Bluegrass with horns? Chopped Liver says yes!

By now we have, most of us, heard bluegrass bands paired with symphony orchestras or smaller classical ensembles. What we don’t encounter much are bluegrass groups accompanied by a horn section. And why not?

That’s what Ontario’s Chopped Liver is asking, and they are doing something about it. The trio, composed of Andrew Ivens on guitar, Adam Vrankulj on bass, and Victor Vrankulj on banjo, have taken advantage of Victor’s music school education, and recorded versions of songs from their current album, DB Cooper, with trumpet, trombone,  saxophone, and bass clarinet.

We are delighted to premiere one of these today, on their original song, Black Clouds Rising, an ominous tale of climatic disaster.

Victor, and his bandmates, are also jazz fans, and he clues us in on the motif he used in writing this horn chart.

“The main instrumental part you hear at the beginning and end of Black Clouds Rising is based on the first few bars of Miles Davis’s solo on So What from Kind of Blue(1959). The vocabulary he used in a lot of his modal music has been a huge inspiration on the way we all approach bluegrass music.

With the exception of the fiddle, bluegrass instruments can’t typically sustain notes. Horns can, and have access to all sorts of things with dynamics that just aren’t available to pickers. I wanted to play around with that difference in texture and explore some harmonic options that become available with four voices. There aren’t a lot of examples of these instruments playing in a group, so the band had to have a lot of faith in the vision. We’re so happy with the way the horns interpreted the charts and how it all came together.”

Have a listen, and a look.

Nice job! Not something you hear every day.

Playing horns on the video are:

Trumpet – Brad Eaton
Alto Saxophone – Matt Woroshyl
Trombone – RJ Satchithananthan 
Bass Clarinet – Conrad Gluch

Black Clouds Rising and the full DB Cooper album are available now wherever you stream or download music online, and on CD directly from the band.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.