Published Aug 22, 2011The Heavyweights Brass Band are reinvigorating jazz music, among the many musical offerings du jour. With their debut release, Don't Bring Me Down, the group are finally giving fans new and old the opportunity to add a little weight to their musical libraries. Beguiling arrangements and original compositions borrow from a century-and-a-half of Western musical traditions, nodding to everyone from Louis Armstrong and Miles Davis to Michael Jackson, Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber. Highlights include original composition "Nueva Orleans," featuring Cuban rapper/sonero Edrey Rivery (of Ogguere), as well as "Speaking My Language." Its catchy melody and groovy hooks are reminiscent of classic soul-jazz stemming from New Orleans. Powerhouse soul diva Saidah Baba Talibah elevates the disc to another level, belting out Melvin Jackson's classic gospel blues "Rock Me." The success of the band's debut release is a testament to their youth. Ambitious, exuberant performances crammed with heavy grooves and noteworthy solos are fresh and mature, even when interpreting classic pop and R&B songs in ways wholly original and no longer ubiquitous.
What makes the Heavyweights unique among other current jazz groups?
Trombonist Chris Butcher: We're incorporating our entire life experiences into our music. Every member of the band has broad experience in funk, R&B, salsa, pop and world music. Instead of omitting that, we are including it as a crucial element. Our music reflects our generation and the city of Toronto as it is right now. You can find similarities in the culture of T.O. with the culture of a city like New Orleans at the turn of the last century, in the number and diversity of cultures and the way people are interacting — African drum language, European harmonies, the Spanish "tinge." There are also Native American elements. There are all these elements that created a new thing where they were.
You find that in Toronto today?
You would not find a more culturally diverse city in the entire world. Everyone in this band is a product of this city. I grew up playing salsa, Brazilian music, funk and R&B in Toronto with Cuban musicians, Brazilian musicians and Colombian musicians.
How are you trying to incorporate that into the Heavyweights?
I just want it to be reflective of what we're in. (Independent)