Last year, Chris Michelotti of Des Plaines made an interesting proposition to Chris Figaro, owner of the Mrs. P & Me restaurant in Mount Prospect: Let’s bring a little Mardi Gras to the village.
Backing up the offer was Michelotti’s band, the Big Style Brass Band, which plays music rooted in the New Orleans tradition, that he promised would bring this Mardi Gras party to life.
Sure enough, it was an offer Figaro couldn’t refuse. The band played last year during Mardi Gras, starting something of a tradition. The 10-piece Big Style Brass Band returns this year at 7 p.m. Feb. 25, Fat Tuesday.
“It’s party music,” says Michelotti, who played the tuba in the Prospect High School Marching Knights, before spending five summers marching with the Cavaliers Drum and Bugle Corps, including two with the world championship corps.
“It’s a fun, raucous, in-your-face style of music that’s upbeat and just makes people happy,” he said.
Last year, after the band’s debut in Mount Prospect, it was booked to return to play during the 56 Music Fix festival in August in Mount Prospect.
This year, the band will play a second Mardi Gras gig at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 29, at the Red Barn Brewery, also in Mount Prospect. Both venues will feature Mardi Gras food and drink as part of the celebration.
Michelotti formed the band with his classmates while earning his master’s degree in music performance at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. Typically, they play at venues in Milwaukee, but slowly they are developing a following in the Chicago area.
In fact, look for the band to be featured on Friday during the Chicago Today show, which airs at 11:30 a.m. on NBC 5.
As a group, the band includes two drummers, three saxophones, two trumpets, two trombones and a Sousaphone, played by Michelotti.
Since earning his music degree, Michelotti has branched out and played in regional classical groups, including the Evanston Symphony and North Chicago Chamber Orchestra, as well as with the Chicago Brass Band and Milwaukee Festival Brass Band.
But the New Orleans brass sound continues to drive him.
“We play a modern New Orleans style of music,” Michelotti says. “If you were to visit New Orleans, this is the kind of music you’d hear on the streets of the French Quarter.”
It’s a mix of jazz and Dixieland, as well as pop arrangements, including covers from Michael Jackson and the Jackson Five, and even some lyrical songs by Adele.
Michelotti likens the band’s sound to the Second Line parades made famous at funerals in New Orleans. In fact, there may be a link. By day, he works with his father, Tom Michelotti. Both are on-site tombstone carvers and do their handiwork at local cemeteries.
Learn more about the band on its website, bigstylebrassband.com.
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Mardi Gras parties featuring the Big Style Brass Band
When and where: 7 p.m. Feb. 25 at Mrs. P and Me, 100 E. Prospect Ave., and 8:30 p.m. Feb. 29 at Red Barn Restaurant and Brewery, 303 E. Kensington Road, both in Mount Prospect