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East Angles Brass Band

The New Orleans Sound is Alive in the Fens

The members of East Angles Brass are bringing us music at a time when live performances are a rarity – and it sounds great!

Don’t be surprised if you hear music straight from Louisiana coming down a street near you soon. The loose, raucous sound of New Orleans jazz is spreading across the region, thanks to the members of East Angles Brass.

The band was formed in 2014 by a few friends who made up the brass section of a Northern Soul band. David Maddison played the album Unlock Your Mind by the Soul Rebels Brass Band to his friends, and that was the catalyst.

David says, ‘The album blew my mind. I’d never heard brass band music like it. It really got us all into New Orleans music, and we were soon trying out tunes in my living room. From there, it took us a couple of months to get our first gig at a local Battle of the Bands competition.’

The band has since performed across East Anglia, with a blend of original music and covers, both pop songs and more traditional New Orleans jazz. Picking up new fans has mostly been down to word of mouth and the power of social media. When a band is this good, and playing a style of music that is rarely heard locally, it’s no wonder that videos of them spread so well. The ‘shareability’ is boosted by the wonderful pictures taken by Lucy Warren, a huge fan of the band.

Taking it to the streets

David explains another reason why East Angles Brass has reached so many people. ‘We often perform while marching through the streets of wherever we happen to be, either as part of an official parade or just off our own bat. That way we can reach people who wouldn’t necessarily buy a ticket to a gig.’

Currently, the main staples of the band are David on trumpet, Dan Sheehan on trombone, Lauren Young on baritone sax, Katie Black on alto sax, and Dave Jackson and Tom Hartley on drums. But the band has a somewhat flexible line up, with anything from five to ten musicians performing at a gig.

With most of the members busy gigging with other bands and teaching music, this flexibility enables the band to perform even when a few members are unavailable. It’s also in keeping with the loose and easy sound that characterises New Orleans jazz.

David says, ‘It can certainly be a bit of a logistical challenge. We have to think on our feet sometimes, but I actually really like that element of it. It keeps it fresh for every gig. We also don’t take ourselves too seriously. Playing brass instruments for two hours at a time is hard work, and we don’t get on each other’s backs about making mistakes. It’s all part of the New Orleans sound!’

The band is something of a collective, and anyone is always welcome to come and have a go. As David says, ‘The most important thing is to be comfortable improvising and to be aware of what the other musicians in the band are doing. We don’t always stick to the same song structure, so you’ve got to be able to keep up!’

Looking to the future

Covid-19 has had an effect on the band, of course. But it hasn’t stopped them playing altogether. Just before lockdown they played around some housing estates and outside a care home in King’s Lynn to raise spirits. As soon as lockdown easing meant they could perform again, they played around the village of Docking for people who had been self-isolating. Recently, there have been outdoor gigs in Fakenham, Marshland and Thorney.

The band remain optimistic about the future. They were making plans to extend their live schedule beyond East Anglia when the virus hit, and that’s still an objective. They are planning more ‘walkabout’ gigs for the autumn and there will be Christmas busking if venues aren’t able to put on shows. They have also recorded an EP of original music, which they hope to release and tour with next year.

You can get involved in East Angles Brass even if you don’t know your cornet from your euphonium. if you want them to play in your town, connect with them on Facebook or Instagram and let them know!

This article has been reproduced by courtesy of The Fens magazine. Click here to view more of their articles.

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