The Temporary continues to grow and improve the music and arts culture in Basalt for good, bringing in acts that the town might never see otherwise. Friday night, the venue will be welcoming a group from Chicago who have created their own signature sound, perfect for a slightly belated Mardi Gras holiday.
This isn’t the first time Lowdown Brass Band has celebrated Mardi Gras in the mountains. They’ve played Aspen three times before and are always a local favorite. The group has been running with a mountain Mardi Gras tour for a few years now, allowing them to spend some time in places they love. As with most busy, touring groups, they haven’t had the chance to hang around town in the daytime, which baritone sax player Dave Levine said the whole band is looking forward to. They might even sneak in a little skiing if the gigs allow for it.
The group is not new to the scene and celebrated its 15th anniversary last year. “We began as a group of derelict jazz drinking buddies and just wanted to have some fun doing something outside the box,” said Levine.
After years of jamming together, the band has created their own distinct version of brass music. While critics have labeled them with every relatable brass subgenre possible, Levine and the rest of the guys describe themselves as a “hip-hop, street beat brass band.”
Taking inspiration from their hometown of Chicago, it was inevitable that they’d have a plethora of diverse influences. The city is well known for producing hip-hop greats such as Common and Kanye West but also thriving with music from all walks of life. Levine said they have had “hints of reggae, soul and hip-hop that were there at the beginning. The thing that has evolved the most has been the songwriting. The music is becoming more integrated rather than throwing out hints of this, hints of that. We now have a weaving together of these ideas, an evolution of the songwriting from those elements.”
Dialing in a recognizable sound is a task that can take some bands many years to accomplish. It wasn’t necessarily a quick process for the Lowdown Brass Band, but it sounds like the ride there has been a blast. The members of the band have been talented musicians from day one, but Levine attributes their development to the process. “We have always woven different genres that feature all the instruments, but now the production has gotten more involved and very honed.”
As the diverse mix of cultures and genres came together in their music, collaborations were only natural. The Lowdown Brass Band has worked with artists as varied as their own tunes. The list is long but includes critically acclaimed Roy Ayers on the track "Everybody Loves The Sunshine,” Illuminati Congo and Nick the Graduate for “We Just Want to Be” and rappers Ricky B and Bigalow on their Lowdown Bounce record. Levine said that collabs are a great way for them to experiment and try out new styles. Each time they work with another artist, they take away and learn from it.
The current group of eight musicians is known to put on a show that’ll pull you from your seat. When I asked Levine to describe a typical performance, he didn’t hesitate for a second: “Super high energy, a lot of fun, a lot of movement. We try to create a connection with the audience – being present with each other in a fun, safe place. We’re always looking to bring the party. When we started, we decided that if we’re not having fun, there's no point to do this. Oh, and a lot of horns.”
The Lowdown Brass Band is playing at the Temporary this Friday, March 8, at 8 p.m.