"We grew up on the South Side of Chicago during the '80s, when the crack epidemic was at its highest. And we were exposed to the tragic deterioration it imposed on our community," describes trumpeter Gabriel "Hudah" Hubert. "But we had an escape because our parents offered us many gifts. Through teaching us bits and pieces about health, astronomy, world musical and artistic culture, and other subjects, our parents gave us a head start over our peers."
Led by father and jazz trumpeter Phil Cohran, it was the musical education that was most strictly enforced, and which has undoubtedly opened the most doors for the seven brothers that now comprise the funky, upbeat Hypnotic Brass Ensemble. Cohran, best known for his work with the Sun Ra Arkestra, put horns in his boys' hands at young ages, touring the country as the Phil Cohran Youth Ensemble. And while much deserved credit is given to the patriarch for their sonic rearing, with some 25 brothers and sisters total in the family, the mothers played an important, albeit less publicized, part.
"Our mothers' roles were integral to us being ready for 6 am rehearsals," Hubert explains. Beyond dressing and feeding the kids, they were also responsible for "making sure we remembered and digested our lessons given by our father. Because our mothers were musicians, it made it easier for our father to convey his thoughts because they reinforced what he said."
This upbringing instilled a vision within the brothers—one full of music, rock-solid values, education and a strong work ethic, all of which enabled them to see what was possible in life beyond their present circumstances. As the boys became men and ceased playing with their dad in an effort to discover their own soulful, jazz-filled and hip-hop-influenced sound, they became the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble and went on to accompany the likes of Prince, Mos Def and Gorillaz on stages and recordings.
They've sought to tell their story in the recent documentary, "Brothers Hypnotic," as well as pass on their principles during performances and in classrooms. Participating in education, HBE will offer a workshop for local middle and high school students in Sisters, culminating in the group playing their Hunger Games-featured cut, "War," with the student musicians.
As for their own family's legacy, members of the coming generation may continue the tradition and the brothers are ready "to be there to reiterate our lessons," Hubert says. "Some of our children naturally gravitated towards music and are innately carrying the torch." Yet music or not, Hypnotic Brass Ensemble's most solid foundation comes from their youth: the "desire for more and not settling for what's tangible today."
Sisters Folk Festival presents Hypnotic Brass Ensemble
Thursday, Nov. 17, 7pm
Sisters High School,
1700 McKinney Butte Rd., Sisters
$15 adults, $10 students