Concert Review: Lucky Chops @ Universal Preservation Hall, 1/27/2023

SARATOGA SPRINGS – Street-performing funky horn bands are exclusively from NOLA right? Wrong!!! In Upstate New York, we have the Brass Machine with band members from all over Upstate. Lucky Chops, representing NYC, gives NOLA bands a run for the money with a sound that is made unique by the diversity that is the Big Apple. Lucky Chops entertained an enthusiastic mixed-age audience at UPH Friday night.

Lucky Chops was founded by students in Manhattan’s Fiorello LaGuardia High School back in 2006. They started by playing in the streets of NYC and busking in the subways, and since then have been entertaining audiences large and small all over the world

Like the bands in NOLA, this five-horn band (no bass, guitar, or keyboards) is propelled by an infectious beat that makes audiences young and old want to get up and dance, or at least move.   Their music snaps, crackles, and pops with funk, hip-hop, r&b, South Asian dance, trance, punk, and Eastern European dance music, just like the neighborhoods of NYC.

Trombonist Josh Holcomb is, per his Facebook description, “Lead Chop.” He was the spokesman for the band, extolling the audience as well as the band. His constant motion up, down, and around, and his virtuosic sound was energizing to see and hear.

His younger brother Benny Holcomb was the sole non-horn player in the band. He propelled the band with his kit.

Sousaphone player Nora Nalepka played authoritatively and was given room to solo, which she did with great aplomb while wandering the stage.

Trumpeter Joshua Gawel was distinct in his dress; a green wool shirt more evocative of an Upstater than everyone else who wore lightly colored clothing. 

Daro Behroozi is another founding member of the band. He is a multi-instrumentalist, playing mostly baritone sax on this date, but has been known to play other horns throughout the band’s history.

Last but not least, alto sax player Rogerst Charles added the tones of a higher-end reed instrument to the higher registers of the band’s sound, in contrast to Joshua Gawel’s brassy bright trumpet. The influences of David Sanborn were clearly heard.

Most of the set consisted of originals that were penned by band members; inspired by NYC, or about band members both past and present. “Halfway Up the Hudson” was about upstate.

The band, like most bands, started out playing covers. The covers were saved for the encore: Ben E King’s “Stand By Me” and a medley of the memorable disco grooves of Lipps Inc.’s “Funky Town” and James Brown’s declaration “I Feel Good,” leaving the audience smiling and happy. I hope to see them on their next stop up here or maybe in NYC, playing outdoors to a teeming summer crowd.


  • Josh Holcomb – trombone
  • Benny Holcomb – drums
  • Joshua Gawel – trumpet
  • Nora Nalepka – sousaphone
  • Daro Behroozi – bari Sax
  • Rogerst Charles – alto Sax


  • Problem
  • Best Things
  • Familiar Places
  • Without You
  • L.C. Full Blast
  • Traveler 1 & 2
  • My No. 1
  • Halfway to the Hudson
  • Arvory
  • Buyo
  • Full Heart Fancy
  • Coco
  • Danza 2022


  • Stand by Me
  • Funkytown / I Feel Good

Photo Gallery by Rudy Lu

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