The Lowdown Brass Band Interview

October 4, 2018

The Chicago-based Lowdown Brass Band, like many other brass bands, often looks to contemporary music for inspiration. After three albums, two EPs, and a couple of singles (one of which is a 45), it’s clear that their influences now include hip-hop, reggae, ska, and Afrobeat music. Yet, throughout their latest, Lowdown Breaks, second line rhythms aren’t very far. A tight horn line and a commitment to fun are at the heart of their music. I had a chance to talk by phone with Lance Loiselle, founder, producer, and sousaphone player with the band, prior to their October 15 debut at The Dakota in Minneapolis. I’ve edited the interview slightly for length and clarity.

You’ve been a band around for what about fifteen or sixteen years.

It’s our 15thAnniversary this year. We had our 15thanniversary show 2 weekends ago.

Are you the founder or one of the founders?

One of the founders. There are four of us originals. For the first four or five years we had a rotating cast of characters to go through when people have moved on. We’ve had a pretty solid lineup for six or seven years.

What was it about brass band music that made you decide “I want to start a brass band?”

I played in high school band. One of my friends introduced me to the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and I was instantly in love with their music. So I listened to those guys through high school and college and fell in love with the music of New Orleans. Then when I went to DuPaul, I met all the guys that were original members (of Lowdown Brass Band). Some guys that were not original members also attended DuPaul with us.

When we graduated we were just sitting around after a rehearsal for another band and we were just talking about the music of New Orleans and just looked around – that guy plays the sousaphone, that guy plays the drums, (I play the sousaphone myself), he plays trumpet, and then you know we had all the pieces available and we all love the music of New Orleans. So we started out as a cover band with some originals and as time passed we started writing more and incorporating more styles into the music. Basically that’s it.

Besides the Dirty Dozen were there some other bands that you looked at as you were developing your sound?

You have the Rebirth Brass Band, another big New Orleans band that we’ve covered with a couple of songs over the years. And then as we became a little bit more modern, Youngblood Brass Band has always been a favorite of ours and. A lot of the guys we know personally – some of their band lived in at Chicago for a while. Then there’s like all other kind of horn bands. Chicago’s got a real rich history of horn bands. Chicago is one, Earth, Wind, & Fire is another. There’s a real deep history of horn bands.

Chicago also has a lot of other great sounds – vocal groups and of course the blues is an important part of the city’s history, as well as jazz, and hip-hop. Do you incorporate some of those sounds into your repertoire?

The last couple years we’ve been working with an MC, Billa Camp. Chicago’s got a good hip-hop scene with Common, Kanye West. So we’ve incorporated Chicago hip-hop, and New York hip-hop too, because Billa is originally from New York. We incorporate the funky sounds of Earth, Wind, & Fire in what we do. We’ve also been using some Latin flair. Chicago has a real big salsa scene, so we do a couple Latin tunes. Tower of Power is another big inspiration for us. There are so many writers and arrangers in the band, it really depends on who’s writing the song.  Someone will bring in a tune, but then it becomes really collaborative. So there are all these different musical leanings, and then everybody gets to put in their own two cents to the final product.

With Billa, you’ve got hip-hop going on. You also have some reggae toasting going on as well. What is it about brass band music that helps make that kind of thing work and how do you incorporate that?

Man, that’s a good question because it seems like it wouldn’t work.  You need the scratching, and the keyboard, but basically we just think anything that we transfer over, like a rhythm instrument, we just write for brass. The scratching and off-beat rhythms we would write for trumpet, and then the trombones would fill in the guitar line. Then the sousaphone becomes then becomes the bass. One thing that I’ve been incorporating a lot through the sousaphone is a lot of delay, which is another characteristic of reggae.

There are two reggae bands that have influenced us a bit. One is called The Drastics and the other one is called Akasha. They’re both Chicago reggae bands that a couple of our guys also play in, so that influence is brought to us as well, just from cross pollination of playing in other  bands and absorbing influences.

On the last album, Lowdown Breaks, you’ve got some Afro Beat sounds and you’re not afraid to take on an iconic rock song – Walk on the Wild Side.

