One of my favorite thought-experiments of late comes from some Darcy James Argue-quilled Secret Society program notes: "What if every time you turned on the radio, everyone from T-Pain to Rihanna to Katy Perry was backed by a big band? What if Animal Collective and Vampire Weekend and MGMT all had 13-piece horn sections? What if the Rock Band video game came with a whole bunch of trumpet and saxophone and trombone controllers?"
Yeah, what if? I love horns, their rich tone, their blasting power, their human pitch—so close to a voice, yet abstracted and somehow perfected. When James Brown toured with the super-tight JBs (Maceo Parker was a key member), the group packed a wallop and could caress with a warm, full sound that exists only very rarely in contemporary pop. The decline of the big band had to do with economics as much as taste (a lot of musicians means a lot of fees to pay), but why aren't more musicians at least experimenting with what a horn section can` bring to new music?
Last week, the rapper Busdriver and the quintet Kneebody showed that this old-school union can pay real dividends. The show I attended last Friday was stellar, and one of the best numbers was the opener, Busdriver's "Split Seconds (Between Nannies and Swamis)." It's a tune Busdriver recorded on his 2009 album Jhelli Beam, but at least for me, it doesn't come fully alive until he has Kneebody behind him. A YouTube comparison: