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Description

Wonderbrass are an internationally acclaimed 25 piece Soul, Funk, Ska, Latin, Jazz juggernaut -- a danceaholic wall of sound -- a kick-ass brass tidal wave -- unmissable!!!!! Wonderbrass formed in 1992 as a community street band from Pontypridd South Wales. Today they are bigger, bolder and brassier (pun intended) than ever before. Under the expert leadership of instrumentalist and composer Rob Smith and drummer extraordinaire Mark O'Connor, Wonderbrass are constantly evolving and exploring new musical challenges.

Video transcript:

I first heard about Wonderbrass...
The first experience of Wonderbrass,I remember is a gig at Dyffryn Gardens.
- Um...- No, scratch that I've got a feeling it was in 10 Feet Tall.Or is it? Not 10 Feet Tall. Was it Buffalo? God!I don't actually remember.
I love big, funky stuff.The brassier the better.
I didn't hear about Wonderbrass, because I was there when Wonderbrass started.
I was doing a course training to be a community musician.
I saw them at a gig in Lighthouse, which was my local venue for live music.
I plucked up all my courage one Saturday,which happened to be my 30th birthday,and went down and met Rob.Everything seemed really fun and entertaining and I thought I wanted to join.
There was a Garden Festival in Ebbw Vale.
It turned into a street band and we got some funding.They were handing out seed money to anybody who had a project.
I know Hannah, our baritone player.She had been playing with the band for a couple of years or so and knew I'd played the saxophone years ago.It had been about 18 years since I'd picked it up.
She said I should come along and give it a go, so I did.
When it was supposed to finish, the people in the band said, "OK, we're going to try to raise money so we can keep the band going."
Just being so impressed by the energy. Everyone was having so much fun and I thought,"My saxophone has been sat in the attic for ten years, this is ridiculous."I'd love to do something like this."
Meanwhile, the Welsh Jazz Society couldn't fund the Cardiff band anymore,so it withered on the vine and everybody started to go up to Pontypridd on a Tuesday. So we had a really good band within about two years.
My brother, who plays the trombone, Dylan,was playing with Wonderbrass.They'd just started and I went along and got bitten by the Wonderbrass bug,which I think a lot of people have.
It was through Anthony that I joined Wonderbrass.He was absolutely spot on, they were great.
My daughter was at Meithrin - play school -with Rob's daughter, so I got talking to him.
I went to a gig at The Electricity Club in Llandaff, which is now a housing estate,and thought, "Wow, this is the sort of musicI want to play."
My daughter was in Treganna, which is a local Welsh school,and Rob's daughters were there as well.He said, "Why don't you join Wonderbrass?",and I thought, "I'll give it a go."
I remember one day, seeing a band and asking how can you get into this? I was directed to the Four Bars Inn opposite the Castle.I think it was known as Dempseys.
It was the day of one of the Six Nations matches, and I happened to be in town.This marching band came through and I was like,"Oh, my God, that's the band I want to join."
I do remember Richard and Andy.Richard was playing the trumpet, Andy was playing the clarinet.And that was in about 1993.
It just looked fantastic -lot's of vibrant colours,playing out in the streets,and I said "I really want to do that. I want to join their band."
My daughter said, "You'll never be able to do that, Mum.", so I've proved her wrong.
I met someone from the band on an Introduction to Jazz course,which I did as part of my Physics Undergraduate as my free-standing module.
When I was 35 I found myself drinking in a pubwhere Wonderbrass rehearsed.
It was quite a big back room full of peopleplaying all sorts of interesting instruments.I'd never seen or heard anything like it. I was immediately addicted.
I had a trombone at home, which was my grandfather's, which had been through the Great War.
In order to really learn and engage with music you have to play with other people.I turned up with this trombone and said that I'd like to join,and they said, "Take that home and play this brand new Bach trombone."
People who are going to challenge you.That's what Wonderbrass has always been so good at.Challenging you, but challenging you in a way that's very social.
I was looking to find a bass tutor,and I walked into the Four Bars.I asked Rob if I could have lessons.He told me that they didn't have lessons,but I was quite welcome to join.
I went to my first rehearsal a week after my 17th birthday,just as I'd started to learn to drive.
Drive across town with my mum to practice driving, go to rehearsals,and then my mum would pick me up so that I could drive home, which was perfect.
About six weeks later, Rob said to me, "Do you fancy playing at Brecon Jazz?"
My first encounter with Wonderbrass was in Brecon, at Brecon Jazz.
But I was a paying punter then.
I can first remember hearing and seeing Wonderbrass at Brecon Jazz Festival.
I'm going to guess the year.I think it was around 1994 or 1995,something like that.
I can't remember exactly how it happened, but I know it was a group decision.I think Fran found them on the internet. She was Googling bands in Cardiff.
I came across the Wonderbrass website and thought, "Wow, that looks cool."I didn't know a lot about jazz and thought,"I might join these guys."
The first thing I heard was Caravan.They'd done a recording of that and it sounded so fun that we were like,"This is the sort of band we want to join."
Wonderbrass were doing a set out on the street on the main square.This band was playing and I was walking past,and thought, "That sounds quite good",and it turned out to be Wonderbrass.
I can remember seeing everyone - hearing them first, obviously,and then seeing everyone in a circle.When I first saw the band, I though they were fantastic. They blew my mind.The one thing that struck me about them was that there were so many of them.
I met Caz Flute who said, "I'm in a band."I said, "What band?", and she said,
"Wonderbrass, you should come along."So, of course, I did. I've been almost ever-present, I'd say.
I became a 'Wonder Widow'.
They were doing a summer school up in Pontypridd and I met some people who were in Wonderbrass there and they suggested I came along.I came along and had no intention of staying very long, but I've been there a while!
From the very first day I was there, I just loved it.I felt at home in Wonderbrass and what it's about.
I've been working as a live sound engineer for the past ten years around Cardiff.
I came across Wonderbrass one time at a festival in Cardiff Bay. I remember it was this tiny Cardiff Council bandstand that they're still using.
I remember thinking, "How are we going to get all of the bandand the mics onto this bandstand?"But I never once thought that I could be one of the people playing.
I first heard about Wonderbrass because my wife was in the band.I was going to so many gigs in support that I thought,"Hang on a minute, I want to be on the other side of the experience."After a couple of years of lessons, I started coming along to rehearsals.

