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Saturday, August 03, 2019

CD Review: Northern Monkey Brass Band - Northern Monkey Business


Northern Monkey Brass Band: Graham Hardy (trumpet); Alastair Lord (trumpet); Jamie Toms (tenor sax); Mark Ferris (trombone); David Gray (trombone); Phil Rosier (tuba); Adam Sinclair (snare drum); Brendan Murphy (bass drum) + George Welch (vocal)
(Review by Russell)

Graham Hardy's Northern Monkey Brass Band is one of Tyneside's most accomplished outfits coming up with the goods time and again on the local gig circuit. Northern Monkey Business is the eight piece band's second CD release. If there is such a thing as the 'difficult' second album then it definitely doesn't apply to this one. It's every bit as good as the first one (High on Life) and the tunes are, as some might say, 'bangers', in a street brass band sort of way!


Ten tracks, seven composed and arranged by Hardy, three 'traditional' numbers arranged by the trumpet playing bandleader, Northern Monkey Business comes in at around fifty two minutes and there is never a dull moment. The band members' jazz credentials have been well documented but it is their collective cv encompassing rock, pop, orchestral, experimental and more which gives the Northern Monkey Brass Band a distinctive edge.

Attitude, the opening track, has just that, 'attitude'. Not in tiresome 'big I am' style, far from it, rather eight excellent musicians deciding they'll have a good time and this recording suggests they did just that. Hardy's sleeve notes identify the soloists track by track although those who've heard the band live - that's quite a few of us! - will have little difficulty identifying who's who. In short, trumpeter Alastair Lord invariably hits the high Cs and the big, boistrous trombone blasts come courtesy of David 'Showtime' Gray. That said, Mark Ferris has been known to plunger with the best of the 'bone battalion. 

The percussion boys - Adam Sinclair and Brendan Murphy - feature on Monkey Blood and, it should be said, these two radiate enjoyment. Go hear the band at a gig and see for yourself! Simian Ska is a skanking vehicle for first, bandleader Hardy, then Gray, it's right up his street is this one! Come to think of it, Showtime is from the same school of musical thought as our percussionists - good time playing with chops to back it up. 

A Northumbrian folk song features a guest appearance by George Welch. Water of Tyne is afforded a stately treatment (solos from Hardy, Jamie Toms, tenor sax and Gray) to accommodate the legendary folk singer's vocals.    

Northern Monkey's Second Line is on a par with material from the likes of the Dirty Dozen and the Youngbloods and Hardy's arrangement of the closing track, What a Friend (opening with marvellous analogue recording-like crackles!), would go down well on the streets of N'Awlins. Perhaps one day the Northern Monkey Brass Band will make it to the Crescent City. Now then, wouldn't that be something?! 
Russell
Northern Monkey Business (NMBB 002) is available from: 

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