The Revolutionary Snake Ensemble is a costumed funk/street beat improvisational brass band performing a unique blend of original and traditional music. Leader Ken Field is a longtime member of the modern music ensemble Birdsongs of the Mesozoic.
Labeled "explosive" by the Boston Globe, two-time New England Music Award nominees Revolutionary Snake Ensemble's most recent cd "I Want That Sound!" has received extensive critical acclaim, and entered the CMJ jazz radio top ten chart just two weeks after its release. NYC Jazz Record writes that "Revolutionary Snake Ensemble has been putting its unique and somewhat twisted twist on the New Orleans brass band tradition for more than 25 years...hard-partying avant-funk, with boisterous soloing...I Want That Sound! is a strong example of how Ken Field and the Revolutionary Snake Ensemble continue to push the brass band tradition forward in an entirely original way, all the while making music that's a heck of a lot of fun." KBCS Seattle Public Radio says that RSE "continues to mine the vein of New Orleans - with post-bop, and touches of Avant - this band cooks; edgy, raucous, fun, and first rate!" And the Boston Herald adds that "People tend to think of second line bands - brass bands steeped in New Orleans traditions - as instant party starters. It's a great compliment, maybe the best compliment ever, but it limits the sonic and emotional range of these bands. Revolutionary Snake Ensemble can absolutely get a party started. But on the local horn collective's fourth album, "I Want That Sound!," the players also explore the wild outerlands of jazz."Their 3rd release, Live Snakes (Accurate 2014), was recorded in 2011 & 2013 in Boston, Brooklyn, and Manhattan, and documents four distinct incarnations of the ensemble, with two remixes by Field, and with guest musicians including Charles Neville, Josh Roseman, Kenny Wollesen, and Matt Darriau.
The group's 2nd CD, Forked Tongue, spent 2 months on the CMJ North American jazz top 20 chart, peaking at #11, and appeared on best-of-year lists in the Village Voice & in Estonia, plus in Georgia, Wisconsin, Kansas, Michigan, Massachusetts, Ohio, and NY. The disc features unique treatments of music by Field, Ornette Coleman, Billy Idol, and others.
Notable Revolutionary Snake Ensemble performances have included the Krewe of Muses Mardi Gras Parade (New Orleans); Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts; Tonic (NYC); the Museum of Fine Arts (Boston); the Brooklyn Academy of Music; the Puffin Cultural Forum; Tipitina's (New Orleans); Berklee Performance Center; the Somerville Theater; First Nights Boston, Providence, Fall River; the Cambridge River Festival; ArtBeat; the Central Square World's Fair; and other venues.
The Snake Ensemble has traveled by train five times from Boston to New Orleans, playing on board the Amtrak Crescent, to march with the Krewe of Muses in their annual Mardi Gras parade. The Ensemble can be heard on Parade of Numbers, an animated counting piece regularly aired on the television program Sesame Street.
RSE's debut release, Year of the Snake, included music by Field, Sun Ra, John Scofield, James Brown, and others, and was listed as one of the top discs of the year on New York NPR affiliate WNYC, in the New Orleans Gambit Weekly, and on Radio Popolare in Milan, Italy.
"The band thrives on experimentation while still keeping things accessible...passionately performed... captivating" - Editor's Pick, Downbeat Magazine
"The next couple of months bring a host of big jazz names here - McCoy Tyner, Cassandra Wilson, Kenny Barron, the Bad Plus - but a few of what are bound to be the most exciting shows involve one of Boston's own bands, the Revolutionary Snake Ensemble. Saxophonist Ken Field's group - which performs in Mardi Gras-style costumes and masks - plays a mishmash of jazz, funk, and New Orleans second-line street music. Everything is fair game; their latest album, Forked Tongue, runs the gamut from the traditional Just a Closer Walk to Billy Idol's White Wedding." - Steve Greenlee, The Boston Globe
"I love the disc" - Scott Borne, Music Director, WWOZ New Orleans
"If the wailing vigil of Down By the Riverside doesn't rake your spine, chances are you don't have one...It's quite possibly the most convincing treatment of New Orleans by a non-native since Hugh Masakela's Goin' Back to New Orleans...If [Field]'s not re-arranging some holy chestnut, he's dreaming up freaky, wind-jamming floor monsters like The Large S." - Brendon Griffin, PopMatters
"Can't stop playing this crazy CD over and over again. Doctor, is there an antidote? I'm having visions of Mardi Gras parties out of control. They call it a brass band, but there must be some voodoo in this music." - Ted Gioia, www.jazz.com
Night Life Pick of the Week: "The Revolutionary Snake Ensemble, a writhing, horn-heavy group led by the Boston-based saxophonist and composer Ken Field, dresses in feathered masks and sequined robes and covers a broad range of funk- and New Orleans-inspired music. A seasoned collection of horn and percussion players, the group, which is closing in on two decades of music-making, puts a funky spin on everything from Billy Idol to Ornette Coleman." - The New Yorker