Clare Jazz starts the year with brass band dubstep: GABRIELLA FLATT tells you how it went.

Clare Jazz, Sunday  16th October

Hot Botz Brass Band, The Brass Funkeys

[rating:4/5]

The smoky, subdued surroundings of Clare College Cellars have always struck me as one of the best concert venues in Cambridge, offering a unique and varied programming of both local musical talent and jazz musicians from across the country. Last night proved to be no exception with performances by both The Brass Funkeys and The Hot Botz Brass Band.

The animated delivery of The Brass Funkeys was highly infectious, and this was reflected in the audience’s enthusiastic reaction. Their set was designed so that the listener could not but help become involved in the musicians’ brazen and explosive performance. The transfer of energy from band to audience was palpable and made even more enlivening by the intimate surroundings. The band’s eclectic mix of hip-hop, jazz, funk and reggae proved a solid background for the individual solos.

The band was extremely tight, and each performer seemed immersed in its timbre. The voicings blended smoothly into one another, each instrument audible but never obtrusive within the balance. For a brass band this can be a tough challenge to pull off. Don’t be fooled by the frivolous presentation: underneath the joviality, the band possesses a tight professionalism.

Whereas The Brass Funkeys made a conscious effort to interact with the audience, The Hot Botz Band were more self-contained, forcing the audience to work harder to achieve the same level of communication.

At first I was somewhat sceptical as to how well the incorporation of dubstep would work within a brass band, but I was pleasantly surprised. The drummer provided a strong framework for the rest of the group to work around. The rhythm was paramount even within the improvisation. Rather than smothering the music, it was more of an underlying presence that never became too abrasive.

The Hot Botz Brass Band provided a great programme that served as an exciting introduction to a new year for jazz at Clare Cellars.