So yeah we actually kind of ripped that off from A Tribe Called Quest(Note: Can I Kick It), who ripped off the bass line from Lou Reed. We took the hook and the bass line and made our own arrangement of it. Then Billa wrote some new verses for it, and it really has a nice flavor. It was a truly collaborative effort.

In terms of future directions for the band what do you see going on?

We’ve got a lot of plans through the end of the year. We just released a single of We Just Want to Be. It was written by our sax player, then we gave it to our buddy Nick the Graduate, a reggae producer in town, and he put a dub mix on it. He also worked with another guy, an emcee and reggae toaster called Illuminati Congo. They worked with Billa, and they made this truly dub version, reminiscent of Peter Tosh and guys like that.

So we put it on a 45. There’s a reggae label in town called Happy As A Lark, and so he’s putting that out. So that was part of our release show. We have a fall tour that we’re doing. The first leg of it is this weekend. We’re going to play Minneapolis. We’re playing at Green Bay Saturday and then we play Chicago on Sunday, then we’re going out to L.A. at the end of the month for a four-day trip. and they were going to play. We’re playing at the Lagunitas Beer Circus, which is a really big thing out there. And then And then second weekend of November we’re going to play in New Orleans for three night and hitting Memphis on the way down and Nashville on the way out.

We made a video for Don’t Wait Right Now, the Afrobeat song, so we’re going to be releasing that in the middle of the tour. And then we’re going to be laying low for the next three months. We just got a new recording spot. We’ll set that up and record a new album and hopefully have it out by next summer.

Well I sure do appreciate you taking the time and look forward to seeing you.

Cool. I appreciate the call. Take care.


Choices, Choices: 10.3 – 10.9

October 3, 2018

So… this week we have quite a few visiting musicians, a CD release party and some special appearances by resident musicians. It all makes for a hard week of decisions on where to spend your entertainment dollars. I just spent a weekend in Las Vegas, and outside of the casinos, where even impersonator shows start at $50, there’s only about 20 venues that present resident and lesser-known visiting musicians. To put that in context, I‘ve 13 different venues listed here, and a list of over 50 Twin Cities music venues on my blog. We’re lucky to have so many choices. Music Lifts the Spirit!


Wednesday, October 3

Sammy Miller & The Congregation @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm ($20, $25) Drummer Sammy Miller put this group together after getting his Master’s at Julliard. Members have played with such musical luminaries as Wynton Marsalis, Lady Gaga, and Queen Latifah. Reviews include terms like “feel-good party jazz” and “joyful jazz.”

Wednesday, Thursday, October 3,4

David Murray Trio feat: Kahil El’Zabar@ Vieux Carre, Saint Paul. 7pm ($30, $35), 9pm ($25, $30) Since 1975, tenor saxophonist David Murray has been stretching the idea of jazz, working in an avant-garde tradition, founding the World Saxophone Quartet and the Black Saint Quartet, exploring the music of Africa, the Caribbean, and South America, as well as reworking Duke Ellington and the Cuban recordings of Nat King Cole. He’s played with Jerry Garcia, among other non-jazz artists, and had Macy Gray front his Big Band. Tonight he’s joined by another avant giant, Chicago percussionist Kahil El’Zabar as well as versatile resident bassist James Buckley. Here’s Murray with a different group.

Thursday, October 4

Greer & Magraw @ Jazz Central, Minneapolis. 8pm ($10, $5w/Student ID) Sarah M. Greer’s vocals & Dean Magraw’s guitar colorings seem to fit hand in glove.

Friday, Oct 5

Talking Strings Trio @ The Black Dog, Saint Paul. 8pm – 10pm (Tip Jar) Hot Club Jazz, including standards, Django Rheinhardt numbers, and originals, from Pavel Jany, guitar; Gary Schultz, violin; and Dan Weston, bass.

Byerself @ Jazz Central, Minneapolis.8:30pm ($10) Cellos are popping up quite a bit in jazz these days. Here’s a hometown example: Greg Byers, cello; Javi Santiago, piano; LA Buckner, drums.

