|One Final Note Review: The Boston area is not new territory for brass bands. Besides its rich tradition of adventurous large ensembles, it also was home to Les Miserables, a wonderful brass band that connected the sound of New Orleans with traditions as far flung as the Punjab. The Revolutionary Snake Ensemble doesn't aspire to such a global reach.
On its premier recording Year of the Snake, the band sticks to more indigenous styles—Big Easy second line, to be sure, with some Latin, fusion and soul as well as a nod to that intergalactic drum major Sun Ra. While the notes credit both saxophonist Ken Field and trumpeter Scott Getchell with starting the band, it's clearly Field's pet project. Getchell only appears on three tracks, including some pungent trumpet contributions on the Big Easy-flavored opener "Parade". Field, on the other hand, blows throughout the session with a rhythm 'n' blues directness and has a hand in composing half of the 10 tracks.
A good number of those tracks favor a body-swaying simplicity powered by the drums of Ethan Meyer and Sean Paull with several guest percussionists. (The band has a shifting personnel with electric bassist Aaron Bellamy and acoustic bassist Derek Van Beever sharing duties and trumpeter Jon Fraser and trombonist Bob Pilkington also among the regulars.) On tunes such as "Soul Power" and "El Chocl", that simplicity verges on the simplistic. More adventurous tracks include the musical traffic jam "Central Square" and my favorite "Year of the Snake", a brief collectively worked up number with a pair of moaning trombones staggering over an insistent march beat.
This session is easy to like on the first audition, and many tracks will be perennial party pleasers, making up some for its occasional lack of musical substance.