In our 2016 Best of Virginia issue, we take a look at artists like Natalie Prass and No BS! Brass Band, who are delivering a blast from the past.
See Natalie Prass perform at the Bonaroo Music Festival in Tennessee June 9.
Brass has long been a key component of Virginia music. Just think of the forceful syncopation of classic beach music groups like Bill Deal and the Rhondels and Ron Moody and the Centaurs. And where would the great “Norfolk Sound” hits of Gary “U.S.” Bonds have been without the honks and toots of saxophonist Gene “Daddy G” Barge and trombonist Leonard Barks?
Horns have never gone out of style in the ballrooms. Going strong at private parties and corporate events are groups like Roanoke’s Domino Band, featuring members that have played with the likes of the Stylistics, the Temptations and the Doobie Brothers—the band specializes in the old-school, R&B-flavored funk and soul of Earth, Wind and Fire and Kool and the Gang.
But in the clubs, where horns have largely lost out to synthesizers over the past few decades, there has been a minor brass resurgence.
Major and the Monbacks, a Norfolk group fusing party pop with show band dynamics (including three very busy horn players), emulate the busy arranging of old. And in Richmond, Spacebomb label recording artists Matthew E. White and Natalie Prass prominently feature horn charts and coloring in their respective indie-rock offerings.
Meanwhile, No BS! Brass Band, led by trumpeter Reggie Pace, is taking the shout band genre to a whole new level of blare and boom—their song, “RVA All Day” has become the city’s unofficial anthem.
“You can hear it, more people are using horns,” Pace says, calling from the Coachella Festival in Indio, California, where he’s backing up singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens (he has also been in Bon Iver’s touring band). “I don’t know if it’s because Bruno Mars starting doing it,” he laughs, “but there’s definitely a feeling that the horn section is back.”