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Big Wy’s Brass Band packs funk, hip hop, jazz, and ten musicians on stage in one of the most exciting live shows you can see in Austin right now.
Aside from stank-face-inducing solos and the visceral groove of the rhythm section, the energy between the crowd and musicians is a sight to see itself. Big Wy’s is probably one of the only brass bands to have had crowd surfers during live shows.
In addition to original compositions, the band plays instrumental versions of songs like Snoop Dogg’s “The Next Episode,” and Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition.”
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“I always choose songs that I think people at a college party will go nuts over,” said Wyatt Corder (Large Wyatt). “I think we’re trying to achieve that hip hop type of litness but within the context of a brass band.”
The band recently released their first EP, Portal to Funkville, but they’ve been on the Austin music scene for years. The group formed while still students at Westlake High School, originally composed of Wyatt on trumpet, William Wright and Justin Dunlap on trombone, and Miles Holmes on mellophone.
The band played one of its first gigs during Mardi Gras at Scoot Inn.
“They wanted us form a New Orleans type brass band,” Wyatt said. “We got people from our high school jazz band and high school marching band to play it, and it was a really good time the first gig, so we kept going with it and now we’re here.”
Now the band includes Austin Ali on trumpet, Paulo Santos on saxophone, Thomas Wenglinski on keys, Scott Macintyre on bass, and Brady Knippa and Chase Ozment on drums and percussion. Many of the members met Wyatt through UT’s Butler School of Music.
“We took sort of a Lynyrd Skynyrd approach where we started out with about four to five members, and then we decided to add one every week for the next sixteen weeks,” Justin said.
Organizing that many people is comparable to herding cats on LSD, according to the band.
Despite logistical hurdles, the band has traveled to Costa Rica and Guatemala to play shows and work with students.
“We got to sing and play for the president of Costa Rica and a bunch of diplomats while wearing Dashikis that the government gave us,” William said. “It was pretty cool.”
Between class and frequent shows around town, the group managed to record their EP in a matter of weekends. The record features four original songs, two composed by Austin Ali and two the band has been playing since high school.
“My love of trumpet drove me to my love of composition,” Austin said. “In high school I heard of an opportunity to write a piece for the Austin symphony orchestra, so I sent a piece out to them and they played a piece of mine, and that basically set me on the track.”
The record was produced by current bassist Scott Macintyre, but the bass parts are played by Dylan Hill, the band’s previous bassist. The EP also didn’t include Thomas on keys since he wasn’t a full-time member of the band when they recorded.
“Thomas brought a lot of stuff to Big Wy’s,” Justin said. “It’s not a completely different band, but it’s definitely a different sound. The way we play, the way we solo, the way we do backgrounds has changed since Thomas came in.”
Listen to the EP to get a taste of the band, but the only true way to experience Big Wy’s is to see them live. Anything less is selling the incredibly unique and entertaining band short.
Their first South by Southwest show this year is at Empire Control Room Saturday, March 10 at 7pm.
I'm Will, I drive a van and write about music.