Jazz band brings southern heat to Northern stage

The Heavyweights Brass Band are set to play this weekend

13

With its symphonic clash of trumpets, tubas and trombones, The Heavyweights Brass Band is prepared to take Yellowknife to a time and place far different than the one known up North.

The six-piece band is performing at the SnowKing Winter Festival this Saturday, playing New Orleans-style brass jazz.

“What makes our band unique is it’s the ultimate brass band,” said trombone player Christopher Butcher. “We say we’re the champions of feel good horn music in Canada.”

Aside from drummer Lowell Whitty, the band is entirely made up of horns, and performs without guitar or bass.

During the snow castle show, the band is premiering music from their latest album This City – a project the group is particularly proud of.

While the previous two albums were recorded in Toronto, where most of the members reside, the group flew to New Orleans for their latest work – the very place their music is inspired from.

While Butcher noted The Heavyweights are the only brass jazz band to play this type of music in Canada, New Orleans is sated with music of that genre.

In fact, The Heavyweights were able to play with some of the city’s biggest contenders during the recording of This City.

That included some of Butcher’s favourite musicians like Roger Lewis of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, drummer Joe Lastie of Preservation Hall Jazz Band and Ashlin Parker of Trumpet Mafia.

“We also have two guests from Canada,” Butcher added. “Kevin Bryce – he’s been on grammy-winning albums – and queen of gospel and blues in Canada, Jackie Richardson.”

While the jazz group’s music has evolved over the years into a seamless and electrifying sound, Butcher said recording This City was the band’s biggest success to date.

“It was the fruition of our career at that point,” said Butcher. “We’ve always been inspired by New Orleans brass band music and suddenly we have the ability to come down and play with musicians who inspired us in the city that created the music.”

The band first met in Toronto in 2009 after applying to a Craigslist ad seeking, “horns for funky New Orleans jazz music.”

Saxophone player Paul Metcalfe, a former classmate of Butcher’s in Winnipeg, also ended up joining.

The group disbanded shortly after, however, when its original founder moved away.

“Then a year after, everyone met up again and said, “We thought the band had a real vibe. Why don’t we get together and do a rehearsal?'” Explained Butcher. “And the rest is history.”

Each of the musicians have an extensive musical background of their own. While Butcher is known as one of Canada’s top trombone players, Metcalfe has performed with award-winning musicians across the country. And trumpet player John Pittman has won several awards for his music over the years.

The Heavyweights Brass Band is set to perform at the snow castle at 9 pm, March 23.