Published on June 29th, 2017 | by Stacey McLaughlin0
Jazzfest: Pile of Bones Brass Band
Regina’s Pile of Bones Brass Band lit up the Sasktel Saskatchewan Jazz Festival stage at The Broadway Theatre on Saturday night. Here’s Stacey’s show review!
This year for the SaskTel Saskatchewan Jazz Festival the Pile of Bones Brass Band played two shows on Saturday, June 24. They played a more laid-back show on the free stage as a part of SASKJAZZ x PRIDE YXE festivities at noon, which was fun for the whole family, in addition to their opening for The Blind Boys of Alabama at 8pm at the Broadway Theatre. While the band has been together for seven years, their band leader explained that it was their first time playing at the Broadway Theatre, and what an impressive debut it was.
For those not familiar with the Pile of Bones Brass Band, they are a highly energetic ensemble who specialize in a colourful range of musical styles from soul and funk, to traditional New Orleans jazz and R&B. This Regina based group tours extensively, and has performed with local, national, and internal artists since forming in 2010. The group relies on a strong brass section, a steady bassline provided by the sousaphone, expert drumming, and slick guitar licks to provide their unmistakable sound.
The crowd that had assembled for the show was predominantly a salt & pepper crowd with a few younger faces sprinkled throughout. They were smartly dressed but exuded a casual feeling, this group was here for a good time. This was a sold-out show – one of the first to sell out for the Jazz Fest this year. Once the band took the stage, the crowd erupted into applause. All band members were very well dressed, in the bare minimum a dress shirt and dress pants, but many had vests, or even blazers. They didn’t rest on their laurels, but immediately started off with audience participation exercises: the good old-fashioned hand clap, with the band leader triumphantly proclaiming, “If you ain’t with me, you’re against me.” A risky move for an opening band, but it paid off as it seemed the charisma of the band leader and the energy of the band were contagious and the audience were swept up immediately, clapping along while he played his tambourine. This first song also featured both a trumpet and trombone solo. Lots of energy – leader on tambourine and singing, trumpet and trombone solos.
As they moved on through each song they continued to demonstrate more of their musical dynamism, from sharp poppy fast tunes, to slow, mellow, croon-y ballads, right into guitar centric funky riffs. As in the opener the audience was often encouraged to, “Join in if you know it!” Every song was sharp, precise, and perfectly executed. The solos were evenly spread out so every member of the band had a chance to shine. They also made a point to mention that they wanted to make sure that the audience was warmed up for the headliners, then he took some extra time to introduce each the member of the band.
A few highlights came near the end of the performance. Their Blackbird Special was as close to New Orleans as you can get without crossing the border. The performance was complete with chorus and solo sections that will be familiar to anyone with experience at Jazz festivals/clubs; the leader stepped off to the side to let the instrumentalists do their thing. Another real crowd pleaser was their take on a western tune; the audience could be heard to be signing along Tennessee Waltz, which the band had set to a good swing beat, and quite comically the band leader played off that the trombonist was the antagonist of the narrative. Finally, they closed with a capella version of ‘I’ll Fly Away’ which again, the audience couldn’t seem to resist joining in on – and the band harmonized the song perfectly. They then played the song on their instruments for which they received a standing ovation for this while they were still playing. I think it was very safe to say that the crowd wasn’t just adequately warmed up for the Blind Boys of Alabama, they were positively glowing.
Concert Photo Credit: Adrien Begrand