It would be easy to dismiss Largemouth Brass Band as a one trick pony. Especially if, like me, you rarely take time to listen to brass oriented music. My main exposure to brass, horn driven music in the past has been Lucky Chops at SXSW. I wanted to like it but got bored quickly.
Enter Largemouth Brass Band. This Columbus based collective is a name that I began to see everywhere. So, I decide to take a risk and review their newest release as someone who doesn’t usually know how to respond to this sort of stuff.
So, I listen. The first thing that strikes me is how I’ve attached individual personalities in each instrument. The trumpet is brash and in your face. Its aggressive and a bit obnoxious, but not overly so. The tuba is quirky and there’s a weird sense of humility that goes with it. The trombone is assertive and reliable. It doesn’t hang out in the forefront or the rear. It’s like that friend you can always depend on. The saxophone is classy and slick. The percussion, whether its drums or glockenspiel serves to hold the rhythm and occasionally keep me from zoning out.
The other thing that strikes me are the unexpected places my mind goes when I listen intentionally. When listening to “Squid Kick,” there’s one trumpet section where my mind goes to the psychedelic “Pink Elephants on Parade” sequence from Dumbo. That feeling of ethereal eeriness was unexpected yet oddly appropriate. When listening to “Tarantula” my first thought was “well, this is neither creepy or dark,” it’s more whimsical. Then my thoughts wandered to the Mrs. Spider character in Tim Burton’s animated James and the Giant Peach film. “Currents” makes me feel like I should be sitting in Kafe Kerouac, Columbus’ local beatnik coffee shop, sipping on some tea.
When I sit back and allow myself to just treat this album more so as background music, my mind goes to a more cliché area of thinking of an evening on the town. Sipping a cocktail with friends on a patio with the band in the background. I don’t know why my mind made this the image when I think of horn driven live music with class, but I have a memory from my childhood of walking through the Charlotte, NC airport in the food court. It was nighttime, and we were trying to make a connection, but we passed through a section that was parklike, with several fake trees, a row of white rocking chairs, and a jazz band playing in the background. This was my first true awareness of this feeling – so when I think of being out on the town, feeling activated yet comforted, surrounded by lights – this memory pops up. It’s a pleasant feeling, and one that the Largemouth Brass Band evokes even though I wouldn’t necessarily call them a jazz band exclusively.
You can catch all the members of the band all holding down their own businesses and roles in the Columbus arts community, but this outlet of unity from them provides a pleasant escape for me, so I thank them!