All boned up
EDWARDS – Who knew Black Sabbath tunes sounded so good on the trombone? Apparently Mark Mullins did. The frontman for Bonerama, a New Orleans throw-down-the-funk group claiming four trombonists, has a gift for riding that slide. The band rings in 2005 with a show at Frites in Edwards Friday, Dec. 31.. Doors open at 10:45 p.m.Drop the word trombone into casual conversation, and thoughts immediately turn to band geeks and fringe society. Unless you’re in New Orleans, that is. A product of its Crescent City heritage, Bonerama’s sound is fat and wet – sometimes it’s downright lusty. In addition to the four trombones, they bring a guitar, sousaphone and drum kit. “The trombone is popular in New Orleans,” explained Mullins. “Historically, it’s very important with the origins of jazz. The trombone for me – it’s my voice. I can experience lots of different influences, different difficulties and express them all. That instrument has the ability to make people run for the exits, and then make them cry a couple minutes later. It’s dynamic, with a really wide range.”
And the material the group plays utilizes that wide range. From big, brassy jazz to fast-and-loose funk, Bonerama stretches the sound waves. Both of Bonerama’s albums, the first released in 2001 and the second just last month, are live recordings. This isn’t some fluke of coincidence, but a conscious decision for the group. “When we’re playing, there’s always a lot of spontaneity,” said Mullins. “A lot of what happens musically is off the map, and it seems difficult to re-create that in the studio.”
Though there are plenty of original tracks on the albums, and they’re crowd teasers, the covers are especially worth mentioning. Led Zeppelin’s “Moby Dick,” Edgar Winter’s “Frankenstein,” Jimi Hendrix’s “Crosstown Traffic,” Gregg Allman’s “Whipping Post” and Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” all have something in common: They rock on the ‘bone. Not only do Mullins’ arrangements take the songs into new ground, but they have a way of nailing the vibe that can’t just be luck. These musicians have skills.”Down in New Orleans, everybody plays something” said Mullins. “There’s a great horn player sense of community. That brass band tradition goes all the way back to Louis Armstrong. And that’s pretty intimidating. Everyone has to step up and give it their best shot. You have to be really good, because a lot of people are really good.”Though Mullins’ personal taste runs to rock, he’s spent years in Harry Connick Jr’s big band, playing alongside fellow trombonist Craig Klein.
the duo found themselves with some unexpected time off, they decided to join forces and get funky. And so Bonerama was born, dedicated to rock ‘n’ roll and obliterating trombone stereotypes.”It’s a totally unique musical experience,” said Jonathan Walsh, proprietor of Frites. “Mark (Mullins) actually runs his trombone through a guitar amp, and he can play it off a pedal. It’s a real treat to have a band this size, and with this reputation, play at a small venue like ours.”Walsh recently moved to the valley from Manhattan, where his specialty was bringing New Orleans music to the Big Apple. As Vail has a tradition of enthusiastically supporting New Orleans music (think Porter, Batiste & Stoltz and the Rads), bringing Bonerama to Edwards was a natural decision.
“We walk a fine line between arrangements and exploring improvisation,” said Mullins. “A live performance really taps into the soul of the band.”And all that soul goes bone-deep.Tickets for Bonerama’s performance at Frites are $35 and include 2 drinks prior to the show at Gore Range Brewery, and a champagne toast at midnight. Doors open for the concert at 10:45 p.m.Vail Colorado