Winnipeg's Jazz Magazine

May/June 2012: Ramsey Lewis (Festival Edition)

Heavyweights Brass Band

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It was just another shot in the dark when former Winnipegger Paul Metcalfe responded to a Toronto Craigslist ad that read, “New Orleans Style Brass Band Looking for Sax Player”—but meeting tubist/composer Rob Teehan on the bus on the way to the audition seems more like fate. Paul recruited another former Winnipegger, trombonist Chris Butcher, along with International Trumpet Guild winner, Jon Challoner, and free-form drummer, Lowell Whitty—and the rest is history.

(The best gigs I ever found on Craigslist in T.O. were medical research and overnight snow-shoveling…)

Over the past two years, The Heavyweights have become the first-call New Orleans style band in Toronto. They’ve opened for Trombone Shorty, Galactic, Preservation Hall, and worked with Dubmatix. They’ve recorded with Jane Bunnett, and been featured on a Gilles Peterson compilation. Their first album, Don’t Bring Me Down, was named the #3 Canadian Jazz Album of the Year by eMusic Canada.

Although heavily influenced by traditional New Orleans music, they’re a little different than the typical dance band from the delta. For one thing, with only four horns, they’re a small band—a traditional band usually has somewhere between eleven to thirteen members (plus an extra guy dancing around, twirling an umbrella). The Heavyweights also improvise and play solos like a jazz quintet.

“It’s lots of fun, it’s great jazz, and it’s also for people who like to dance,” says Chris Butcher. “We love the New Orleans sound but we’re finding our own original voice within it, incorporating our individual life experiences.”

Their repertoire is healthily eclectic, with ample doses of world beat, jazz, funk, pop covers, and original compositions. Winnipeg audiences have a chance to hear them—and welcome back a couple of young musicians who cut their teeth in the Jazz Studies program—on Sunday, June 17, at The Cube as part of the free outdoor kick-off to the TD Winnipeg International Jazz Festival. They’re back on that stage for another free concert on Monday at noon, and at Le Garage that evening as part of the festival’s Club Series.

After their performances here in Winnipeg, they’ll be touring across Western Canada, and opening for The Roots at the Saskatoon Jazz Festival. Find details on their website,

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