Bonerama brings Big Easy brass to Big Apple
By Ryan Chatelain
If it weren’t for the movie “Hope Floats,” the New Orleans brass band Bonerama might never have existed.
Eleven years ago, trombonists Mark Mullins and Craig Klein were members of Harry Connick Jr.’s band. But when the New Orleans jazz crooner began to star in TV shows and films — including the aforementioned 1998 romance with Sandra Bullock — Mullins and Klein found themselves with a lot of spare time.
So the longtime friends formed a trombone-centric funk and rock group, which plays Friday night at Sullivan Hall in Greenwich Village.
Today, Bonerama, which includes three front-line trombonists, is not only one of the most popular brass bands in New Orleans, it is also usually greeted with packed houses in New York, where the band recorded a 2004 live album.
“There’s a New Orleans to New York connection, I don’t know exactly what it is, especially with music,” Mullins said. “There’s a lot of music fans up there that are really tune in with what’s going on with New Orleans, and they really support it.”
Meanwhile, Bonerama seeks to break the stereotype that New Orleans trombonists should be playing jazz. Aside from their lively originals and New Orleans standards, the band has been known to perform covers such as Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” and Led Zeppelin’s “Ocean.”
“I just think it’s an evolution of brass music,” Mullins said. “I would love to take credit for it, but in reality, we’re just playing music we love.”
To help bolster its rock sound, the band has altered its lineup in recent months, adding an organ player and replacing its sousaphonist with a bassist.
“There’s definitely still a brass element, but it’s got a stronger foot in the rock stuff,” Mullins said. “We can lean in that area and dig in that area more than we ever have before.”