Greenpoint is home to a variety of musical genres, but one is consistently and conspicuously missing: hip-hop. The PitchBlak Brass Band’s year-long monthly residency at Manhattan Inn (632 Manhattan Ave) will bring a rapturous shift. Led by Chanell Crichlow, the PitchBlak Brass Band is comprised of tubas, trumpets, saxophones and other instruments not traditionally associated with hip-hop, but they have created the high-voltage hip-hop PitchBlak Playlist.

Each month, the PitchBlak Brass Band will collaborate with a hip-hop artist, emerging or established, to “challenge audience members to rethink, refocus and redefine the ever-evolving landscape of hip-hop through an evening of flows, grooves and good vibes.” February’s playlist will feature the highly-acclaimed MC / DJ / beatboxer / educator, Rabbi Darkside (Sunday, February 28 at 8:00 p.m., free).

Last month, the playlist featured Bond St. District, the Baltimore-based hip-hop duo made up of rapper DDm and producer Paul Hutson. The set was arranged by PitchBlak’s drummer, Ashley Baier, who crafted their instrumentation to amplify Bond St. District’s hypnotic and satiating beats for an enthusiastic crowd at Manhattan Inn.

© Bruce Kung. Bond St. District’s rapper, DDm.

Crichlow (sousaphone, MC) selects a different member of the band to arrange the following month’s playlist based on the featured artist. She is looking for someone who will mesh well with the artist and who will be challenged to push their own boundaries in terms of sound. “[I] expose them to an artist they don’t often listen to or pair them with someone they really like to give them someone they are going to be excited to collaborate with.”

For the upcoming set with Rabbi Darkside, she appointed Brian Lotze (trumpeter, MC). Knowing them separately and after collaborating with him last February, “I thought Lotze would mesh with him. Lotze is also a rapper and matching him with one of NYC’s best freestyle rappers, they could learn from each other in different ways and would have a mutual respect for each other,” Crichlow says.

© Bruce Kung. Instruments of the PitchBlak Brass Band.

PitchBlak members, TJ Robinson (trombone) and Chris Johnson (percussion, MC) introduced Crichlow to Rabbi Darkside at Freestyle Mondays, a hip-hop freestyle jam session led by Illspokinn every first Monday of the month. “First time I heard him I was like this ‘guy is sick.’ From then on we were like we have to work with him.”

As the group was preparing for their J Dilla birthday celebration last February, they invited Rabbi Darkside. “Rabbi was freestyling and everything he said was so dope. He really has this clean, very lyrical, but spontaneous flow and that was really impressive to me,” Crichlow recalls. She refers to him as a hip-hop historian and advocate.

“He’s friendly and smart. You can talk to him about hip-hop culture and history. It was time to do something with him to bless the stage with his music, this really special freestyle music and have him play his tracks with us in our brass band.”

© Bruce Kung. PitchBlak Brass Band’s Playlist featuring Bond St. District at Manhattan Inn in January.

Above all, the residency was envisioned as a way for the band to “connect with other artists, to expand our ears and musicianship.” They developed a format and contacted rappers and singers whose music “we really loved and thought would work well for horns and our crew.”

The evening includes nine or ten songs by the featured artist with an arrangement of horns by PitchBlak and is followed by two or three cover songs recommended by the artist for the jam session part of the night. “Anyone can come up to play, sing, play their horn, rap, whatever they want. It has been all about creating a bond with the community through music.”

© Bruce Kung. PitchBlak Brass Band’s Playlist.

“The idea which had been performed before is pretty genius and involves a ton of collaboration,” says Rachael Pazdan of Hypnocraft, who is presenting the series. “I was already looking for a way to bring a more eclectic scope of music to the Inn and diversify the audience, as well as bring in some interesting residencies, so this idea naturally fit into my vision.”

The next PitchBlak Playlist will feature Rabbi Darkside. Bring your voice, horn, freestyling, instrument and dance moves on Sunday, February 28, to Manhattan Inn (632 Manhattan Ave) at 8:00pm.  Follow PitchBlak Brass Band – Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Follow Rabbi Darkside – Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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