Notes from Underground Horns

Washington Square Park might not seem like an ideal place for the jazz-funk aficionados of Underground Horns to hold a concert, considering how many musicians find a spot there at any given moment. Indeed, just minutes before they started jamming there last Tuesday, some other band took advantage of the space a horseshoe outline of benches had left, and there was even a guy at the fountain smacking a bongo. The park was big enough for all three; the limelight was not.

The boys from Underground Horns landed the plum spot, though: the arch. They’d signed up to be there when they registered for this year’s Make Music New York festival, which presents hundreds of performances on city property. They’re free, but the acts can put their music on CDs that tend to go for 10 or 15 bucks each. When you’re playing at a city landmark like the Washington Square Arch for two hours, those prices can add up.

Of course, the group’s real money comes from regular gigs, which happen in a place that’s not quite as cheerful. “Our financial base is in the subway,” said Kevin Moehringer, who plays the trombone. “We have a permit we’re issued two times a week…From there, we get hired to do all kinds of other gigs.

Music lovers provide plenty of work for Moehringer and the usual suspects, including Welf Dorr on saxophone, Mike Irwin on trumpet, Ibanda Ruhumbika on tuba, Kevin Raczka on drums and Okai on djembe. (That’s a drum from Africa, by the way.)

Like the city it performs for, Underground Horns is a multicultural establishment. “It’s all brass-band music from Africa, from Latin America, from New York City, from New Orleans,” Moehringer said. “We are doing sort of a brass-band tour of the world.”

They even have a chance to see other parts of the world in real life, like the time an admirer set them up to perform at her sister’s wedding in Cairo. Usually, however, they play at events like the opening of Albee Square on Friday, or a couple of performances at NuBlu.

“We are playing holiday parties through Christmastime,” Moehringer said. “We do all kinds of different parties and events and corporate things.”

The exposure they get from them can lead to other gigs…if they make an impression. When it comes to shows like the one they did in Washington Square Park, it seems likely that they’ve got a lot more work coming their way.

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About David Guzman 207 Articles
I just received my degree in journalism at Brooklyn College, where I served as the arts editor for one of the campus newspapers, the Kingsman. When it comes to the arts, I’ve managed to cover a variety of subjects, including music, films, books and art exhibitions. I’ve reviewed everything from “Slumdog Millionaire” (which was a good film) to “Coraline,” (which wasn’t) and I’ve also interviewed legendary film critic Leonard Maltin.

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