The Brass Monkeys

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Last Show: Tuesday 20 th August 2019

PizzaExpress Jazz Club (Soho)

The Brass Monkeys are an eclectic improvising brass band influenced by jazz, blues, reggae, country, free improvisation, soul, folk. Performing an exciting mix of original material and unusual classics. The band offer a reverent but iconoclastic take on the history of musical improvisation. With a line up of two trumpets, French horn, two trombones, tenor sax, tuba and drums this group is a powerhouse of brass that reflects an exciting mix of youth and experience. We enjoy exploring the textural possibilities of this sound and performances mix solo, duo, trio and ensemble improvisations inspired by our diverse repertoire.    

‘A fun evening with @8BrassMonkeys …, moving from unruly polyphony to heartfelt chorale via Nichols, Monk, Lil Hardin, Lester Bowie, Shepp and more.’

John Sharpe @JazzSnipe

The Brass Monkeys are an eclectic improvising brass band influenced by jazz, blues, reggae, country, free improvisation, soul, folk …… Performing an exciting mix of original material and unusual classics The Brass Monkeys offer a reverent but iconoclastic take on the history of musical improvisation. 

Originally conceived as a quintet of 3 saxophones, guitar and tuba the band recorded Passion [1] on 33records in 1999. The band developed into a 7 piece format in 2016 and toured the UK in December of that year as part of a Triple Bill of Norwich based bands with funding from Arts Council England. The tour finished at The Vortex in London on 21/12/16. 

The repertoire is a mixture of original pieces by Ben Higham and Chris Dowding and a range of material from all kinds of sources including tunes by Herbie Nicols, Bill Frisell, Lillian Hardin-Armstrong, Archie Shepp, Jonas Gwangwa, Lester Bowie, Taj Mahal, Thelonious Monk, Dudu Pukwana………

The band have just reformed with a mix of some of the UK’s most exciting players to explore the textures and timbres that a group of excellent improvisers can bring to this music. In the spring of 2018 the line up changed to include trombonist Annie Whitehead, trumpeter Charlotte Keeffe and saxophonist Paul Jolly and in December 2018 we expanded to an octet when we were joined by French horn player Jim Rattigan and Olly Blackman took over on drums. All members have a history of collaboration on different music projects over the years and these relationships encourage a particular joy in listening to each other and the band as a whole that is evident in our performances. 

Band Lineup

Chris Dowding (trumpets/flugels)

Charlotte Keeffe (trumpets/flugels)

Jim Rattigan (french horn)

Annie Whitehead (trombones)

Dave Amis (trombones)

Paul Jolly (saxes/clarinets)

Ben Higham (tuba/trumpet/flugel/leader)

Olly Blackman (drums)