Unquiet Riot

Youngblood Brass Band marches out the jams

Youngblood Brass Band rocks without guitars, backspins without turntables, and features a world-wise palette of adventurous rhythms (from Cajun zydeco to Cockney drum 'n' bass) branching off its Midwest roots. The Madison, Wisconsin, act might also be the only brass band with its own MC, the poet/drummer David Henzie-Skogen, who co-founded the group while still in high school. Sometimes he's political, voicing discontent with the Bush administration, and at others he's playing with words (as on the chorus to "Bone Refinery": "Shuck that corn, baby/Bless John Zorn"). Presently unsigned in America — yet big in Europe thanks to veteran label PIAS — the group's recent release, Is That a Riot? is available on iTunes (along with the rest of its catalog). Between Riot's popularity, the buzz about the live shows, and the music workshops the members run for students around the country, Youngblood is gaining a steady stateside following.

Riot is expertly arranged, opening with a freight train of horn blasts on the rallying "Wait" (featuring Henzie-Skogen shouting, "March! March! March!"). Yet almost instantly the mood mellows with the reggae-tinged "Waiver." And then there's "Pala Minima," which encompasses both the jubilant and the contemplative. Careful listens to Riotalso yield traces of Dixieland and other traditional roots music, but songs like "Nuclear Summer" and "But You Can't Run" are assaults to the senses that are purely modern. The band is clearly informed by hip hop's pastiche of styles, and Youngblood has been embraced by top international talents such as Talib Kweli, Mike Ladd, and DJ Vadim.

Youngblood Brass Band blow yer horn.
Steve Gullick
Youngblood Brass Band blow yer horn.

Youngblood's wildfire arrangements for sax, sousaphone, trombone, trumpet, bass drums, and snares are so meticulously crafted that it landed a deal to publish original sheet music, which has already been adapted by top-notch players, including the USC marching band. Looks like band camp pays off after all.

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