Updated 4/13/2016 at 8:40am
So you might as well know up front that I am a sucker for wind instruments. Give me a handful of high flying trumpets and a couple of cool trombones or saxophones and I am good. Don’t get me wrong, I love my strings, percussion, and woodwinds. But there is something about a tight a$$ brass section that takes me everywhere I want to be.
I think that my love for horns stems from my childhood experiences at football games and parades.
When I was a kid I loved going to parades. I remember standing along the street watching and listening to all of the participating high school bands. I would become so excited that my little heart would start keeping perfect time with the nearest bass drum.
At any rate, whenever my friends, family and I attended a parade, we would often play ‘Name that Tune.’ In essence, we’d say something like, “Listen y’all! Laney playin’ “One Nation Under a Groove!” or “That’s Josey playin’ “Shake and Dance with Me!”
Naturally, we never referred to the schools by their proper names: Lucy Craft Laney and T. W. Josey; respectively. Frankly there was no need for such formality. Back then, everybody knew that Laney and Josey were the two major players on the high school band scene.
Time for confession! To be honest, I was torn about which band to root for because my neighbors, two handsome brothers, played bass and snare drums for Josey and another family friend played trumpet for Laney!
What to do? What to do? I guess my allegiance must remain in a perpetual state of limbo.
***Neither here nor there side note: I went to a completely different high school. Suffice it to say that our band was a nonfactor–But dammit that’s alright! Go Musketeers! So there!
Anyway, I apologize for taking you guys the long way ‘round but reminiscing is fun!
Meanwhile…back at the parade:
As I said, it was exciting to watch the bands pass by but BABY all hell broke loose when they stopped! Chile we went crazy when the band stopped! Why? Because when a band stops—It’s show time! Honey those jokers would cut the fool! They danced, shouted, blew, drummed, hooted, hollered and preened!!! Everybody in the crowd LIVED for this!
I can’t count the number of near fatalities that almost occurred when the entire crowd ran from one area of the parade to another one simply because someone shouted, “Laney stopped!” As I said, everybody knew that when Laney OR Josey stopped, it was ON!
Needless to say, you could hear them boys blowing all the way from Georgia to South Carolina!
And that, my friends, is the origin of my lifelong love of a bad horn section.
Ok, I’ll be the first to admit that all this was probably much more than you wanted to know 😉
And the point of this long story?
Well… a few weeks ago when I was prepping for “My Jams ’72,” I watched a video of Tower of Power as they performed “You’re Still A Young Man.” Y’all let me tell you, those boys tore that thang up! Now if you decide to seek out and watch the video, notice that the entire band drops down on one knee when the singer says, “Down on my knees.” What? Oh yeah, and after that, the brass section commenced to blow the audience’s hair back!
Baby after I saw that, I knew I had to address the brass!
To that end, I have created a partial list (See below) of groups that boast or boasted a badass brass section or at least a tight brass solo. Please note, these are in no particular order.
Earth Wind and Fire: “Get Away” and pretty much any damn thing else they did!
Con Funk Shun: “Shake and Dance With Me,” “Chase me” and “Fun”
Average White Band: “A Love of Your Own” (Sax solo)
Chicago: “Beginnings” and “25 or 6 to 4”
The Ohio Players: “O-H-I-O” and “Who’d She Coo?”
Blood, Sweat and Tears: Hell you pick one! I’ll just use “Spinning Wheel” as a mighty fine placeholder!
Mass Production: “Firecracker”
Brass Construction: “Moving”
Rose Royce: “I’m Going Down”
SOS: “Take Your Time”
Cameo -Until 1980: “Shake Your Pants,” “Rigor Mortis,” “Cameosis”
Brick: “Ain’t Gon’ Hurt Nobody”
Note: Brick’s trombone is da bomb—Jimmy Brown ain’t no joke; he usually played all of the brass and woodwinds that you hear in Brick songs! Folks say he’s singer Sleepy Brown’s dad. You ain’t ready for them Jawja (Georgia) boys!
James Brown: “Make it Funky”
The Bar Kays: “Anticipation” (Sax solo)
KC and the Sunshine Band: “Get Down Tonight”
Note: Laugh if you want to but go back and look at them on video; peep that horn section! Yessuh!
By the way, there is a video of the brass sections from Chicago and EW&F grooving live to “Beginnings.” It is NOT for the faint of heart! If you think you’re bad, go check it out!
Okay, y’all, I can’t remember every great brass song or section (Herb Alpert/Tijuana Brass came to mind just then) so I am throwing the ball to you.
Tell me about your favorite brass section.