In the music spotlight: Hypnotic Brass Ensemble


For the Sun-Times

Next week, the Promontory hosts the homecoming of the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble following its monthlong European tour. The group began by busking on the streets of Chicago and rose to international success after relocating to Brooklyn in 2005. Trumpeter Gabriel Hubert says that the time is right for Hypnotic to return to Chicago.

“Some of us are still in New York, but our focus is to realign ourselves with our home,” says Hubert. “When we left Chicago nine years ago, we weren’t playing clubs and festivals. Most people saw us on State Street and Michigan Avenue. We’ve grown a lot. We want to regain those fans who helped start this Hypnotic movement, and grab some new ones.”

Hypnotic’s founding members are sons of renowned jazz trumpeter and Sun Ra Arkestra veteran Kelan Phil Cohran. The band’s mighty sound fuses jazz, funk and hip-hop. The sprawling lineup includes four trumpets, two trombones, euphonium, bass, drums and guitar.

Although Hypnotic has evolved, one thing remains constant. “The horn players will always be sons of Phil Cohran, my blood brothers,” says Hubert.

The ensemble’s versatility has created demand for wide-ranging collaborations, including work with Erykah Badu, pioneering Afrobeat drummer Tony Allen, Flea and rapper Mos Def. One of the band’s recent visits home was during a tour with Gorillaz. Hypnotic appeared on Gorillaz’ 2010 album “Plastic Beach.”

“We’ll be on the next album as well,” says Hubert. “Damon Albarn has been very influential in our career, allowing us to see the potential of where we can go if we keep doing what we do in the correct way.”

The upcoming concert launches Hypnotic’s Southside Music Series. “We’re doing this to reconnect, showcase local acts, and bring in artists we’d like to work with,” says Hubert. “We want to help people see the creative energy that Chicago is giving the world right now.”

Groundbreaking hip-hop trio De La Soul are friends gained through the Gorillaz camp who will join the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble at the Promontory. “We had the opportunity to play ‘Ego Trippin’’ with De La Soul when we performed together in Galway, Ireland,” says Hubert. “We opened for them in front of 2,000 people, and the reception was great.”

At the Promontory, the band will perform material from its upcoming album “Bad Boys of Jazz.” A video for the group’s single “Straight Business” will debut Jan. 7 on YouTube’s Hypnotic Brass TV channel.

Hypnotic Brass Ensemble w/special guest De La Soul, 9 p.m. Jan. 15 at The Promontory, 5311 S. Lake Park Avenue West. Tickets, $25-$50. (312) 801-2100;

Jeff Elbel is a local freelance writer. Email:

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