Mike Essoudry is going into the studio next week with his new brass band, the Bank Street Bonbons. And judging from their show at Irene's on Sunday, you can expect a bold and dynamic sound in their upcoming EP.
The Bonbons crowded two alto saxophonists, two trumpeters, and two trombonists into a tiny corner of the Bank Street bar – plus a sousaphone and Essoudry's drumset. The remainder of the rear half of Irene's was filled with listeners jammed around tables and standing and dancing at the back – a happy audience which applauded strongly throughout.
Fast, energetic, and multi-layered, the Bonbons' music gave full voice to all the musicians. One moment you could hear Zakari Frantz and Tyler Harris on alto sax playing wild lines ascending to the ceiling; the next moment, Nick Dyson or Ed Lister would add a punchy and inflected trumpet solo. Behind them, trombonists Ryan Purchase and Mike Schultz contributed trombone riffs, sometimes muted, sometimes all-out. And it was all anchored by the deep bass growls of Keith Walton's sousaphone and Essoudry's propulsive drumming.
The Bonbons performed all four Sunday evenings in May at Irene's, which was their debut as a group. However, many of them were in Essoudry's previous brass band, the Mash Potato Mashers, a marching band which played its last show in 2014.
For four years, the Mashers were a highly popular part of Ottawa's jazz scene, especially at their home base of Irene's. The Bonbons played several Mashers tunes with a similar Balkan jazz feel – but the big difference was that they weren't marching at the same time. They could read the charts in front of them on music stands, instead of having to memorize all the music.
The group also performed newer originals by Essoudry, and several pop songs – including Chilliwack's “My Girl” arranged by Walton, which opened with a rock-steady drumbeat and a dark sousaphone riff, before letting the horns go full at the melody.
Essoudry said the Bonbons' EP, which they will record June 9, will include four or five of his originals, and none of the former Mashers material. In their first set on Sunday, the Bonbons performed two of those tunes. A circling piece called “Move” featured an intense, accented trumpet solo from Lister, while “Distillation” featured atmospheric ensemble sections contrasting with intense solos from Frantz, Purchase, Walton, and Lister (with some particularly interesting attenuated high lines).
The EP should be released this fall, Essoudry said.
– Alayne McGregor
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