Element Brass Band brings New Orleans ‘second line’ sound to Assembly

Can a band that has origins in West African drum circles rock harder than any other group in Sacramento?

Anyone who’s seen the Element Brass Band perform knows the answer is overwhelmingly affirmative.

The 14-piece horn-and-percussion ensemble, founded in 2011, kicks down some of the fiercest grooves in the city, playing in the New-Orleans-based tradition called “second line.”

Originally the second part of New Orleans brass band parades (which are often for funerals), the second line includes dancers and revelers along with the musicians. It differs from the first wave of the funeral procession as the tempos are upbeat and festive. They are sometimes called “a jazz funeral without a body.”

Though Element has been playing small shows and festivals around the region, it’s now the house band for Flow at Assembly, the eclectic club night hosted by Andru Defeye and Jay Siren the second Thursday of each month.

Element not only plays its own traditionally based music, but also backs emcees who freestyle to grooves laid down by the band. This Thursday, Element performs with P3tro (Cali O and Skurge) and also Doey Rock and Century Got Bars, who recently won a Sammie Award for best emcee in the region, the first female to hold that distinction.

Byron Colborn leads Element now that founder and trumpeter Ryan Robertson has returned to New Orleans, where Robertson originally immersed himself in the music and conceived the idea to start the band here.

The traditional setup is with one tenor saxophone, but Colborn plays baritone sax. The band also includes three to four trumpets, three to four trombones, two sousaphones, a bass drummer and a snare drummer. The number of musicians varies from show to show depending on who’s available.

“We’ve been been fortunate because some of the best players in town have sought us out,” Colborn said. “The sound draws them in. There’s not much opportunity to play this kind of music.”

Colborn said the band tries to be as authentic as possible, even for its gigs with hip-hop emcees.

“We’ll go outside and play a few tunes on the street to encourage people and let them know we have an event and let them hear the music,” Colborn said.

The band then plays an opening set on stage before backing the rappers who improvise or freestyle over the accompaniment.

“We don’t really know what’s coming so it’s definitely a unique event,” Colborn said. “We’re a live band and its spontaneous – it’s a big opportunity for the emcees because they just have to jump in the water.”


When: 8 p.m. Thursday

Where: Assembly, 1000 K St., Sacramento

Tickets: $5-$10