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Thursday, February 15, 2018

Northern Monkey Brass Band @ Billy Bootleggers - Feb 13

Graham Hardy (trumpet); Ben Chinnery (trumpet); Jamie Toms (tenor saxophone); Mark Ferris (trombone); Jason Holcomb (trombone); Adam Sinclair (snare drum); Brendan Murphy (bass drum) & Phil Rosier (tuba)
(Review by Russell).
A first Mardi Gras at Billy Bootleggers. Who to invite to the party? The Northern Monkey Brass Band, that’s who! Graham Hardy’s New Orleans-inspired eight-piece band is the go-to outfit on occasions like this. The horn players bring little baggage with them, Phil Rosier slings his tuba over one shoulder and the rhythms boys – Adam Sinclair and Brendan Murphy – split the kit in half making it an easy-in, easy-out gig.
Billed as ‘Billy’s Fat Tuesday Spectacular Mardi Gras Special’ the Nelson Street venue, with its one room, low ceiling, low-level lighting set-up is ideal in helping create an atmosphere and the Northern Monkeys set about having a party. From the start, it was clear that some patrons were hearing the band for the first time but it wasn’t long before they were whooping and hollering.

The A-Team to Flash Gordon, the Northern Monkeys had a blast. The many smiling faces were evidence that people ‘got’ what the band is about – familiar, non-jazz tunes given a New Awlins’ twist. The musicianship of the highest order, The Sly Capuchin featured the amazing trombone playing of Jason Holcomb. In the absence of David Gray, the ex-pat American blew big and bold and Billy Bootleggers’ Mardi Gras crowd loved it. Bandleader Graham Hardy soloed on Attitude, later going walkabout blowing up a storm as the rhythm section stirred up a mighty tasty gumbo.

Jason Holcomb’s Herculean efforts were matched by fellow ’bone man Mark Ferris on the New Orleans’ staple Iko Iko and it is highly likely that he’ll be in the Strictly Smokin’ Big Band’s ’bone section on Saturday evening at the band’s eagerly anticipated  Alphabetti Theatre gig with guest star Paul Booth. The tune with no name is just that (suggestions to Graham Hardy c/o Northern Monkey Brass Band), and the lack of a moniker is no reason not to play it so they did. Tuba man Phil Rosier always gets a solo spot and he went way down low and way up high on Funky Pie. A fist-pumping Rosier indicated our man reached the spot not once but twice – low then high.

Two sets of Louisiana-inspired tunes, an American Shipyard beer, the tempting aroma of Billy’s own recipe gumbo, this was a deeply funky Mardi Gras down on Nelson Street. Encore won, the Jackson 5’s I Want You Back closed the show. Could this become an annual Mardi Gras booking for the Northern Monkey Brass Band? Watch this space.   
Russell    

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