DOWNBEAT MAGAZINE APRIL 2018
The Chicago-based Lowdown Brass Band proves you don’t have to be tied to New Orleans to produce a powerful brass band album. With its latest disc, the eclectic Lowdown Breaks, the group works to pay homage to the institution of hip-hop, setting its gaze specifically on the breakbeat, while keeping an eye trained on the jazz genre. Just as proto-DJs did before them, Lowdowncreates a unified style from diverse musical influences, sounding at various points like a New Orleans trad band (“2nd Line Hop”), a funkified Tower of Power-style outfit (“Live It Up”) and a Chicago-esque horn-rock group (“Ponder This”). But what unifies the album is its horn lines. This ensemble is a little more sub-dued than its N’awlins counterparts, with pre-cision taking priority over all-out power. But the album doesn’t suffer for its laid-back vibe. Quite the contrary: The clean sound grants MCs and guest vocalists space to shine. Featured MC Billa Camp flexes some seri-ous lyrical muscle, with a silky delivery that filters poetic themes through colloquial language. Part of that is a product of his influenc-es. Though based in Chicago, his work clear-ly has been informed by legends of East Coasthip-hop, especially Nas and Q-Tip. Meanwhile, reggae artist Fada Dougou adds a stormy feroc-ity to his feature, “Don’t Wait, Right Now,” and The Dread contributes a gritty, hard-bitten refrain to “Ghost Town,” a song that sports themelody of The Specials’ classic.
There’s a reason why performers as distinct as Dumpstaphunk and trombonist Wycliffe Gordon would want to perform with the Lowdown Brass Band on tracks such as “Ghost Town,” the first listen selection form the ensemble’s latest project LowDown Breaks. The LowDown Brass Band hits hard with a horn section that can harmonize when playing in unison, while also the individuals possess the chops to step out on their own. That horn section is backed by drums that play funk and hip-hop – all in that classic New Orleans shuffle march style. That instrumental talent is on display on “Ghost Town,” a track where the band confirms what other instrumental hip-hop groups such as The Roots have made obvious for years – that musicians can match the most skilled MC.
With a blistering array of horns, funktacious drums and a powerful sousaphone, the Chicago-based brass set has also perfected a gritty and dynamic sound through the genres of hip-hop, soul, ska and rock. The fusion of MC Billa Camp’s poetic rhymes and adaptive storytelling, one of the band’s leading vocalists, has helped catapulted LDB’s national movement with cruising vocals, ferocious depth and provocative flows that helped audiences to capture the LDB experience.
- The Fox and King
People have been dancing to New Orleans parade brass and drum bands for more than a century, and with Low Down Breaks, the LDB shows that this genre can bend contemporary styles to its will and keep the second line dancing well into the future. Strongly Recommended.