We Got Robbed! Live in New Orleans – The Dirty Dozen Brass Band
I remember thinking during Gov't Mule's The Deepest End marathon
performance in New Orleans last May that the Dirty Dozen Brass Band horn
some much needed authentic NOLA spirit to the five-hour concert. Sure it was
great to see the dizzying array of special guests, but this was Jazz Fest
damn it, and if the Dirty Dozen wasn't going to personify the heart of what
New Orleans music is about, no one was.
Last year was the group's silver anniversary and the milestone was announced
with not only the excellent – and guest heavy – Medicated Magic disc
nightly shows at the TwiRoPa club throughout the duration of Jazz Fest. The
Dozen, which takes its name from the Social Aid and Pleasure Club it
originally performed functions for rather than the number of its musicians,
still boasts original members in saxophonists Roger Lewis and Kevin Harris
and trumpeters Efrem Towns and Gregory Davis (who no longer tours).
We Got Robbed!: Live In New Orleans was recorded during two nights at
TwiRoPa last May and is available only through the band's web site
and at concerts. The group's next official release
Funeral For a Friend is due later this year and in New Orleans in
this year's Jazz Fest.
To understand DDBB's current popularity, it's important to know its roots.
When the group emerged 26 years ago, it was viewed as sacrilegious by
purists for tempering the brass band tradition with elements of everything
from bebop to Michael Jackson. The group's willingness to mess with street
parade heritage has paid off exponentially. It now not only covers any song
it feels like but has an electric guitarist, a drummer who plays a full set
(rather than the one bass drummer, one snare drummer format common to brass
bands) and, on some tunes, a keyboard player. The group's popularity among
rock bands and their fans need not be explained in these pages.
We Got Robbed! showcases a band with a lot to celebrate in a friendly
environment. The front-line of Davis, Lewis, Harris, Towns and firebrand
trombonist Sammie Williams is probably the best horn section in New Orleans,
if not beyond. Exercising technique and enthusiasm in equal measure, it's
hard not to be hit hard by them. Sousaphonist Julius McKee plays the
cumbersome instrument with an electric bassist's agility.
The material here is essentially a greatest hits package with a sprinkling
newer material. "Charlie Dozen," "Remember When" and "My Feet Can't Fail Me
Now" are standards at street parades thanks to this band. Still, after 25
years, here's a group of musicians still in search of stimulation. "Dead Dog
in the Street" veers without notice, but to much delight, into Sly and the
Family Stone's "If You Want Me To Stay" while "Unclean Waters," a standout
on the overlooked Buck Jump disc, is slyly introduced by the Meters'
on the Bayou." These segues aren't listed on the track listing but are some
of the brightest music on the disc. The closing version of George Clinton's
"Red Hot Mama" is pure adrenaline and is appropriate for a group that uses
top-flight musical skills to produce nothing less than unadulterated joy.