Lowdown Brass Band @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 10pm ($15) The Chicago-based Lowdown Brass Band started out about 15 years ago, simply covering the songs of other brass bands, such as the Dirty Dozen and Rebirth. They soon began writing their own songs, and of late, have been integrating hip-hop, African, and Caribbean rhythms to their repertoire, as well as rappers and toasters, making for exciting, and crowd-pleasing evenings.

Tina Schlieske: Sinatra to Simone @ Vieux Carre, Saint Paul. 10pm ($20, $25 -Advance/$25, $30 Door) Here’s a chance to see the leader of Tina & the B-Sides in crooning mood. When Ms Schlieske first performed her show of Torch and Swing at the Dakota a couple of months ago, she clearly had a good time singing standards by Billie Holiday, Tony Bennett, Sinatra, and Simone, among others. If her Dakota show is any indication, she’ll be backed by a stellar group of resident jazz musicians.

Saturday, Oct 6

Saturday Night Jazz @ The Black Dog, Saint Paul. 7pm (Tip Jar) 7pm: Cody Steinman Sightless Quartet: Cody Steinman, guitar; Joe Strachan, keys; Graydon Peterson, bass; Miguel Hurtado, drums. 8:30pm: Steve Kenny Quartet – Steve Kenny, trumpet; Levi Schwartzberg, vibes; Ted Olsen bass; Miguel Hurtado, drums.

Monday, October 8

Peter Kogan’s Monsterful Wonderband @ Jazz Central, Minneapolis. 8:30pm ($10, $5w/Student ID) Drummer Kogan has shown that he and his A-list band members can go from bebop to swing to 21st Century jazz with ease and panache. They have been working on a soon to be released CD, which they are previewing tonight.

Evil Genius @ The Icehouse, Minneapolis. 9:30pm ($12) This experimental jazz-rock group from Los Angeles consist of Max Kutner, guitar; Stefan Kac, tuba; and Mike Lockwood, drums. Avant Music News said of the band, “they seem to be blissfully unaware of any of the (largely artificial) lines drawn between genres.”

Tuesday, October 9

Red Planet w/Bill Carrothers @ Crooners’ Dunsmore Room, Fridley. 7:30pm ($15) Dean Magraw, Chris Bates, and Jay Epstein communicate so well, it’s sometimes hard to envision anyone else joining them, but pianist Carrothers, with his empathetic playing and imaginative improvising, fits right in with Magraw’s coloring and the rhythm section’s pocket. The result is energetic, often dreamy, and wholly satisfying.

Josh Granowski’s Special Music @ The Hook & Ladder, Minneapolis. 6pm (No Cover) The Hook is presenting jazz every 2nd Tuesday this Fall. Tonight it’s a group of relatively younger, very accomplished musicians: Josh Granowski, bass; Noah Ophoven-Baldwin, Cornet; Jake Baldwin, trumpet; and Davu Seru, drums.

For more listings, KBEM has a calendar of jazz and roots events, while the Jazz Police features commentary, reviews, and previews of jazz in the Twin cities and beyond.

Blues, Roots, Other…

Wednesday, October 3

Ben Eaton Band on KFAI and @ The 331 Club, Minneapolis. 5pm (90.3FM), 7pm (331 Club – Tip Jar) Guitarist Eaton is Iowa-born and spent years playing and touring around the state both as a solo artist, and with The Dirt Cheap Band. He moved to Minneapolis in 2009, and though he’s spent time raising his son, he’s also managed to record 3 EPs, the latest of which is just being released. He’ll be joined by Andrew Brockman and Atom Robinson.

Dieselfitters @ Lee’s Liquor Lounge, Minneapolis. 8pm ($5) Looking for a little Twang in your life? The Dieselfitters (Clay Williams, guitar & vocals; Richard Gunderson, bass; and Steve Everett, drums) can help, bringing rockabilly, honky-tonk, and good ol’ roots rock n’ roll right to Lee’s tonight.

