The Leonhart Brass Band was conceived during the 2020 Covid-19 quarantine when trumpeter/composer Michael Leonhart was unable to perform with his 18-piece orchestra at NYC’s famous Jazz Standard. Instead, Leonhart began composing music for a raw small brass band featuring members of Antibalas, the Dap-Kings and Red Baraat, whom were all capable of playing outdoors without amplification. Building on the foundation of the classic brass bands—Dirty Dozen Brass and Rebirth Brass Band—Leonhart has infused elements of hip-hop and funk to create his own sound.
On side A, “Snake Oil” is driven by a cymbal bell heavy drum groove and bass line with a horn melody that harkens back to the serpentine lines of both Cannonball Adderley’s 1973 LP, Inside Straight, and saxophonist Eddie Harris’ classic “Freedom Jazz Dance.” Leonhart takes the first solo on trumpet followed by Cochemea Gastelum on baritone saxophone.
On the flip, “Shammgod” is a tribute to perhaps the greatest ball handler to ever play basketball, God Shammgod (a/k/a Shammgod Wells). Although his professional career was short lived—as he had played only for the Dallas Mavericks’1997-1998 season and later for the Chinese Basketball Association (Zhejiang Cyclones)—his name rings on for the creation of his legendary crossover move, “The Shammgod.” Leonhart draws frequent creative inspiration from basketball; the tight staccato strut of the horn melody has the tempo and swagger of a pickup street ball game, a sound that’s further accentuated with Stuart Bogie on the baritone saxophone.