Ryan Gosling stated in “La La Land” that jazz is slowly dying. Although classical jazz may be declining in popularity, Hypnotic Brass Ensemble incorporates a myriad of horns and trumpets with a fresh sound to modernize the sound of jazz for “A Taste of Chicago.” Feb. 3 I had the opportunity to see the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble at the Parker Playhouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and seeing these talented musicians was one of the most eye-opening experiences I have ever seen.
My friend won four tickets to see the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, but because he had an event the same night, he gave the tickets to me. I had never heard of Hypnotic Brass and did not know what to expect — the only other time I dabbled in jazz was when I dressed up as Nina Simone for a school jazz concert in fifth grade and sang “I Loves You, Porgy” with all the passion my little 10-year-old voice could muster. From then on I had a deep-rooted love for Simone, but other than her, I listen to jazz music once a year: Frank Sinatra’s Christmas album. Christmas is not Christmas without Sinatra.
Therefore, my knowledge in the art of jazz was very limited. But, my limitations compelled me to go to the concert and learn more about a genre of music most of my generation does not appreciate. When I walked into the playhouse, I showed the man at the door my printed ticket. He shined a light on to the numbers and whispered, “I’m going to pretend I never saw this.”
My tickets were for Row K, but because there were about 30 people in the theater, the man directed me to the third row right in front of the musicians. The theater was very empty, but that did not phase the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble. The ambiance of the room made me feel as if I were transported into a 1920s jazz club decorated with deep red and purple hues and a high, droning trumpet seeming as though it speaks its own language.
Eleven men stood on stage — eight of them are brothers who stood in a horizontal line adorned with their trumpets and horns. Three men stood in the back — two had a guitar wrapped around their bodies and one sat high on an elevated drum set; all three men hired off the streets of New York. The men raised their trumpets, horns and drumsticks in unison and began to play their instruments with the greatest sense of passion for their art. Sound erupted in the theater, hitting all corners of the room and ringing in my ears. Each instrument expertly played off of one another creating an orchestral masterpiece even I, a person with limited jazz knowledge, immensely appreciated.
All of a sudden, one of the brothers dropped his trumpet on the floor and picked up the microphone from the stand. At first, I thought he was going to welcome the audience to the theater and thank us politely for showing up. Instead, every person in the theater’s mouth dropped open as he started rapping a melodious flow filled with meaning. He asked the audience “Are they really your friends?” continuously, making us question who we surround ourselves with and think about the people we truly care about.
In that moment, I realized the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble was attempting to save jazz music and assimilate it into popular culture today. Although only 30 people at Parker Playhouse were able to listen to the magic eleven men made that night, the closeness of the crowd and the conversational relationship the musicians and the audience had made the concert even more special. Hypnotic Brass Ensemble showed me that it is not necessary to adorn music with flash and glamor. It is much more important to realize how the music makes you feel and how it connects to your life. Although this generation has not realized the worth of jazz music yet, at least I have been opened up to a world of music I never considered tapping into – and I suggest you do the same as well.
Watch the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble at Warsaw Summer Jazz Days in 2014: