The London Brass was founded largely from the membership of the renowned Philip Jones Brass Ensemble upon that group's disbandment in 1986. Appearing most often as a ten-piece ensemble, the group has adapted its performing forces to the needs of the works at hand, and at times reduces to the more traditional brass quintet format.
Making one of their primary objectives the promotion of new music, London Brass has commissioned works from Richard Rodney Bennett, John Lunn, Dominic Muldowney, Nigel Osborne, Michael Nyman, Mark-Anthony Turnage, Mike Gibbs, Django Bates, Paul Hart, Carla Bley, and Deidre Gribbin. The ensemble's members welcome cutting-edge, experimental pieces such as Jay Arden's Bayo's Way, for electronic tuba and ensemble; according to trombonist David Purser, "This is a piece we had written to showcase the extraordinary techniques that Oren Marshall has developed using guitar pedals and amplifier. It's not an easy piece to listen to, but it has always been a great success with our audiences."
As ensemble in residence at the Royal College of Music in London, the members of the London Brass have a variety of teaching and coaching duties. They also conduct master classes and other educational activities outside of Britain, particularly in Norway and Germany.
The London Brass boasts several expert arrangers among their membership who have produced transcriptions of works by composers from nearly all eras of Western music, including J.S. Bach (Brandenburg Concerto No. 3), Witold Lutoslawski (Variations on a Theme by Paganini for piano duet), Brahms, Elgar, Ravel, and others who wrote little or no music for brass ensemble. Particularly impressive are Chris Mowat's arrangement of Edward Elgar's Introduction and Allegro and Richard Bissill's transcription of Franz Liszt's famous Second Hungarian Rhapsody. (Arrangements by the London Brass are published by Brass Wind Publications.) In concert, these excellent transcriptions are juxtaposed with performances of authentic brass music, both old and new. The group also performs much earlier music, especially late Renaissance and early Baroque works with choir; works by Schütz and Gabrieli figure prominently in their annual programming.
As of the 2000/2001 season the membership of the London Brass included Andy Crowley, Paul Beniston, John Barclay, and Ann McAneney on trumpet, Lindsay Shilling, Richard Edwards, and David Purser on trombones, Richard Bissill on horn, Oren Marshall on tuba, and David Stewart on bass trombone. Each of them leads a busy career apart from the London Brass, taking up such diverse pursuits as solo engagements, orchestral positions, chamber music, and faculty positions at London conservatories. Among them are principal players from the English Chamber Orchestra, the London Sinfonietta, and three (horn, trumpet and trombone) from the London Philharmonic Orchestra, as well as soloists from some of London's best known jazz orchestras. They spend two or three months of each year touring, recording and enjoying one another's company as London Brass.