At Strathmore, Dupont Brass brings unfiltered soul

Wednesday evening rain forecast forced DuPont Brass, the nine-piece front-row band slated to open Strathmore’s ‘Live from the Lawn’ series, in the indoor music center instead. Surely their catchy music (which fuses jazz, funk, R&B and hip-hop) Couldn’t generate the same laid-back yet intimate party vibe in a cavernous concert hall, could it?

Oh, yes, it could. If the band’s formative years as Metro buskers have taught them anything, it’s how to engage people in their music – no matter the setting. “We call it a warm-up,” frontman Isaac “Deacon Izzy” Bell explained after the jazzy opener, “Come Close.” “Now we’re going to try to set this scene on fire a bit.” When they launched into a go-go-charged version of “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” from Tears for Fears, my 12-year-old looked at me with undisguised pleasure. That’s when I knew DuPont Brass had this crowd in the palm of their hand.

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Even that turned out to be a warm-up. It was with the next track, the catchy “Get You”, that things really started. Bell urged the audience to stand up; most of them did, and few sat again there was no reason to do so. The band kept us on our toes, burning through the Isley Brothers’ “Footsteps In the Dark”; a magnificent “Pure Imagination” (from “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”), featuring trumpeter Anthony “Ant” Daniel; and their sweetness, upbeat original “‘Til the End”, with trumpeter Jared “MK Zulu” Bailey taking over as lead vocals.

The house was far from full, but the crowd composed in energy what it lacked in number. He moved with the rhythm of the waves. At one point, three women were line dancing down the aisle. And it wasn’t just them: whenever the horn players (Daniel, Bailey, trumpeter Chris Allison and trombonist Matt “Fuzzy Da Plug” Thompson) weren’t playing, they were also dancing.

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The indoor environment was not a perfect substitute for the lawn. The sound system had clearly been put together in a hurry: Brent “Bass Heavy Slim” Gossett’s sousaphone, massive as it was, was usually lost in the mix, and Bell’s voice was often muddy. The price of staying dry, perhaps – but none of that was enough to tamp down the unfiltered soul of DuPont Brass.

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