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Brassy sass, New Orleans' class

Funky and loud, New Orleans’ Dirty Dozen Brass Band is for another round of brassy shenanigans. The musical genre benders play 8150 tonight at 10.

The Dirty Dozen Social and Pleasure Club formed in New Orleans in 1977. They took two Crescent City traditions and melded them: social/pleasure clubs and brass bands. Social and pleasure clubs dated back to the 1800s, a time when black southerners could rarely afford life insurance, and the clubs would provide proper funeral arrangements. Brass bands, early predecessors of jazz, would often follow the funeral procession playing somber dirges, “second line.” They would burst into jubilant party-style music as soon as the family of the deceased was out of earshot. Casual onlookers danced in the streets. By the late ’70s, few of either institution existed.



The Dirty Dozen Social and Pleasure Club decided to assemble this group as a house band, and over the course of these early gigs, the seven-member ensemble adopted the venue’s name: the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. They’ve now made their reputation by blending the best of Crescent City jazz traditions into a sound that’s entirely its own, what critics have deemed brassy sass.



“We play a lot of different styles of music, and we can change horses in the middle of the stream,” says baritone and soprano sax player Roger Lewis in their press materials. Lewis is one of the four original members that make up the nine-piece.



They’re not entirely brass, as they now include a drummer, a keyboardist and a bassist. Literal interpretations aside, they’re still as funky as they ever were, with their punchy, genre-bending mix of music.

“When you come to our concert, you get something for your body, your mind and your soul,” Lewis continues. “I don’t wake up in the morning and say this is gonna be this kind of music, that’s gonna be that. I just wake up and pick up my saxophone and bring some joy and happiness into some people’s lives.”

The Dirty Dozen Brass Band celebrated 25 years of making music with its ninth album, “Medicated Magic,” a tribute to the hometown that’s embraced and nurtured them since day one. Original songs are mixed in with covers of tunes by such New Orleans legends as The Meters (“Cissy Strut,” “Africa”), Allen Toussaint (“Everything I Do Gon Be Funky”) and Dr. John (“Walk On Gilded Splinters,” “Junko Partner”).

Their friends are many and varied. Pedal steel guitarist Robert Randolph and jazz vocalist Norah Jones are but two of the many musicians that helped create the album.

“Medicated Magic” is by turns hopping, sexy and festive. Despite its driving rhythm, the undercurrent of southern langour flows. No note is played before its time.

Long established as favorites in the valley, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band has been embraced by the floor-movers of 8150. For more information about the performance call 479-0607.


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