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Published: 2004/02/26
by Ray Hogan

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
section brought

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
time for

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.

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