The five members of Canadian Brass strolled onto the Lied Center for Performing Arts stage Thursday playing “Just a Closer Walk With Thee” second-line style, taking the hymn from dirge to celebratory jazz just as the New Orleans bands do walking to and from funerals.
Seventy-five minutes later, the quintet left the stage with Mozart’s “The Turkish March,” capping a concert that demonstrated why Canadian Brass is considered to be the world’s top brass ensemble, both musically and in entertainment value.
In between the hymn and the Mozart piece, the quintet delivered an eclectic, and I do mean eclectic, set that ranged from an Argentinian new tango to The Beatles’ “Penny Lane,” from “Danny Boy” to a 100-year-old municipal band song, proving that music is music — no labels or classifications needed and that anything, apparently, can be transformed for a brass quintet.
The lovely version of “Danny Boy,” arranged by trumpeter Caleb Hudson, was one of the highlights of the fast-moving show. So was the fiery soulful performance of Peruvian trumpet virtuoso Elmer Churampi on a jazz-based arrangement of “Amazing Grace.”
Trombonist Achilles Liarmakopoulos impressed on Arthur Pryor’s “Thoughts of Love,” the 1893 band piece that had the ensemble pulling the socially-distanced audience to the bandshell in the park.
And a five-minute version of Rimsky-Korsakov’s symphonic masterpiece “Scheherazade” was filled with drama and pyrotechnics — and could have gone on far longer.
But that would have killed the pace of the entertaining show that got its comic relief from founding member Chuck Daellenbach and his gold-plated tuba, which got flipped 360 degrees in a goof on the old number that became “Tuba Tiger Rag.”
Daellenbach and the group, which has seen multiple members over the decades, are on their fifth-anniversary tour. Well, not really a proper tour — Thursday’s show, he said, was their fifth concert in 1½ years.
Canadian Brass will be back at the Lied on Friday for concert No. 6. My guess is that it will be as impressive and entertaining as was Thursday’s.
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