Brass Monkey: Phase One
Brass Monkey’s origins lie in Martin Carthy’s two solo albums Because It’s There (1979) and Out Of The Cut (1982) and in extended discussions between Carthy and John Kirkpatrick during the brief time they were both members of Steeleye Span. Frustrated by the limitations of the rock rhythm section and determined to expand on the brass and squeezebox arrangements featured on those albums, the band emerged out of a series of concerts with varying lineups in early 1983.
As the line-up settled, Carthy and Kirkpatrick were joined by Howard Evans and Roger Williams who had previously been involved in various theatre projects that overlapped with Carthy and Kirkpatrick’s occasional theatre work, and Martin Brinsford who was best know as the percussionist and with the Old Swan Band.
Topic released two albums, with Richard Cheetham replacing Williams on the second release. The pressures of sustaining a five-piece band on the road in the years before the relative boom in the arts centre / theatre gig scene made it impossible to sustain the band as a financially-viable unit. They split in the summer of 1987 and Topic eventually re-packaged their two albums into a single-CD set.
Brass Monkey: Phase Two
At the behest of Howard Evan the band re-formed for a one-off performance at the 1994 Sidmouth Festival. It was another three years before they played together again but their short 1997 tour persuaded them all that the band might again be a viable proposition. More shows followed and an eventual CD came in 1998. They continued to tour and record sporadically for the next few years with Cheetham eventually being replaced by original trombonist Williams (both memorably feature on the Going & Staying CD). During a tour to promote their Flame of Fire CD in 2004 Howard Evans fell ill and eventually died of cancer in 2006.
Brass Monkey: Phase Three
After Howard’s death the band took the tentative decision to continue, initially without a replacement. They debuted their four-piece line up at the Waterson Family’s “Mighty River of Song” concert at the Royal Albert Hall in May 2007 (although in reality they had completed the majority of their 2004 as a four-piece after Evan’s collapse). A short tour and a few festival appearances followed until they eventually invited Paul Archibald to join the band as Evan’s full-time replacement. This line-up debuted in Guilford in March 2009 before a short UK tour which was followed by the release of a new CD Head of Steam in April 2009. Archibald’s other commitments meant that he was occasionally replaced by one of his former students Shane Brennan on live dates. For their 30th anniversary tour in 2012 the band chose to include both Archibald and Brennan in a six-piece lineup that included re-arrangements of songs and tunes spanning their entire career. This lineup recorded the CD/DVD “The Best Of Live” and as they continue to tour into 2013 it is likely that this will remain their permanent lineup.