The busy bees of Seattle-area jazz keep producing honey-sweet new music in difficult pandemic times. The members of 45th St Brass band are the latest, with a pair of tasty tunes out now showing off their unique modern take on the brass band tradition. They'll celebrate the single with a live-streamed release show Thursday night.
"The Digital 45" is 45th St Brass' debut for the Color Red record label, joining NW soul-jazz acts like The True Loves, Cecil Moses & the SGs, Polyrhythmics, and West Seattle Soul. Acting like a 7-inch single that doesn't require flipping over, 45th St Brass' "Digital 45" is a fine example of two sides of this talented crew — instrumental and vocal.
Powerhouse singer Annie Jantzer knocked off our socks in the KNKX studios four years ago with this band on "Sea in the Sky," and her position in 45th St Brass has solidified in recent years.
Featured on the lead tune, "Love on Top," Jantzer takes on Beyoncé's Grammy-winning single inspired by her role as Etta James in the 2008 film Cadillac Records. Beyoncé's '80s-styled song spiked by vintage soul is rejuvenated by Jantzer's pretty-meets-powerful voice, backed by the band's joyfully bouncing horns.
Their version hews close to the original, which is remarkable considering the source material, and deserves to reach the larger audience that make up Beyoncé fans worldwide. In fact, with its funky trombone-soloing arrangement, it may be closer to that Etta James' '60s spark than the original.
The digital single's "B-side" presents the band's instrumental roots. "Monkeys Are Heavy" is as wild a ride as the title suggests. A majestic mid-tempo intro opens into a thick D'Vonne Lewis drumbeat and the friendly, funky theme. Saxophones, trombones, trumpet and tuba coil around each other and combine for the ensemble bridge of the tune and repeat the theme.
By mid-tune, Peter Daniel's baritone sax and Nelson Bell's tuba join Lewis' rhythm and set up the other horns for a party-in-the-streets-style blowing session. Jason Cressey and David Marriott's trombones tangle with the trumpet of Trevor Parrish in joyful exuberance, making the current lack of live music hurt a little bit more.
Happily, you can join 45th St Brass live Thursday at 7 p.m. and, though watching online isn't nearly the same as feeling this band's energy in person, it's sure to be as good a party as you'll find. Be sure to chip in during the show or buy the single to support this great group of our musical neighbors, and get ready for more new music from 45th St Brass coming our way soon.
The New Cool airs Fridays from 9 to 11 p.m., hosted by Abe Beeson and produced by KNKX Public Radio in Seattle, Wash.