The Hypnotic Brass Ensemble seems to live up to its name. This eight-piece band of street performers, seven of whom are the sons of the Sun Ra Arkestra trumpeter Kelan Phil Cohran, recently relocated from the South Side of Chicago to Queens. The young players perform daily outdoors and underground, most often in Union Square, Times Square and Columbus Circle.
Their syncopated, often lyrical tone — incorporating jazz, funk, soul and hip-hop — is produced by horns that now look like world-worn hand-me-downs. Still, the instruments do the job, resonating off buildings blocks away.
“Our music has a special gravitational pull,” said Gabriel Hubert, 29, who plays trumpet, during a recent interview with the brothers in their Ozone Park bungalow. “People can’t walk past it. People always tell us, ‘I just had to follow that sound.’ ” Like all the band members, Mr. Hubert has a nickname or two; his are Archangel or Hudah. “The oracle” is what the brothers call their father, Mr. Cohran, still composing at 79, who was a founder of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, a collective of musicians and composers dedicated to nurturing, performing and recording original jazz and contemporary music.
Mr. Cohran has 15 sons and 7 daughters, and Hypnotic is composed of his 7 youngest sons, all very different in height, features and style. (Born from three mothers, most of the youngest brothers have taken their mother’s last name.) The only outsider is the group’s drummer, 26-year-old Christopher Anderson, a k a 360, who was hired but is now virtually part of the family.
Starting when the boys were between 3 and 5, Mr. Cohran taught them to play trumpet, tuba, drums, French horn, cornet and trombone. He would wake them at 5 a.m. for practice in their room, lined with bunk beds. First the boys were given just mouthpieces. Only when they could produce a pure sound did they graduate to the body of the instrument.
“The main thing I tried to teach them was that they have access to the universe just like everyone else,” Mr. Cohran said in a phone interview from Chicago, where he still lives.
He often painted ancient signs and symbols on the walls of their childhood home. The family logo was a double orange X. Saiph Graves, or Cid, 29, who plays trombone and speaks for the group, said that “our father is an astronomer,” and then identified his place in Orion. Some of the children are named after stars or constellations.
The ensemble is also composed of Tycho Cohran ( L. T., for lieutenant), 27, who recently traded in his dented white tuba, which he calls his “fairy tale talisman” or “museum piece,” for a new one; Amal Baji Hubert (June Body), 28, who plays trumpet; Seba Graves (Clef), 25, trombone; Dredded Jafar Baji Graves (Yoshi), 26, trumpet; and Tarik Graves (Smoove), 22, trumpet.
The band, which supports itself with its music, has played on the streets of numerous American cities, and plans a European tour this fall. It has three independently produced albums, “The Flip Side” (2001), “Hypnotic Brass Ensemble” (2005) and the recently completed “Pay Up.”
The creation of Hypnotic in 1999, after a stint as a hip-hop group called the Wolf Pack, represented the sons’ return to their instruments and one another after teenage rebellions, including quitting music for a period of time, against their father’s stern principles.