No Hands Brass Band brings an upbeat New Orleans sound to Colorado, with their debut EP Off The Curb. Their album features an instrumental mixture of pop, jazz, funk, and traditional Dixieland swing through their original compositions and arrangements.
The 8-piece ensemble led by alto sax player Matt Rathkey maintains traditional practices of brass bands, like having an improvisational feel and including little melodic nuggets such as a reference to Outkast’s “So Fresh, So Clean.”
The soloists shred through the arrangements, as you’d expect from musicians with college pedigrees, but they leave space for playful interactions: The trumpet feature in title track “Off The Curb” creates a fun interaction between the lead trumpet and ensemble which feels reminiscent of a call and response between a singer and a gospel choir. In “Down Time,” there are moments of individual horns throwing in fills to compliment the rest of the ensemble.
McKenna Reeve’s nonchalant but tight dixieland groove recreates a whole parade of drummers marching along to the band’s music, while in fact she’s planted behind her trap kit like a one-woman drumline.
But amongst all the Dixieland, the EP’s standout track may be a cover of “Oh Devil” written by alternative pop group Electric Guest. The track features funky syncopated horn figures grounded by sousaphonist Jack Hoeksema while the players run lines around his bass line. This track shows a real marriage between the traditional brass band sound and contemporary pop and hip-hop. It’s conceivable that No Hands Brass Band, with its considerable chops, will showcase this marriage more in the future, letting their hands off the wheel a bit and taking their audiences along for the ride.