Independent Lens - Brothers Hypnotic


Updated Fri, Mar 14, 2014 1:47 pm

Monday, April 7 • 10 p.m.

The eight young men who make up the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble are all sons of Phil Cohran, a legendary Chicago trumpeter who turned his back on commercial music to pursue astral jazz (with Sun Ra), proto-funk, and a passionately Afrocentric lifestyle. Cohran’s ultimate avant-garde experiment, however, are his own sons who were raised communally on Chicago’s South Side with Cohran and their two mothers.

Starting at age four, the boys also joined the family band to play the trumpet, tuba, drums, French horn, cornet, and trombone. Rehearsals began early each morning but, unlike the Jackson Five, Cohran’s sons were not bred for pop stardom.

Instead they were taught to “create sounds to fuse with the body and heal the soul,” and to serve as an inspiration for the community. Meet these musical brothers in Reuben Atlas’s “Brothers Hypnotic,” premiering on Independent Lens, hosted by Stanley Tucci, on Monday, April 7, 2014.

Cohran’s “boys” are now young men in their 20s and 30s, and when they raise their horns, they make transcendent music that ties currents from jazz and funk to soul and hip-hop.

But although they are working together as their father had hoped — whether playing for quarters in Times Square, negotiating with managers and record labels, or jamming with Mos Def and Prince — they find the unwavering ideals bred into them by their father repeatedly tested. Ultimately, they must decide whether his values will be their own. Brotherhood, whether biological or ideological, is never easy.