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Where 'Yat Reviews Aliens of Extraordinary Ability

Offbeat Reviews Aliens of Extraordinary Ability

have made, and the music they’ve made with so many extraordinarily able performers alien to the core group itself is a testament to the band’s and bandleader Martin Krusche’s ability to bring that eclecticism together into a coherent musical statement.


         The core group that makes up Magnetic Ear is a pocket brass band: two saxophones, two trombones, sousaphone and drums. Its style belongs to the brass band tradition from New Orleans and well beyond. Eastern European, Caribbean and African influences are just as prevalent as the second-line funk and traditional New Orleans jazz sounds we might expect to dominate. There are also covers of Nirvana’s “In Bloom” and Radiohead’s “Everything in Its Right Place,” and an original tango tribute to the late Alex Chilton. The result of such a cross-cultural array is a wholly fresh and unique take on the dance-party brass sound that maintains a distinctly New Orleanian character.

The album’s groove is inevitably designed for the New Orleans dance floor, but this is no free-for-all jam session caught on tape. Aliens of Extraordinary Ability is an album for listeners. Its chief strength is its tightly arranged compositions, whose complex harmonies and rhythmic figures bring out the individual performers’ talents. The CD takes its name from a designation that allows people to cross borders; with this effort, Magnetic Ear shows how much the license to travel through any styles can bring back to brass band music

The track listing for Magnetic Ear’s Aliens of Extraordinary Ability is packed tight with guest appearances from throughout the various strata of the New Orleans music scene: from newcomer Sasha Masakowski to Dirty Dozen Brass Band co-founder Roger Lewis. The credits demonstrate the wide-ranging connections that Magnetic Ear’s members 

Offbeat Reviews Live At Vaughan's:

A decade ago, Martin Krusche was using his pocket brass band Magnetic Ear as a small-combo platform for his complex, brass-based jazz compositions and electric tenor sax experiments. In recent years, the ensemble has expanded to a more traditional brass band lineup, a change that’s moved their sound squarely into cerebral dance-floor material.

Recorded in October 2015, Live at Vaughan’s sees the current lineup—which features Krusche’s tenor and soprano saxes alongside Dan Oestreicher on baritone sax, Wes Anderson and Jon Ramm-Gramenz on trombone, Steven Glenn on sousaphone and Paul Thibodeaux on drums—full of fire and playfulness.

And they need those ingredients in large doses to pull off shifts from Cuban motifs (“587 Miles”) to Balkan brass jams (“Zivilkonttrolle”) to Nirvana and Prince covers as seamlessly as they do.

The loose vibe associated with contemporary parading New Orleans brass bands shines through on tracks like “Uncle Roger,” their funk-laced tribute to the Dirty Dozen’s Roger Lewis. But more often than not, it gets juxtaposed against something like the mid-song breakdown on “Virgin Murder” where the saxophones veer off from their original, tight and clean motif to something skittering and woozy that flies around driving sousaphone blasts.

The horns take unexpected routes in and out of the Latin theme on “Samba 7 4 Now,” too; although Thibodeaux’s dynamic soloing on that track makes it tough to focus elsewhere.

There’s a thrill that comes with pushing the envelope as far as possible without compromising the groove. This album nails it.

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