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Band of brothers brings brass to Sheldon

The brothers of Hypnotic Brass Ensemble are coming Feb. 24, to the Sheldon Theatre.

Seven blood brothers from Chicago's South Side will bring their unique fusion of jazz, soul, hip-hop, rock and funk music to Red Wing on Feb. 24.

Performing as the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, they will appear at 7:30 p.m. at the Sheldon Theatre.

They have been playing brass instruments since childhood, having been raised communally by their father, jazz trumpeter and activist, Phil Cohran and his wives. Music was a constant element in the household.

The brothers were obligated to get up at 6 a.m. to play their horns before and after school. As adolescents they played around Chicago in the Phil Cohran Youth Ensemble, but then some set their horns aside for a while.

They decided to pick their horns back up in 1999 and performed as a brass ensemble, recording their first project, "Flipside," in 2004. Reviewers call their music "indescribably joyful, unremittingly exciting and undeniably together."

For their first appearance in Red Wing, according to brother Gabriel Hubert, a trumpeter, they will feature "the best elements of all genres of music."

He explained, "Music is a universal language," and the band of brothers doesn't like to be put in a box. Individually and collectively they write songs that enable them to connect with the people in the audience. "We let the music write itself."

Or as the Los Angeles Times put it, the ensemble is "...the world's funkiest marching band one minute, an unhinged New Orleans funeral procession the next."

"It's all about receiving and giving music," Hubert said. "We call ourselves people's people. We're fans of the fans."

Performing in an intimate, jewel-box space like the Sheldon brings them closer to each other and to the audience, he added. "Sometimes the most soulful performances" result from those conditions.

Most of the brothers of the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble live in New York City now, but they are continually traveling with their music.

"We're a totally independent, grassroots band," Hubert said. That inspires them, he added. "We are able to travel around the world independently and as a family."

In recent years they have spent a lot of time on all five continents — all but Antarctica — but their North American tours have been largely in Canada and Mexico. This year they have numerous U.S. stops. "We're totally psyched about that," Hubert said.

Leading up to their Minnesota appearances, the ensemble has appeared in North Carolina, Florida and Los Angeles.

The Hypnotic Brass Ensemble has performed or recorded with many big-name entertainers, from Mos Def to the B-52s and Erykah Badu, but one name stands out from the rest: Prince.

"He requested us" as an opening band when he played a rescheduled concert in Dublin, Ireland, Hubert said. Prince was quoted in the Irish Times that "He wanted to play real music with real musicians."

That concert, including an opportunity to jam with Prince and to perform with him during a "Musicology" encore, was one of life's highlights for the brothers.

"He really showed us a lot of love," Hubert said.

Another recent highlight was having one of their songs, "War," featured in the blockbuster movie "Hunger Games" as the theme song for the character Caesar Flickerman. They also were the subjects of a PBS documentary, "Brothers Hypnotic," which will be screened at the Sheldon tonight.

Tickets are $18 to $35. For reservations or information, call 651-388-8700 or go online to www.sheldontheatre.org.

If you go...

Who: Hypnotic Brass Ensemble

What: Jazz-funk concert

When: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 24

Where: Sheldon Theatre

How much: $18-$35

More info: www.sheldontheatre.org or 651-388-8700

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