From the peaks of the Himalayas to a journey with Alexander von Humboldt into the Andes and through the desert with Karl May: The band Mardi Gras.BB is ready to whisk listeners away on a musical voyage.
One of the band members moonlights as a physician
Bassist and sousaphone player Uli Krug got a request about 20 years ago that he was all too happy to oblige. He was to come up with a concept for a May Day dance party and immediately recalled a four-week trip he'd made to New Orleans. Krug decided to try and bring a bit of Cajun flair to his German hometown, Mannheim.
"Mannheim goes New Orleans" was the name of the party that first brought Mardi Gras.BB together. Krug recruited a couple of musician friends to form the brass group. A few months later, they become a full-fledged ensemble in New Orleans marching band style.
But they didn't just want to mimic a style of music they loved. The band members aimed to create their own brand and started writing their own compositions - especially frontman Jochen Wenz. Trained as a doctor, Wenz is the lead songwriter of the group.
The band loves to mix with the crowd
For four years, the combo worked under the name Mardi Gras Brass Band, producing their own albums in home studios. Then they got a little more ambitious. The musicians spruced up their name by shortening Brass Band to BB and set off on tour.
It's been more than ten years since they their first world tour, and their style has expanded along the way. But the soul of New Orleans brass bands is still at the heart of the group.
Mardi Gras.BB loves to take to the streets for their concerts, whether they find themselves in Mannheim or far from home. It's a way of playing, said founder Uli Krug, that lets the band see if what they're doing attracts listeners or not.
"If you can pull it off that passers-by suddenly stop and decide to toss something in your hat on the ground, then you can be pretty sure you've found a concept worth going with," Krug said.
A mix of styles and languages
Their newest concept can be heard on the album "Von Humboldt Picnic" - a collection of songs that crisscross stylistic, geographic and linguistic borders.
New Orleans brass, German style
"It's a world tour in 43 minutes with a lot of nods to the classic adventure stories kids read and that we grew up with - everything from Karl May to Jules Verne's 'Around the World in 80 Days.'"
The songs are written in English, French and German, but the influences on the album range from South America to Europe and all the way to Asia. But no matter at which station the musicians stop on their musical voyage, there's always a bit of home to be heard.
As they look ahead to their 20th anniversary together, the band still relishes in mixing elegant tradition with modern flair - the end result being a sound that's simply timeless.
Author: Katrin Wilke / gsw
Editor: Louisa Schaefer