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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Boston Brass

© Lydia Lowe 3/7/2011

        Why do tuba players always seem to be the happiest members of the band?  Perhaps I can answer that question by the end of my review.

     I recently had the pleasure of attending a concert by the Boston Brass at the McPherson Opera House.  This group consists of five guys who play the tuba (Andrew Hitz), French horn (Chris Castellanos), trumpet (Jose Sibaga and Jeff Conner), and trombone (Lance LaDuke).  There was a euphonium and even a ukulele made an appearance.

     Each member of the group got their turn on the mic to introduce the various musical selections that were going to be played, to discuss information relevant about the other members of the group, or to give a band mate a well intentioned ribbing; as Andrew Hitz (tuba) did for Jeff Conner (trumpet), the only original member of the group.  Hitz mentioned something about Conner being the only original member of the group, apparently he'd run everyone else off, and now he was paying big bucks to the new members to keep them with the group.

     Each member  performed a featured selection specific to their instrument.  At one point, the group played “Manteca” a Latin jazz piece by Dizzy Gillespie.  This piece of music features a piano that plays a rift over and over throughout the piece.  This is an all brass group, no piano, so I was intrigued by how the Boston Brass would accomplish this.  It began with the tuba, then the trombone joined in and finally, last but not least, the French horn joined the rift while the trumpets played the actual melody of the song.  Fantastic!  The audience even got into the act as LaDuke sang the Cab Calloway song, “Minnie the Moocher” and the audience joined in by singing the chorus.

     The range of musical genre’s were incredible.  The Boston Brass covered chamber music, classical, big band, swing, jazz, Broadway, and even the movies.  After intermission, they played the ending theme music from “The Three Amigos’ just because they liked it and it was cool!  There were well known pieces and many of their own compositions.

     One of their original pieces was a song that LaDuke wrote for his mother.  It began with “Y. . .is for the many years she gave you”.  If you followed along with the spelling it eventually spelled out “Yo Mama”.  By the time he was done with the song, “Yo Mama” had pulled in “Osama, the Dali Lama, Barack Obama, The Bahamas, and Madonna into the song.  All this while LaDuke strummed a  ukulele and sang accompanied by Hitz on the tuba and wondering why three of his fellow band members had left the stage.

     Needless to say, it was a delightful evening.  I enjoyed myself immensely, as did the rest of the audience.  I never did actually figure out why tuba players always seem to be the happiest members of the band.  But  Andrew Hitz did smile the entire time he played the tuba.  I still haven’t figured out how he did that.

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