C Street Brass Bring Rock Star Class to Quintet Performance

By Ian Beabout, Online Editor and Jewlina Matthews, Contributing Writer

On Wednesday, September 9th, The C Street Brass ensemble gave a phenomenal performance in College Hall’s Elbin Auditorium. Hailing from Pittsburgh, PA, the quintet – consisting of Scott Nadelson & Kyle Anderson on trumpet Joe Hughes, horn, Gabriel Colby, trombone, and Hakeem Bilal, bass trombone, delivered a roughly 90 minute set, comprised of music dating from as far back as the 1600’s to Billy Joel pop tunes.

The concert kicked off slightly after 7 pm, with the gentlemen in the group chatting with audience members shortly before taking the stage. They appeared on stage dressed somewhat casually, and seemed relaxed and comfortable, not rigid or overly formal in any way. Their performance had some comical aspects to it, making it all the more entertaining. 

The group was very comfortable with each other and demonstrated this by some good natured ribbing at one another on stage.  Every piece was performed perfectly from memory and the program selection took well to the audience, as it consisted of a variety of material.

What surprised me the most is that the only piece that could be considered classical in the strictest sense, Tomaso Albinoni’s Concerto for Saint Marc, was performed seated and with proper reverence to the material, while most of the rest of the set was performed standing, with the quintet adding movement and choreography to many of the more active pieces.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, Billy Joel’s “Lullabye” was performed alongside a tango piece, with one member of the group commenting, “Not a lot of music is originally written for brass quintet, which means we look for arrangements of some pieces for ourselves.” Kyle Anderson, is the resident arranger and the group’s mutual teacher.

Several pieces featured soloists out in front with the other four members standing back, giving it an almost 1960’s Motown feel – ‘star’ in front, ‘backing’ members to the side and back. Most notably was a sensational New Orleans Jazz style reading of the traditional hymn, Amazing Grace, featuring trumpeter Scott Nadelson, which even the most cynical members of the audience couldn’t resist tapping a foot to. The performance received a well deserved standing ovation from the audience and proved an ingenious way to end the first set.

After a brief intermission (with C Streeters socializing with audience members once again), the group returned to the stage and had us all bobbing our heads to a ragtime, before launching into a selection of familiar pieces from Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, most notably the bluesy standard, “Summertime”.   Also on the program, “Fly Me to the Moon” – the ensemble’s ‘cheeky’ tribute to the time they were invited to play for astronaut William Anders.  It earned them an invite to the man’s personal yacht.

Something should also be mentioned about their sound. What really impressed me is how, as an ensemble, they really sounded like one mind.  Even through fluctuations in tone, they managed to move together and in perfect tonality, creating a rich, warm ensemble sound that was simply a joy to listen to. Also of note was their onstage banter, which seemed to be that which only could be developed through countless hours of playing together and true friendship.

After the concert, Jewlina Matthews performed a Q and A with Kyle and Scott from C-Street.

Q: How did you get your start?

A: We all attended Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, Maryland. All of the musicians in C-Street also participate in Beauty Slap, their alter ego ensemble.

Q: How long have you been a group?

A: As C-Street, we have been a group for three years.

Q: How many tours have you done?

A: Both Kyle and Scott agree they have done too many tours to count.

Q: What do you want regular concert-goers take from your performances?

A: Kyle Anderson replied, “Happiness, for everyone to have a good time.”

I thoroughly enjoyed the C Street Brass and found them engaging and entertaining, as well as musically nourishing. In short, these gents were amazing – some seasoned audience members claimed it was the best show they’ve ever seen on campus. It’s hard to disagree.

You can follow the C Steet Brass on Facebook here, and check out their music here. It’s also strongly advised you have a listen at their incredibly hip electronic alter-ego, Beauty Slap.