From Clitheroe to Tanzania, via remote Northumberland villages to the foothills
of Albania, there are brass bands playing all over the globe.
There are none, though, quite like the Hackney Colliery Band, one of the more
unusual acts to grace this weekend’s Ribble Valley Jazz Festival.
Mining nuggets of funk, hip-hop and high octane rock from the musical coalface,
they fuse electronica, Afro-beat and hip hop with a dollop of left field Jazz, and their musical influences is as diverse as the cosmopolitan London Borough that
gave them their name.
Add that to some mad cap cover versions – a Prodigy rave medley and renditions
of Toto’s Africa and Kanye West’s All of the Lights – then it is no wonder they
kick up a storm everywhere they climb on stage with their collection of various
instruments. Their name, though, a reference to brass bands from traditional coal-mining
towns, takes a little explaining.
“There’s definitely no colliery in Hackney, but we like to imagine that if there was
a colliery in such a diverse part of London, then we’d be providing the
soundtrack for that,” band leader Steve Pretty told writer Tony Dewhurst.
“Occasionally, we’ve had people turning up for our shows thinking that we are a
traditional colliery band and they are a bit taken aback when they hear us.
“But it is a really nice challenge, because one of our great strengths is having that
appeal across the generations.”
He added: “We played a theatre festival where most of the audience were retired
and had been watching a week of heavy-duty highbrow theatre.
“Rather than trying to strip it down and relax it, we drove it even harder.
“There was one point when this elderly chap took his shirt off and started whirling it around his head before his wife told him off.
“It was one of the best gigs we’ve ever done.”
The nine-piece are making waves around the world, having played a set at the closing ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics and their high-energy party set will be sure to provide one of the highlights of the festival.
“We all come from various corners of music, but most of us come from a
traditional brass background, as well as playing jazz and pop,” added Steve.
“We went to see some of the American bands, like Youngblood Brass Band and Hypnotic Brass Ensemble and thought we should do a British version.
“People are more in tune for hearing brass now and more bands are using brass.
“There’s just something really visceral in the brass band sounds, like the Hot 8 Brass Band.
“I think it’s also a reaction against over-produced music. If people are used to seeing DJs or very tightly controlled electronic music, there’s something really raw from watching a brass band.
“Most of us listen to contemporary rock and things like that but we are really
looking forward to coming back to Clitheroe on Saturday to play the Ribble Valley Jazz Festival because it was a beautiful vibe when we played at the Grand Theatre in 2014.”
The Hackney Colliery Band plus Blufunk Syndicate and Paul Rigby’s Trio Jazz Jam. St Michael and St John’s Social Centre, Clitheroe tomorrow. Tickets are £15 and the box office number is 01200 421599. The Ribble Valley Jazz Festival runs until Monday, May 2nd.