Review: Hypnotic Brass Ensemble @ Clwb Ifor Bach

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Clwb Ifor Bach | September 28th 2016

It’s rare that the sweatiest room in Cardiff on a Wednesday night isn’t Metros. But Fiesta Bombarda’s top notch bookings made sure Clwb took the top spot this week.

Cardiff favourites Afro Cluster provide stonking support to the main act, preheating the oven with sizzling afrobeats and hiphop at its funkiest. Headed up by rapper Tumi Williams, lyrics riff over high-energy brass and percussion. With clear influences from the likes of The Roots and Fela Kuti and headline set worthy energy, the nine piece are a party band with enough originality to maintain an authentic sound.

We all know we are in for a treat, and Hypnotic Brass Ensemble go in hard from the start. The Chicago band welcome Cardiff into their family (an accurate label: seven members are the sons of jazz trumpet virtuoso and composer Kelan Phil Cohra) and some of the members are topless and dripping within minutes.

Having toured globally for many years and earned much acclaim for their live performances, HBE don’t disappoint; they make the most beautiful noise that brings the carnival atmosphere in an instant. The stage becomes a majestic blur of jazz, hip hop and funk – the band even weave in influences of afrobeats and world music into an electrifying set.

Collaborations with artists such as Erykah Badu, Prince and Gorillaz have raised the profile of the band, but their solo material has more than enough variety to keep the packed upstairs room hooked in. Their most well known track, War, is a rousing call to arms that pops the lid off Clwb; a musical manifesto for peace and harmony that is even more vibrant in a live setting.

Ballicki Bone pulses and skanks its way to a rousing climax and slides in well with some of the more chilled tracks from latest record Sound, Rhythm & Form. Highly satisfied and even more sweaty, the crowd very quickly filtered towards the smoking area to cool off.

Tied into the same historical roots – black music of protest and power – jazz and hiphop need more stage time together in the UK. Hopefully, this tour will once again raise the profile of this genre cross over ; and is the perfect prelude to Black History Month.


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