Saturday, October 27, 2007

sublime subway brass

A few months ago, as I was running to catch the 6 train at GCS, I heard the wail of horns. Not the angry sound of taxi horns filtering down from the street, but brass horns: trumpets and trombones or the like. The horns were joyously howling over a deep rhythmic percussion, reminding me of Balkan gypsy music, rock, and jazz at once. I stopped running to the 6 train, and as if hypnotized, walked in the direction of the horns. A substantial subway audience crowded around a group of seven or eight young African-American men trumpeting a swelling wail into the busy subway corridor.

I stood transfixed, hair standing up on my bare arms. I don’t remember but that I didn’t move for at least ten minutes. My appointment seemed unimportant. The swaying musicians were unbearably beautiful; they transformed the grimy passageway into something akin to sacred. Between songs I finally broke away, putting money in the bin at their feet. I purposely did not look at the stack of CDs next to the bin, nor at the name of the band. I wanted to remember them this way, sweating in the subway to the howling passion of their music.

I have heard them playing in the subway since that evening. Each time I stop and listen, each time eyeing the CDs suspiciously. Last night on the way to my AT lesson they were playing in Union Square subway. I didn’t have any cash on me, but I did get the name of the band: The Hypnotic Brass Ensemble. I did a google search on them and found a few interesting links, including a New York Times video (click here) and their own blogspot site (click here).

I think next time I pass them I'll buy a CD.

1 comment:

Jenny said...

Oh I love this! I remember the beautiful music in those grimy subway passages. Whenever I hear it I used to think, "This is why I LOVE New York." What a city--even the subway are teeming with life, and sometimes even pulsating with heard beauty.