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Posted: December 6, 2022

Never too much Monkey business

Kootenay dance band Brass Monkey plays the Cranbrook Hotel Pub this Friday

By Ferdy Belland 

“Brass Monkey first formed in the aisles at Save-On Foods,” laughs Kimberley’s music legend Randy Marchi.

“When I first retired and moved back to the Kootenays, one of the first live shows I caught was James Neve’s band The Choice, who were playing at the Elks Club. And I just thought: wow, I love all those old classic songs they’re doing! I had a good feeling about seeing those songs played tight and strong onstage. A few weeks after that, I ran into James at our local grocery store, and we just start talking – and talking, and talking. And it sprang up from there.”

And ‘sprang up’ it did; over the past few years, the band formed by Marchi and Neve – Brass Monkey by name – has firmly established itself as one of the East Kootenay’s most exciting up-tempo dance bands who routinely thrill audiences of the young and the young at heart.

And Brass Monkey stand to heat up the dance floor at the Cranbrook Hotel Pub (719 Baker Street) this coming Friday, December 9, carving yet another notch in their imaginary six-gun handle (there’s seven of them in the band, actually).

“We both wanted to try assembling a band that was a different experience from what he and I usually found ourselves involved in,” continues Marchi. “My partner Shinobu is a good trumpet player, and James already had a great rhythm section in The Choice with (drummer) Brian Hamilton and (late keyboardist) Rick Parsons, so we felt it’d be so very fun for me to dust off my trusty trombone and gather everyone together into a big band with a focused horn section! It took no time at all before we were off and running.”

Formed at the dawn of the recent COVID-19 pandemic as a wise way to shake off the lockdown blues, Brass Monkey’s solid modern lineup consists of Randy Marchi (vocals, trombone), Jamie Neve (vocals, guitar), Shinobu Murata (trumpet), Don Glasrud (bass), Ken Bibby (keyboards), Keith Kendal (saxophone), and Brian Hamilton (drums). And all the participating band members are as stoked as Marchi.

“It’s such a good time for us in the band,” beams Marchi. “It can be difficult at times to keep a regular schedule when you’re working with seven people, so we need to be very dedicated to the group to keep forward momentum moving. But it’s so satisfying. All of us leave the rehearsals with big smiles on our faces. And all of our hard work pays off in spades. The public response to the band whenever we perform is always great. When we’re assembling a set list and building up our repertoire, we’re always trying to focus on really danceable, uplifting music – and a lot of people around these parts aren’t used to hearing a three-piece horn section!”

Indeed, Brass Monkey is virtually the only horn-focused band (aside from Marchi’s other horn-focused band Brass Roots) who remind the listener of classic groups like Chicago, Blood Sweat & Tears, and Chase.

And much of Marchi’s musical history was of similar format: his fondly recalled Kimberley-based showband-supreme Sensation (which also featured his equally talented brother Guy Marchi) toured internationally for many years, and oftentimes featured lineups of eight (!) separate musicians, half of whom were honking exuberantly into one brass contraption or another, for the delight of people across North America, Europe, the Caribbean, and who knows where else.

“When I was on the road with Sensation way back when,” recalls Marchi, “we were not only performing six nights a week, but we were also pulling daytime rehearsal five days a week! What the hell was I thinking? And so, when your current rehearsal schedule is reduced to once a week, or once every two weeks, and you only play out once every three months, it’s a lot more of a musical challenge to keep the band tight. But we’re all pushing ourselves to be as good as we can, and Brass Monkey is as powerful onstage as Sensation was, back in the day. I’m very happy to be in this band. As happy as I ever was, musically.”

Randy Marchi is emphatic that Brass Monkey is not some anachronistic heritage-preservation society: they are a bonafide PARTY BAND, and if You Can’t Dance then You’re Too Old.

“When we pick songs for our live set, we pick dance songs,” Marchi explains. “And I mean Dance Songs. We’re not picking weird, obscure tunes that keep people slumped in their seats, frowning and folding their arms across their chests. We’re here to entertain and we’re here to make you smile even as you sweat! Every time we play, we energize our audiences, and everybody gets down!  And with the Cranbrook Hotel Pub taking the community lead in providing what’s now the only cabaret-style atmosphere in downtown Cranbrook, we can’t wait to fill that dance floor!”

Brass Monkey kick out their well-honed horn-driven boogie chops this coming Friday, December 9 at the Cranbrook Hotel Pub (719 Baker Street). Doors 8 p.m., showtime 9:30 p.m.

Admission $15 advance (tickets available at the Pub during regular business hours), $20 at the door. Those looking to shake off their winter blues and shake ’em on down into the wee hours are encouraged to attend.

Lead image: Kootenay soul-n-horns heroes Brass Monkey (L-R): vocalist-trombonist Randy Marchi, keyboardist Ken Bibby, drummer Brian Hamilton, trumpeter Shinobu Murata, bassist Don Glasrud, guitarist Jamie Neve, saxophonist Keith Kendal. Photo submitted


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