Friday, February 3, 2017

Ken Colyer's Omega Brass Band


It amuses me that the fourth recording of a New Orleans-style brass band is by a British group. Ken Colyer's Omega Brass Band was preceded on wax only by the Bunk Johnson's Brass Band (1945), the Zenith Brass Band (1946), and the Eureka Brass Band (1951). But of all European traditional jazz musicians, Colyer was perhaps the most knowledgeable about New Orleans jazz, having gained first-hand experience of Crescent City music when, as a member of the British Merchant Marine, he jumped ship in Mobile, Alabama and made his way to New Orleans in 1952. Before he was eventually caught and deported he managed to play with many of  the local musicians, do some recording, and march in parades with the city's unique brass bands.

Colyer brought his knowledge home and formed the Omega Brass Band, which recorded the very enjoyable Marching to New Orleans 10" LP for British Decca in 1957. The eleven-piece band is a little more polite than a real New Orleans brass band would be, but the sound is full and impressive. The repertoire consists mostly of New Orleans brass band standards, but "Isle of Capri," a Colyer favorite, makes an appearance. Overall, not quite an "authentic" New Orleans brass band experience, but I like the individual flavor Colyer brings to this brass band album. And the cover is an early example of a New Orleans brass band tradition - the entire band never shows up for the cover photo shoot.


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