Quick Review: Hypnotic Brass Ensemble – Self Titled

Self Titled

Hypnotic Brass Ensemble are a group of brothers, of the brass variety, which hail from the South side of Chicago.  They combine elements of modern day hip hop with funk horns so fluidly you almost forget there isn’t a guitar and bass rock band underpinning it all. Their band name is as appropriate as you could imagine, they are Hypnotic, they are brass players and they are an ensemble.

Their 2008 self-titled album is actually not their first release but it does feature some rerecording of previously released songs in a newer fashion and quality. I actually have seen HBE live as they were on the Gorillaz tour that I saw last year. I unfortunately missed the opportunity to see their own performance in June due to exams.

The album primarily consists of fully instrumental tracks, some have lyrics in part, which refer to the title of the song where as others haven’t. The general feel of this album is extremely bountifully bouncy and enjoyable. Yes, I will admit it that some of it drags and yes some bits do sound a bit similar but then again they are mostly instrumental tracks with just brass. The focus is meant to be a swinging collection of modern brass tracks and it does this perfectly.

‘Ballicki Bone’ is my personal favourite song on this album. A brass ballad, starting with stabs as the drums build. The song becomes incredibly smooth and gentle, a combination of very intricate pieces by all the different kinds of brass.

‘Marcus Garvey’ has a shuffled drum beat from Gabrielle Wallace and is an odd track. It fills a lot looser and moody, detectives are on the loose and they will solve the case of Marcus Garvey’s murder – is what I imagine. Even though he wasn’t murdered and it was named after him in tribute. Still, let me have my fun. Gibbous features a very quick melody from the trombones at the start before moving on to the lead section with a tuba underpining that shakes its tail  at anyone who listens. I dare any one not to listen and resist dancing a little bit. ‘Party Started’ features a tom riddled 8/8 structure of drums. The tuba comes in next followed by jeering and ‘oh!’s from the band. Another highlight worth mentioning. With the repeated ‘I get the party started,’ ‘You get the party jumping’ call and response it is clearly one of where the live studio recording comes through and feels organic. How many albums feel organic in this day and age? Few are far between.

I’ve returned to this album quite often, in particular for the first 5 tracks. It simply has one of the purest ores and grooves and have reinvented the way I hear brass.

  1. Alyo
  2. Gibbous
  3. War
  4. Ballicki Bon
  5. Flipside
  6. Marcus Garvey
  7. Jupiter
  8. Party Started
  9. Rabbit Hop
  10. Sankofa
  11. Hypnotic
  12. Satin Sheets
  13. Rabbit Hop (Version)
  • Gabriel Hubert (“Hudah”) – trumpet
  • Saiph Graves (“Cid”) – trombone
  • Tycho Cohran (“LT”) – sousaphone
  • Amal Baji Hubert (“Baji” or “June Body”) – trumpet
  • Jafar Baji Graves (“Yosh”) – trumpet
  • Seba Graves (“Clef”) – trombone
  • Tarik Graves (“Smoov”) – trumpet
  • Uttama Hubert (“Rocco”) – baritone
  • Gabriel Wallace (“Manuels”) – drums