily segueing from séance calm to all-hail the party and explosion of frenetic brass with the desire to dance. Hypnotic Brass Ensemble certainly lived up to their name.
– Anaya Latter