By Jack Arnhold, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – This Carnival has been a very special one for Yorkshire-based jazz group ‘New York Brass Band.’ For the first time in the band’s history they have flown over at the invitation of fellow Yorkshireman Tom Ashe of Favela Brass, bringing plenty of their trademark New Orleans-style jazz to the music bars and ‘blocos’ (Carnival street parties) of the Cidade Maravilhosa.
“To be honest, it’s been a blur.” comments James Lancaster, band leader of New York Brass Band. “During our time as a band, we’ve played a lot of places, a lot of festivals. We thought Glastonbury was the peak of madness. But this has been something else.”
The group, who are staying in Tom Ashe’s Favela Brass headquarters in the Pereirão favela community, have been combining their passion for playing live music with providing a helping hand where needed. “Tom, our saxophone player, owns a music shop in Bradford. So in-between the blocos he’s been helping to fix up instruments in Tom’s flat.” Lancaster continues.
“I’ve managed to get them to a lot of blocos, including Boi Tolo, Surdos E Mundos, and they’re set to play Me Enterra na Quarta and the Favela Brass bloco before they head back on Monday.” Tom Ashe, of Favela Brass, comments.
Before they arrived in Rio, the group had already raised over £1,400 to fund their trip, with the extra cash being put towards seven brand-new saxophones for the young musicians at Favela Brass. And this looks like only just the beginning of their love-affair with the Cidade Maravilhosa. “Oh we’ll definitely come back next year.” Lancaster says. “Quite a few of the lads couldn’t come, and they’re absolutely itching to be part of it next year.”
The group have been playing a mixture of New Orleans jazz as well as throwing in some covers of classic tracks such as Daft Punk’s ‘Get Lucky,’ Pharrell’s ‘Happy,’ and the Eurythmics’ ‘Sweet Dreams.’
While the experience has been somewhat of a sensory overload, they have thoroughly enjoyed jumping into Carnival at the deep end, playing bloco after bloco.
“It’s been an amazing experience, sitting in these bars, not knowing where we’re going, and then Tom giving us directions to the next bloco or parade. We’ve even picked up a couple of Brazilian tunes along the way, and all the local musicians have been so friendly.” Lancaster adds.
For those who want to catch the band before they go, they will be performing at famed jazz club The Maze on Friday, March 8th. And once the ‘ressaca’ (hangover) wears off, the band are set to take back their experiences to Yorkshire and raise some more money for Favela Brass, while also putting together an even bigger crack-team for Carnival 2020.