Revolutionary Snake Ensemble: Year of the Snake

Revolutionary Snake Ensemble: Year of the Snake

It's all here - music for the head, the heart, and the feet.
Derek van Beever
Ethan Herschman
Lennie Peterson
Eric Paull
Bob Pilkington
Angel Gregorio Villoldo
James Crawford
Ken Field
Manu Dibango
James Brown
Sun Ra
John Scofield
Bob Pilkington
Derek Van Beever
Eric Paull
Ethan Meyer
Jon Fraser
Ken Field
Revolutionary Snake Ensemble
Scott Getchell
Catalog Number: 
big band

Boston, MA

Release Date: 
Nov 11, 2003
Liner Notes: 
1 CD
Year of the SnakeiTunes Artist's PageiTunes Album Page
Song TitleTimePrice
2.Year of the Snake02:22$0.99
3.Soul Makossa05:37$0.99
4.Soul Power05:03$0.99
5.A Call for All Demons06:57$0.99
6.Central Square05:50$0.99
7.Some Nerve04:29$0.99
8.El choclo05:18$0.99
9.Iko Iko - Aicho05:43$0.99
10.I Got It04:25$0.99
One Sheet: 

With his Revolutionary Snake Ensemble, alto saxophonist and composer Ken Field (Birdsongs of the Mesozoic; Sesame Street) has picked up the ever-evolving New Orleans brass band sound and moved it to a new neighborhood. The Snake Ensemble adds influences from non-New Orleans, horn-based funk bands like the JBs, Tower of Power, and Lester Bowie's Brass Fantasy, and from Latin jazz and salsa, but what it all boils down to is a great party band that delivers music of substance. 

It's all here - music for the head, the heart, and the feet - with an all-star line-up that features members of the Either/Orchestra, the Hot Tamale Brass Band, Binary System, Lars Vegas, Clem Snide, the Bad Art Ensemble, Count Zero, Clutch Grabwell, and others. The Revolutionary Snake Ensemble was named one of Boston's best bands by the Boston Phoenix and WFNX radio, and was called one of the best unsigned bands in the country by WBZ Television. 



All wrapped up in a goofy package, snake on snakeskin on the front and campy Mardi Gras pose inside. So in the end, the point of this record is obvious: have a good time and mix it up. Things have certainly heated up in Boston. - Nils Jacobson

“Far from being dusty history, today's brass bands are marching hip hop,R&B, and other modern methods through brash New Orleans traditions. Enter Boston's Revolutionary Snake Ensemble -- an instant second-line parade of grit, honk and morphing rhythms. RSE's shifting, top-shelf roster adds a die-hard allegiance to funky beats and jazzy Latin and African stylings to the New Orleans street-corner spirit. It's urban tribal music -- undeniably sensual, often improvised, and always synchronized in celebration. And on RSE's long-anticipated debut, it's delivered in precision bursts of audacious, sliding horns, and locomotive beats.” - Tristram Lozaw


This album kicks off with the aptly-titled "Parade," what you'd likely expect to hear from a typical New Orleans marching band. But soon enough things go delightfully awry, as one would expect from the hands of musical innovator Ken Field (Birdsongs of the Mesozoic). Bass lines pop like Parliament and the brass band offers up a version of Manu Dibango's "Soul Makossa." The group also takes on numbers by Sun Ra, John Scofield and James Brown, along the way towards dragging the brass band into the 21st century. - Seth Rogovoy


The phonograph debut of the ensemble...proved to be very successful. It swiftly occupies the leading places in charts. - Leonid Auskern


Man, this "Snake" can move! Slithering from front man Field's upbeat original opener "Parade" to a spare Southern-fried cover of "Iko Iko," this boa-nafied Jazz band proves time and time again that it is not constricted to any one style. Angel Villoldo's "El Choclo" combines South American flavors with touches of Blues and Klezmer and Sun Ra's "A Call for All Demons" slides all over the place, from a tango-ed entrance to a Turkish twisting finale. Among the highest high points (and there are many) are the funkified Ensemble theme "Year of the Snake," the horn-punched take on Wanu Dibango's "Soul Makossa," and a bridge-busting blast through James Brown's "Soul Power" (featuring the groove-y bass work of Aaron Bellamy). From Field's smooth alto and Mickey Bones' snappy snares to the brassy blasts of trumpeter Jon Fraser and sax machines Mark Caughill and Charlie Kohlhase, this album packs in not only a lot of great music but also a bunch of great local players. Even the voice of the Boston subway gets in on the gig in the appropriately frenetic "Central Square." Any band that has the guts to take the guitar out of a John Scofield piece ("Some Nerve") has got to know what it is about, and the Legendary Snake Ensemble is definitely one such band. - Matthew Robinson


Revolutionary Snake Ensemble really function as a cohesive unit for making lively, funky, party-down music as an ensemble. If there's an ounce of fun in your body, this disk is a must-have! - Jim Chokey


One time zone east of the Big Easy, Field has embraced its spirit and reinterpreted it in a Cambridge-Boston context. His decade-old Revolutionary Snake Ensemble is a rollicking group of horns and drums that delivers a funk-infused twist on the New Orleans second-line marching band tradition. The band’s debut CD, Year of the Snake, captures the abandon of a street parade (case in point: a syncopated jaunt through the public-domain chestnut “Iko Iko”) while expanding its stylistic scope to include a mishmash of musical explorers, from soul godfather James Brown to makossa soul king Manu Dibango and outer-space jazz avant-gardist Sun Ra. 

Field is well known in Boston for his art-rock and classical-meets-jazz projects, but the Revolutionary Snake Ensemble is where the saxophonistbandleader gets to dig in, kick back, and gush with party-time euphoria. Year of the Snake opens and closes with Field originals: the buoyant “Parade,” which teems with spanking drums and horn brio, and “I Got It,” a jubilant finale that swings with helixing horns and double-drum glee. 

Field and company get down with funk-fired improvisation and effervescent bass grooves on JB’s “Soul Power,” rumble into a chug-a-chug dance pulse with Ra’s “A Call for All Demons,” slide into the rumba zone on the liquid and lyrical “El Choclo,” and re-envision jazz guitarist John Scofield’s “Some Nerve” with skittering drumbeats and exuberant brass interplay. One of the most unusual and appealing tracks is the title tune, where a low-toned trombone choir muses while two drummers and an acoustic bassist lay down a rowdy rhythm. Year of the Snake may have been brewed far from the Crescent City, but it’s got the essential ingredients spiced with fresh flavors befitting the city’s repute as the birthplace of jazz. - Dan Ouellette


It's party time with sax player Ken Field (Birdsongs of the Mesozoic) and his "stationary marching band." The RSE is from Cambridge, MA, but the sound is an appallingly successful appropriation of New Orleans brass band, '60s R&B, West African funk and old-school, gutbucket jazz. The album starts with Field's "Parade," originally written for a well-known Sesame Street bit where animated numbers parade across the screen. This version is a bit more... caffeinated, you might say. And the fun doesn't stop there. Both James Brown's "Soul Power" and the Mardi Gras classic "Iko Iko" affirm the booty-shaking objective of Field's band, and Manu Dibango's classic "Soul Makossa" — a proto-world music hit on several continents in the '70s — also gets the Snake treatment. And just to show you how truly global — no, truly universal — the urge to dance is, Field and company add "A Call For All Demons," from the Saturn-born astral jazz bandleader and composer Sun Ra. - John Schaefer