Beacons of the scene: Preservation Hall launches Pres Hall Brass

14 03 2014

From the March 2014 issue of Offbeat:

buku-music-arts-project-photo-offbeat-magazine-march-2014The latest development in Preservation Hall’s kinetic drive to update itself comes in the form of Pres Hall Brass, a relatively new ensemble created with the city’s thriving brass band culture in mind. Featuring the staple talents of bass drummer Tanio Hingle, snare drummer Kerry “Fat Man” Hunter and trumpeter Will Smith, plus a rotating roster of players, Pres Hall Brass aims to serve as the Hall collective’s go-to brass band arm, like the Olympia Brass Band once did.

Of course, times have changed around the Hall since the original Olympia played there every Sunday. For one thing, the collaborative projects helmed by Preservation Hall Creative Director Ben Jaffe in recent years have become a key part of the Hall’s focus. For another, the number of brass bands in the city is on the rise, a renaissance that’s being buttressed by outside interest in the culture. For Pres Hall Brass, says Preservation Hall Managing Director Ron Rona, the sum of those parts equals “more collaboration.”

The band’s first major collaborative effort takes place at the VIP stage at this month’s BUKU Music + Art Project, where they’ll team up with Los Angeles EDM producer the Gaslamp Killer (William Benussen) and New Orleans saxophonist Khris Royal.

“New Orleans music is dance music. I think we sometimes glaze over that. It will be cool to surprise kids who aren’t necessarily familiar with Preservation Hall or even New Orleans jazz,” Rona says when asked how Pres Hall Brass might fit into Gaslamp Killer’s world psychedelia-meets-dubstep aesthetic.

If spreading the gospel of New Orleans music is part of the goal, the BUKU set is likely to help achieve it. The growing festival’s 2013 edition drew a whopping 79 percent of its 14,000-plus concertgoers from outside the city, according to a report issued by the festival.

Still, local culture maintains an important place on the bill, according to BUKU co-producer Dante DiPasquale of Winter Circle Productions.

“The Pres Hall guys are such beacons of the scene in New Orleans,” he says. “Last year, [Pres Hall horns] sat in with Alt J and it became one of the talking points of the whole festival, so we wanted to do it again.”

When Bensussen debuted a world beat-heavy live project complete with a horn section in Los Angeles last fall, DiPasquale saw a fit for Pres Hall, which happily got on board. Khris Royal, who leads the funk-saturated late night jazz ensemble Dark Matter, rounds out the group, along with various special guests.

In addition to handling collaborative opportunities and regular performances, Rona says the Pres Hall Brass will be taking on the bulk of the Hall’s education outreach in the coming months.

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