Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Mnozil's "Blue", a bunch of other tunes, a man in a ratty black wig & red cape. And some kick-ass brass playing.

I've been watching Mnozil Brass for several years now and think they're fabulous. They combine music and comedy in a stunning way. They're septet out of Austria. They are VERY good, playing a repertoire of Balkan folk music, pop tunes, classical and semi-classical, jazz, and whatever else.

Here's "Blue", which seems to function as their theme song:

This is a short version. Notice the soulfulness of the playing. Also notice a slight 'glitch' at about 1:40 where the left-most trumpet player steps forward and introduces himself, "Thomas Gansch". This is in fact edited from a longer recording where Gansch introduces the members of the group with "Blue" riffing in the background. Gansch wrote this tune. Oh, and wait for the ending, a characteristic Mnozil touch. It's totally out of character with most of what came before, and yet it works. It brings the tune to an emphatic close.

This is "Moldavia" and is one of the first Mnozil performances I watched. It starts slow. Notice the comedy. And then it goes into full-tilt gonzo odd-meter time that is just breath-taking. This is technical virtuosity of a high order:

"Lonely Boy" is utterly different. If you just listened you'd quickly lose interest. There's almost nothing going on in the music itself – almost, but not entirely. Watch how they stage the performance and try to guess where it's going:

Amazing, no? What is this, music, comedy, nonsense, peformance art, all of the above? Where are these guys from, Area 51?

Now, we give their tuba player, Wilfried Brandströtter, his own solo feature. Trumpet solos, trombone, sure. But tuba's are supposed to be accompanying instruments. They provide the musical bottom. But they don't do a lot of showy stuff in the limelight.


Brandströtter plays the s**t out of the tuba while the others mess around in the background. Notice how, at the end, the others keep Brandströtter from taking bows. Then he switches things up in a way that exposes the macho heart of brass playing. And they're utterly serious about this super-hero music, cape and all. But then, didn't Richard Wagner invent super-hero music?

A favorite of mine, a bit of trumpet virtuosity:

They take it pretty straight. This next one is all bent out of shape, a medley of pop tunes:

I love the falsetto singing on "Stayin' Alive". But my favorite part of the segment is "Gimme Some Lovin" (4:17), in part, I suppose, because I've played this song for years with The Out of Control Rhythm and Blues Band in upstate New York, but mainly because it's so kickass! And then Michael Jackson's "Thriller".

I could go on and on. But it's time to bring this one to a close. Perhaps I'll do another post of Mnozil clips at another time.

I promised you an unedited version of "Blue", but first you should listen to a bunch of school kids playing it, the Stiška Trobla Brass ensemble. Yes, they get the notes right and they're in tune, but they are also so very soulful. That's what's important. Gives me hope for the future.

Finally, as promised, here's the full recording of "Blue", with introductions and subtitles. Enjoy.

The introductions are not entirely serious. I assume they're largely fictitious, and borderline scatological. Is there a relationship between the content and tone of those introductions and the soulfulness of the music?