The eight young men who make up the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble are all sons of Phil Cohran, a legendary Chicago trumpeter who turned his back on commercial music to pursue astral jazz (with the “cosmic philosopher” of jazz, Sun Ra), proto-funk, and a passionately Afrocentric lifestyle. Cohran’s ultimate avant-garde work, however, may have been his own sons, who were raised communally on Chicago’s South Side with Cohran and their two mothers, complete with homemade clothes, veganism, and alternative holidays.
Starting at age four, the boys also joined the family band, learning to play the trumpet, tuba, drums, French horn, cornet, and trombone. Rehearsals began early each morning but, unlike the Jackson Five, Cohran’s sons were not bred for pop stardom. Instead they were taught to “create sounds to fuse with the body and heal the soul,” and to serve as an inspiration for the community.
Cohran’s “boys,” as seen in Reuben Atlas’s Brothers Hypnotic, are now young men in their 20s and 30s, and when they raise their horns, they make transcendent music that ties currents from jazz and funk to soul and hip-hop. But although working together as their father had hoped — whether playing in Times Square, negotiating with managers and record labels, or jamming with Mos Def and Prince — they find the unwavering ideals bred into them by their father repeatedly tested.
The film follows the octet as far away as Ireland as they tour and work to carve out their own renown around the world. Synopsis from PBS. (2013, 87 mins, DVD).
The screening will be followed by a Q&A and feature a silent art auction to support the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble’s upcoming trip to SXSW.