You wouldn’t know it to watch him bouncing ever so slightly when he plays tuba, providing the bass lines, sometimes nearly hidden in the unlit back part of the stage behind the reed and brass of the Lagniappe Brass Band – or when the reed and brass line parts like the Red Sea to reveal him tearing it up on drums in an inspired solo – or when he’s seen in the sunlight, on the weekend, on the streets of the Crescent City in a drum duet with his compatriot James Marotta – but by day Joshua Brown is a mechanical engineer. He lives and works – both jobs – right here in New Orleans and has been doing so since the middle of 2010.
He describes where he’s from as “upstate New York, a town called Unadilla”. He says, “I’ve been listening to brass band for a long time. I found out about it when I was in college and just latched on to it”. But his musical influences are broader than brass band. His brother, who is five years older, played piano, and his parents played music in school. He says that in his house “music was valued”. When Josh was growing up his parents listened to “classic rock” such as Deep Purple and Lynerd Skynerd, and his brother listened to Jerry Lee Lewis.
Josh’s first instrument was actually the trombone at age of 9 or 10, then after that he picked up on drums. He played trombone seriously in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania with a funk band called Jaywalk and the Pedestrians. He did this for six years, but says, “I never felt it could feed me”. When asked what turned him on to funk, he answers without hesitation, “Chameleon by the Headhunters – someone played it for me”. Today he also lists the JB Horns, “Maceo Parker and Fred Wesley” as influences. About funk he says, “the feel was contagious”.
To the question of what inspires him today, he doesn’t have to think very long: “What drives me is the people I play with. What motivates me – is when I hear Wes Anderson (who also plays in the LBB) I think ‘I wanna do that’. (As someone who started out playing trombone and still plays trombone, it makes sense that he would pick a trombonist as motivation.) Josh adds, “I want to contribute, I want to be part of it. We are pushing for a common goal.”
If you would sneak a peek at his iPod, you would find James Brown, salsa, cubano music, Bennie Green the trombone player and Benny Green the pianist, jazz drummer and bandleader Art Blakey, Skynerd, “jug band”, as well as Gene Krupa – as Josh puts it, “hot swing, happy jazz”.
If queried as to what he brings to the LBB, he responds, “What I try to do is play the feel the best I can. I’m not big on soloing. I picture that we’re the back line. If people aren’t dancing, that's the back line. If they don’t get the feeling of wow, that’s the front line.”
Joshua Brown feels that in the foreseeable future, “I think I’m going to have a decision to make: Full-time musician or not – but I’m gonna keep playing.”