Revolutionary Snake Ensemble

Revolutionary Snake Ensemble

BandJazzFunk

Led by saxophonist Ken Field, RSE is a costumed funk & improvisational brass band performing a unique blend of original and traditional music. The group's 2nd CD spent 2 months on the CMJ jazz top 20 chart, and appeared on a dozen best-of-year lists including one in The Village Voice.

Biography

"Musical innovator Ken Field...[drags] the brass band into the 21st century."
– Seth Rogovoy, Berkshire Eagle

Boston's own rabble of horn players and drummers bring a positively Sun Ra shine to second-line music"
– Jed Gottlieb, The Boston Herald

Dressed a la Mardi Gras in feathered masks and multi-colored, sequined costumes, playing music that riotously combines the rhythms of New Orleans brass bands with improvisation and heaping undercurrents of funk, the Revolutionary Snake Ensemble inhabits that rare musical planet on which Sun Ra, James Brown, George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic and a myriad of New Orleans marching bands jointly reside. Based physically in Boston since forming in 1990, the horn and percussion-based group is led by saxophonist/composer Ken Field, who describes it as "a funk and street beat brass band, playing New Orleans and other modern improvised celebratory styles." The Snakes' music is rooted in the New Orleans tradition of jazz funerals – a tradition unique to the birthplace of jazz – which began with a 'first line' procession to the burial ground, a brass band playing hymns in a funeral dirge. Afterwards, there was a celebration of the deceased's life, with a 'second line' of musicians playing up-tempo music celebrating the miracle of life. Playing Field's original compositions and rearrangements of traditional tunes, opening up new avenues for improvisation, the Revolutionary Snake Ensemble celebrates, expands, and transforms the brass band tradition – a tradition, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, that is now in diaspora.

A saxophonist/composer/improviser, Ken Field is one of Boston's most dedicated and versatile musicians. Since 1988, he has been a member of Birdsongs of the Mesozoic, a New Music/chamber rock ensemble that began as a spin-off of the legendary Mission of Burma. Birdsongs has recorded seven internationally acclaimed CDs on Cuneiform Records, including the recent Extreme Spirituals, which features the bass/baritone of noted African American vocalist Oral Moses. Field also has an active solo career. An improviser and composer of classical/New Music, he has performed internationally and released four solo discs [Subterranea, (O.O.Discs), Pictures of Motion (sFz), Tokyo in F (Sublingual), and Under the Skin (Innova)] and performed internationally. Field has composed music for animation, film and video, and music for Bridgman/Packer Dance, soundtrack work for television, including music for Sesame Street and PBS. As a performer, he has worked as a sideman with countless renowned reggae, funk, R&B, rock, jazz and world beat artists – and played a gig for former President Bill Clinton. Field is also the long-standing host of The New Edge, a Boston-based weekly radio show featuring a broad range of creative instrumental music.

The Revolutionary Snake Ensemble formed in 1990, when Field assembled an improvisational horn and percussion group with trumpeter and cartoonist Scott Getchell to entertain at a pagan women's ritual celebration. Field decided to continue the project, conceiving it initially as an improvisational group rooted in Boston's free jazz/improv scene. But the group "soon started playing some of my original pieces plus obscure music by John Scofield, Sun Ra, Ornette Coleman, and others, mostly with a New Orleans funky marching groove," recalls Field. As New Orleans brass band and Mardi Gras music began playing ever-increasing roles in the band's repertoire, the Revolutionary Snake Ensemble came into its own. Speaking of the Snake's music as though it were a bowl of New Orleans gumbo, which begins with a classic roux, critic Dan Oullette noted that it "captures the abandon of a street parade while expanding its stylistic scope…it's got the essential ingredients spiced with fresh flavors". Performer Magazine noted that the band
"…may operate from the traditions of New Orleans music, but the boundaries are pushed wide open when they actually play. "We mostly play from 'head' charts, where everyone has the melody and chord changes in front of them. Since there's no guitar or keyboard, the horns can not only solo, they…even alter the harmonies spontaneously," Field said. "So there's a lot of improvisation. I also conduct some of the arrangements live…"
For both the band and their audiences, notes Performer, "Doing all of the high art ministrations of improvisation and having an audible party at the same time really is the best of both worlds."

Combining their "booty-shaking and brain stimulating music" [Splendid] with over-the-top/outrageous costumes – feathered masks and sequined robes from a wardrobe shared by Mardi Gras and Sun Ra – the Revolutionary Snake Ensemble's performances soon became one of Boston's most-beloved 'events'. They played everywhere in town - from private parties (they re-arranged a Billy Idol/William Broad tune for a White family wedding) and clubs, to such revered institutions as Harvard and

Discography

"Year of the Snake" (Innova 2003)

"Forked Tongue" (Cuneiform 2008)

Set List

REVOLUTIONARY SNAKE ENSEMBLE
2 hour 6-2009 Set List

Bourbon St Parade
Slots
Cassandra
Chippie
Super Mario 64 Theme
Just a Closer Walk
Black Dog
I Got It

(break)

Liza Jane
Goldfinger
Makossa
Que Sera Sera
Iko Iko
The Large S
Rock of Ages
Down By the Riverside
White Wedding
Parade of Numbers