Independent Lens: Brothers Hypnotic

About This Episode

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, proto-funk, and a passionately Afrocentric lifestyle. Cohran’s ultimate avant-garde work, however, may have been his own sons, who were raised on Chicago’s South Side with Cohran and their two mothers, complete with homemade clothes, veganism, and alternative holidays.

Starting at age four, the boys joined the family band, learning to play the trumpet, tuba, drums, French horn, cornet, and trombone. 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.

The Cohran “boys” are now young men in their 20s and 30s, making transcendent music that ties currents from jazz and funk to soul and hip-hop. Although working together as their father had hoped — whether playing in Times Square, or jamming with Mos Def and Prince — they find the unwavering ideals bred into them by their father repeatedly tested. Brothers Hypnotic follows the octet as far away as Ireland as they tour and work to carve out their own renown around the world.