Eclectic jam-rock three piece Drums & Tuba not the traditional marching band

By on October 31, 2002

The eclectic marching band is the unusual moniker for Drums & Tuba, an Austin, Texas jam-rock trio who released their third record, “Mostly Ape,” on Ani Difranco’s Righteous Babe Records in early September.
Consisting of Difranco stage hand Brian Wolff on tuba and trumpet, the seedy trio ranks among diverging jazz-jam rock acts such as Medeski, Martin & Wood, Galactic, Les Claypool and John Scofield.
With drummer and electronic sampler Tony Nozero, of Madison, Wis., and guitarist Neal McKeeby of Knoxville, Tenn., Drums & Tuba are not a novelty act but a fusion ensemble representing jazz, electronic and grooving jam beats.
From New York City to a health food store affiliation, these three musicians scrap together “Mostly Ape,” an experimental record with the vibe of a James Bond soundtrack or any 1970’s jazz-funk theme song. Fans of the trio include punk and indie-rock fans, hippies and a mix of elder jazz hall concert-goers that find a little bit of everything in the band’s live set and recordings.
“The kind of person who I expect to tell us ‘what the hell are you guys doing up there and whose dumb idea was it anyway’ will tell us, ‘that was nothing like I expected but I really dug your sound,'” says Wolff of his band’s charm. “Someone who is not completely into experimental music of any kind enjoys what we do simply because it’s good music, not because it’s impressive or complicated, but just because it sounds good.”
Leading off with a bombastic downbeat from low-registered Wolff’s tuba and kitty-meowing samples from Nozero, “Brain Liaters” is five and a half minutes of trance fusion courtesy of a New Orleans marching band and a Sunset Strip detective film’s heavy funk-rock tempo.
“Sevens” is reminiscent of Difranco’s jam-worthy funk catalog, while it features metal-esque guitar breaks a la “Mother’s Milk”-era Chili Peppers.
Further caramelized funk rock persists in “4Style” and “Elephants.” Brass takes the place of the slapped bass guitar. McKeeby stratifies in a chunky rhythm guitar nirvana and Nozero fizzes with soda-pop scratches and looped drumming.
Meanwhile, it is uncertain as to which niche the trio stands for a stretched moment, as they are everywhere and shift easily mid-song amid the marching band brass, “Boogie Nights” velvet and pistol-shooter crime tale sounds.
“Air Con Dee” glistens with laser gun effects in renegade funk and the two-minute “Super Bee” is a quick intravenous bop-jazz dose in the tune of Blue Note jazz-jammers Medeski, Martin and Wood.
Concluding with “Magoo,” Wolff, McKeeby and Nozero pay a silly homage to “Superfly” Curtis Mayfield and funk-soul greats, ending “Mostly Ape” with a repetitive chime of art rock decadence.
Heading west, Drums & Tuba will be back in the area by December, playing at Brooklyn, N.Y.’s North Six on Nov. 27.


About Mike Schoeck