Youngblood sass rammed

Martin Longley has his quill poised as those Wisconsin wonders, the Youngbloods make another Birmingham visit.

Youngblood Brass Band
Hare & Hounds
August 19th

Over the years, the Youngblood Brass Band have been regulars in Birmingham, not least because of the supportive scene at this Kings Heath venue, the upstairs room easily filled on a Wednesday night.

There are a bewildering profusion of American brass outfits, laying down a more stationary version of the marching band concept. These are the ones that aren’t from New Orleans, and the ones that implant the highest levels of hip hop. The Youngbloods hail from Oregon, Wisconsin, officially assembling in 1998, but with roots stretching back two decades, even if they do still exude a youthful energy.

The entire gig was a 90 minute assault of brass blasting, intelligently sculpted, formed out of multiple influences, from disco to free jazz, and funk to rap. They have the bouncing feel of New Orleans parade music, but snare drum percussionist David Henzie-Skogen (one of three battlin’ sticksmen) leapt forward frequently to deliver acidic gushes of rappin’ couplets, like a one-man Beastie Boy. He and the band have managed to trim a lot of the festival-styled ‘encouragements’ from their performance and The Henz has a pleasingly abrasive form of audience address, sharply taking the piss out of us, and indeed himself.

The doubled trumpets, trombones and saxophones are all well capable of launching into inspired solos, and frequently do so, but some of the most nimble playing comes from surprisingly low quarters, with co-founding sousaphonist Nat McIntosh back in the ranks (he departed for a spell), contributing vocal multiphonics to the spread, and sputtering with a dainty finesse. Then, he’ll switch around to the upended fartography that we all might expect as the norm.

Another striking shift was made with a brief bass clarinet and trumpet abstraction, before the bold bounding re-booted. Even though some of their cover versions didn’t set this scribe’s torch alight, he not being an admirer of Chaka Khan or Michael Jackson, the Youngbloods finished with a jazzed re-working of Killing Me Softly, as popularised by Roberta Flack and the Fugees. Ultimately, their original material is far superior.

Pic: Rene Bradwolff