Thursday, October 4

Boiled in Lead @ The 318 Cafe, Excelsior. 8pm – 10pm ($10) Todd Menton, vocals and guitar; David Stenshoel, violin, Drew Miller, bass; and Michael Bissonette, percussion; have been performing as Boiled in Lead, playing rockin’ versions of Irish tunes as well as their originals for about 35 years now. They’ll be at the 318 Cafe on the 1st Thursday of the month through December.

Friday, October 5

Reverend Raven & The Chain Smoking’ Alter Boys @ Wilebski’s, Saint Paul. 6pm -10pm ($10?) Though based in Milwaukee, Reverend Raven was born and raised in Chicago, so that city’s blues style of blues permeates his music. He plays guitar as if the blues-rock explosion of the late 60s and early 70s never happened, though he also brings that tradition forward. His dedication to the sound has resulted in numerous awards, a Grammy nomination, and the 2016 Blues Blast Music Award for best live CD.

John Primer @ Famous Dave’s, Minneapolis. 9pm ($5) Here’s some blues you can use for dancing or crying in your beer. Primer is a Chicago bluesman who was bandleader and lead guitarist for Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, and Magic Slim & the Teardrops before going solo. He’s a 2018 nominee for the Blues Foundation’s Blues Music Awards, and has received two Grammy nominations. Hard to beat those credentials.

High & Mighty @ Minnesota Music Cafe, Saint Paul. 9pm ($10?) With a commodious dance floor, the MMC is a good place to hear this 10-piece band that mines R&B hits from the 60s until now.

Saturday, October 6

Lucy Kaplansky Album Release @ The Cedar Cultural Center, Minneapolis. 8pm ($25 Advance/$30) Folk/pop singer Kaplansky is a Billboard charting singer and one of the best-selling artists on Red House Records. She started out in her hometown of Chicago and moved to NYC in 1978 where she joined the burgeoning folk scene and formed a duo w/Shawn Colvin. She dropped out of music to pursue a PhD in psychology, and returned in the 90s, signing with Red House and releasing seven albums with them. Tonight, she’s celebrating her just released Everyday Street.

Sunday, Oct 7

2018 Uke Fest @ The Hook & Ladder, Minneapolis. 6-10pm ($12 Advance/$15 Door) It’s the annual celebration of the little instrument with a growing following. All proceeds benefit Arc Minnesota. Hear YouTube star Zachary Scot Johnson, as well as the phenomenal Marlowe (an ambassador for Kala Ukeleles), and our very own John Munson, Jake Rowan, and others, including that ukulele canary Katy Vernon, who has put together this event every year.

Monday, October 8

Elvin Bishop @ The Dakota, Minneapolis. 7pm ($40, $45, $50), 9pm ($35, $40, $45) A Rock n’ Roll Hall of Famer, guitarist Bishop came onto the scene in the trailblazing Paul Butterfield Blues Band back in 1965.  In 1976, he had a huge hit with Fooled Around and Fell in Love. Since then he’s put out a series of satisfying albums, often featuring his humorous takes on life. It makes sense then, that his latest group, with guitarist/pianist Bob Welsh, and percussionist/vocalist Willy Jordan, is called the Big Fun Trio. Their music is rootsy, spirited, and, as expected, makes for a good time. Here’s the title cut from their latest album.

Ann Reed w/Joan Griffith & Special Guest Leslie Ball @ Crooners’ Dunsmore Room, Fridley. 7:30pm ($20) Singer/songwriter/guitarist Reed has been performing for 35 years, a storyteller of the human experience. Tonight she joins with guitarist/bassist/composer Joan Griffith, who’s recorded with Lucia Newell, Prudence Johnson, and Laura Caviani, in addition to recording with Reed. Special guest Leslie Ball is a singer, producer, and writer whose songs have been recorded by the likes of Helen Reddy and Nick Lowe. In 1991, she started the BALLS Cabaret, which still runs weekly at The Southern Theater.

For a more comprehensive listing of blues (and some roots) events, see the MN Blues Society calendar. For a comprehensive listing of Cajun and Zydeco events, see the Krewe de Walleye calendar.




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