LIVE: Mnozil Brass @ Troy Savings Bank Music Hall, 4/6/16

April 11th, 2016, 3:00 pm by Greg

Review by Jeff Nania

When I heard that there would be a brass band at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall last week, I thought I knew what I was in for. Boy, was I wrong.

Mnozil Brass is nothing like the New Orleans style brass bands you might be used to, although they did open up a trio arrangement of Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely,” mashed up with “Sir Duke” later in the evening for some improvisation.

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No, this was not just a musical concert, but a full-out show full of theatrics, comedic shtick and flawless technical prowess.

The group originally hails from Vienna, and as such, classical music is at its base, which is not hard to see and to hear. Three trumpets, three trombones and a tuba are essentially the basis of the ensemble, although the trumpeters also double on flugelhorn, and the trombonists also play bass trumpet and alto trombone. The musical pieces themselves are varied – everything from Stevie Wonder to Looney Toons to a handful of classical pieces, including Strauss’ “Also sprach Zarathustra” (aka the theme from “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

Each piece had the group assembled in various positions across the stage, whether standing in a line or sitting in haphazardly arranged chairs. For the “2001” piece, trombonist Gunther Fussl stood at a desk and played a theremin with which he was able to produce an electronic drone that increased in pitch as the rest of the members of the group crouched down and jumped around like chimpanzees circling a chair with a trombone case that recreated the classic scene from the movie. After they cleared out, two of the other members walked in slowly from the side dressed as astronauts, and as the music continued, they reached down as if to discover a pair of castanets which had been used for a Latin music routine earlier in the evening. With their backs to the audience, the two “astronauts” held up the castanets and then took a selfie while the crowd laughed.

Perhaps the most unbelievable thing of the night took place at the very end, after the audience potentially assumed the show was over. An encore, and standing ovation had already been given, and the members of the group had taken their bows and left the stage. All but one, that is.

Leonhard Paul, one of the trombonists, remained behind and seemed to fiddle with his instrument, and then with his chair for quite some time, making a big show about bringing it front and center, and moving it about and getting it just so before attempting to sit in it, but then adjusting it again and again. When he finally took a seat, he proceeded to slowly take off his shoes and socks and used each sock to floss out the space between his big toe and second toe. All of this took so much time and built so much anticipation that even though the show may have seemed to be over, the audience must have known that something big was in store.

Sure enough, Albert Wieder entered and started playing a lazy tuba line. Fussl followed and placed the slide of his trombone between the big toe and second toe of Paul, who then proceeded to move the slide with his foot while Fussl blew the notes. Zoltan Kiss came out from the other side, and before you knew it, Paul was playing with both of his feet. Thomas Gansch and Robert Rother followed with their trumpets, which Paul proceeded to play with his hands, so that now both of his hands and feet were occupied.

Roman Rindberger then entered and came out to center stage and took a bow as if he were a magician about to perform a great trick. He circled around behind Paul and pulled the chair out from beneath him so that he was then suspended in mid-air playing all of these instruments.

It was this kind of over-the-top theatrics mixed with an impressive command of their instruments and the music (did I mention there was not a page of sheet music in sight the entire evening?) that gives you an idea of what Mnozil Brass is all about.