I was on my way back from the Cardiff Half Marathon in 2016.I went past Wonderbrass playing outside the cemetery in Cathays and thought,"I want to be in that band!"
I liked the music they played - they were playing a bit of reggae, a bit of ska,doing solos and having a lot of fun.
I actually saw Wonderbrass, I didn't hear about them,when I went to the Vale of Glamorgan Summer School.
I think the first time I saw them, which was the 25 gig in The Gate,I didn't stop smiling the whole time.I thought they were brilliant. They were absolutely crazy.
I thought it's brilliant because we can see everyone's individual personalities in the music, in the solos, the parts they play, and how involved they all are.It was just an awesome experience.
Living in Pembrokeshire, and my marriage broke up,and I phoned up Richard who I'd been on the course with,and I just went, "You've got a house, haven't you?"
He went, "Yeah.""You're in a band, aren't you?"He went, "Yeah." And I said, "Can I live with you and be in the band?"And he went, "Yeah," so I moved to Treforest.
I think it was in The Globe.Well, I was blown away actually.It brought back memories because I'd given up playing the trumpet 25 years prior to this.It brought back memories of great, fun times and made me realise how much I enjoyed music.
A funny story, the name 'Wonderbrass' only just clicked maybe about four months ago about what it's actually referring to, which I thought was hilarious.
About two years in, 1994, that's when we came up with the name 'Wonderbrass'.We were just calling ourselves, 'The Taff-Ely Street Band',which wasn't really memorable.That's when we came up with the name 'Wonderbrass'
and that's where I first heard the name 'Wonderbrass'.

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