Four trumpets, one rhythm section, and a lot of funky jazz fusion. That's the sound which Ottawa trumpeter Nick Dyson is aiming for in his new group, Point Blank Brass.
It will play its first – and so far only – show next Wednesday at Irene's Pub in the Glebe. Dyson promises “rock elements, and jazz elements, and funk elements, and soul music elements – and a whole lot of decibels.”
It's not a lineup you usually hear in either rock or jazz, where that size of trumpet section is reserved for a big band. Dyson is reaching back to the early 70s and a soul/jazz/rock band called Chase for his inspiration.
It was led by trumpeter Bill Chase, who had played for the previous decade in big bands led by Maynard Ferguson, Stan Kenton, and Woody Herman, and combined a front line of four cascading trumpets with a driving rhythm section. The group was immediately successful, with its first single reaching #24 on Billboard, and a GRAMMY nomination for Best New Artist, but ended in 1974 when Chase and several other band members died in a plane crash.
Other groups in the late 60s and 70s, such as Blood, Sweat & Tears, Tower of Power, and Chicago, also included horns, but they combined trumpets with trombone and saxophone. Chase was unique in using only trumpets, and creating fresh arrangements for them.
“If you do a little reading about Bill Chase and the Chase band, you hear about the Chase cascade, where everybody starts high and then only certain people move,” Dyson said. “It creates this really cool effect. I think the idea for a lot of it is to take a four-trumpet approach to an instrumental funk band. Bill Chase knew a lot of trumpet players, a lot of people that liked to do that kind of trumpet playing, so I think he came across a really interesting fusion at that point.”
Dyson was first introduced to Chase when he was in university.
“Bill Chase was an absolutely stellar big band lead trumpet player, and so when I was just starting out in university, my saxophone-playing professor, the jazz band director, was like “I want you to do a fall like this” or “Do this sort of effect”. And when words weren't cutting it, then his way of showing us what he wanted was to play Chase and Maynard Ferguson.”
Next Wednesday's show will feature three songs by Chase, including “Weird Song No. 1”. Its combination of trumpets and synthesizer in unison, and electronic sounds and effects processors, will be typical of those tunes, Dyson said. All will be instrumentals, even though many of Chase's tunes also included vocals.
“As you can imagine, the lyrics in the 70s leave a little to be desired. I don't have any vocalists that could stand up in public and try to deliver that stuff with a straight face. It will be exciting enough, I think, without vocals. I think that's what we're going for.”
The band was also noted for playing very high notes, and Dyson said that the trumpeters in Point Blank Brass will be adding those touches to the Chase tunes. “We'll all be up in the upper register quite a bit, I think, but we do want to be a little bit well-balanced.”
They'll also include tunes by jazz and funk trombonist Fred Wesley, and soul, funk and jazz saxophonist Maceo Parker, both of whom played with James Brown in the 60s and 70s. The two Maceo Parker tunes came out on an album from 1974, the same year as Chase's last album was released. Also on the set list will be a more recent tune from New Orleans funk band Galactic.
If the music inspires dancing in the audience, Dyson is happy with that: “With Maceo Parker and Fred Wesley and that kind of funky music, those are good dance tunes. I think there will be a few things that people won't necessarily want to dance to, but if they're feeling inspired – absolutely!”
Dyson said he decided to call this band “Point Blank Brass” because the name conveyed the “in-your-face” style of the music. The band's three other trumpet players – Nick Cochrane, Evan Dalling, and Ed Lister – are “the guys that I play with a whole lot of the time, and who are also into this kind of stuff.”
Backing them will be well-known Ottawa jazz players Clayton Connell on keyboards, Alex Moxon on guitar, Caylan Penny on electric bass, and Jamie Holmes on drums. “The rhythm section players, I just tried to find the best players I could. I was pleased that everybody said yes!”
They're all contributing to the sound: “I'm writing a bunch of arrangements and we're playing one of Ed's tunes. A whole lot of people are writing charts: Evan wrote a arrangement, Alex Moxon wrote a couple, Ed's done a few.”
This is the only show scheduled so far for this band, partly because Dalling will be returning soon to his jazz studies at the University of Toronto. “We wanted to at least get the foundation laid and get this started now before he takes off for another few months.”
“I think we'll see how it goes and see how the arrangements work, and then see what we think, and look at what other kinds of opportunities this kind of music might be good for.”
But “the trumpet players are all super-stoked and the rhythm section players, once they understood what I was getting at, they were stoked too. It's definitely not stuff that any of us are playing regularly, so it's nice to be able to give it a blow!”
Point Blank Brass will make its debut at Irene's Pub on Wednesday, August 21. The show begins at 8 p.m. and the cover charge is $10, payable at the door. Seating is limited so arrive early for the best seats.
Irene's Pub is at 885 Bank Street, just south of 5th Avenue in the Glebe. OC Transpo routes 6 and 7 serve it. Try the OC Transpo Trip Planner to find your trip to this show!