‘That New Orleans sound’ comes to Vail | VailDaily.com

‘That New Orleans sound’ comes to Vail

Charlie Owen
Vail CO, Colorado
Special to the Daily

VAIL, Colorado ” Roger Lewis plays the baritone and soprano saxophone for one of the biggest bands to come out of New Orleans in three decades; and according to him, he owes it all to his mom and dad.

“Probably my biggest influence was my parents. They took the time to send me to take all these music lessons,” said Lewis, the son of a longshoreman and a housewife.

Lewis began taking piano lessons at a young age and he later picked up the saxophone when one of his cousins quit playing it.

“I guess I had to prove to them that I was going to be the one to play that thing,” Lewis said.

Those music lessons obviously paid off. When Lewis joined the Dirty Dozen Brass Band in 1977, the group was still struggling to find an identity and a niche in the New Orleans club scene. Not long after that, however, things began to take off for Lewis and the the band when they recorded their first album and started touring. Their style is a combination of old-shool New Orleans funeral and marching band music with elements of funk and bebop thrown in to spice things up; a sound that comes as close to a French Quarter party as you can get without being there. They’ll bring that sound to Vail Tuesday night for the final Hot Summer Nights concert of the season.

Now DDBB tours often, drawing large crowds. As a result, Lewis has played with many of the biggest musicians in the world.

“Having an opportunity to play with a lot of different groups helps (you) reinvent yourself, your sound gets a little different,” Lewis said.

Every time the Dirty Dozen plays with a more internationally-known act like The Black Crowes, Widespread Panic, Modest Mouse, Galactic or Elvis Costello, they get introduced to a whole new audience of fans, even if their music hasn’t really changed that much over the years, Lewis said.

“A lot of those kids, they never heard the type of music we play before,” Lewis said. “We change with the times, you know.”

All that touring doesn’t really give the band a chance to sit down and write new songs, though. It’s hard to be creative when all you have to look at is the lines on the highway, Lewis said. As a result, it’s been awhile since they’ve released any new material and, according to Lewis, fans may have to wait until next year before they see a new album. They could rush an album out but they’d rather make it worthwhile for their supporters.

But what exactly keeps the music of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band relevant for their fans?

“They put on a good show,” said Edwards resident Mike Ioli, a long-time fan. “They show a lot of energy, they’ve got that New Orleans sound. They’re a full horn section; they’re unique because they’ve got an upbeat brass section that you don’t see very often.”

Lewis said that for him, music is spiritual and healing.

“I think it’s the spirit of what we do. Our music has a lot of spirit in it, got a lot of gospel in what we do, got a lot of blues in what we do. It’s happy music ” it’s uplifting music,” Lewis said. “For some reason people love the Dirty Dozen Brass Band.

(We’re) the world’s greatest party band,” Lewis said.

High Life writer Charlie Owen can be reached at 970-748-2939 or cowen@vaildaily.com.

What: The Dirty Dozen Brass Band.

When: Tuesday night at 6:30 p.m.

Where: Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater in Vail.

Cost: Free.

More information: Call 970-949-1999 or visit http://www.vvf.org.

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