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I Take My Brass With a Side of Dub: Illegal States Brass Band – Wage Joy

I first met Scotty Flynn when we were both starry-eyed undergrad students at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. New to the scene and excited to be immersed in a peer-base of exceptionally talented musicians, we found ourselves to be neighbors in one of the many trashy apartment buildings that make up most college towns. I’ve always seemed to attract trombone players into my life, so in retrospect it really comes as no surprise that we hit it off. Scott was always experimenting with new sounds, new instruments and new styles of music, and always seemed to get pretty damn good at them in a short period of time. It’s no wonder he’s found himself playing horn with bands like John Brown’s Body, Pretty Lights and ODESZA, not to mention Elephant Wrecking Ball, his dub jazz project with Dan Africano of JBB and Neal Evans of Dopapod.

Coupling his love of reggae and brass, Flynn brings a fresh new take on reggae with his latest ensemble, Illegal States Brass Band. Their debut album Wage Joy hit the airwaves February 27, bringing that New Orleans brass band sound with a reggae flare. Consisting primarily of original compositions, this freshman record places top-notch horn arrangements upon perfectly simple layers of drumkit and percussion, creating a tasteful fusion of Flynn’s two musical amores.

Born out of the vibrant music hub of Richmond, VA, ISBB features a serious roster of heavyweights. Amongst the eight-member core sits players who have performed with acts like No BS! Brass Band, Bon Iver, Savion Glover, Corey Harris, Bio Ritmo and The Congress. In addition to being the first offering from Illegal State Brass Band, Wage Joy is also the first release from Flynn’s independent label Space Fire Records.

Horn players have been an essential part of reggae music since the genre’s birth in Jamaica in the late 1960’s, adding punctuated hits and melodic lines that were often just as much the hook of the song as anything happening lyrically. A carry over from ska, as well as the jazz and R&B of America that came to Jamaica across the airwaves in the ‘40’s and ‘50’s, horn players were a part of every studio’s house band across Jamaica during the golden era of roots reggae. Wage Joy finds Illegal States Brass Band building upon this legacy by merging it with the decades older legacy of New Orleans style brass bands. The result of this merger is unique instrumental reggae music with a punch.

Pick up your copy of Illegal States Brass Band’s debut album Wage Joy.


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Brian Nelson a.k.a. Red Ninja is passionate about making music, making friends, experiencing life and living to tell the tale. Whether dropping heavy dub beats, cruising untouched Rocky Mountain powder, or talking shop about the music biz, Nelson’s approach is pure ninja.

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