The Dirty Dozen Brass Band
On their latest disc, the New Orleans combo bring it back
to where it all started
|courtesy of Smash
The brass band is a richer, livelier tradition
than you might think. In the past year, for instance, Japan
has seen tours by Fanfare Ciocarlia, a gypsy brass band from
Romania, and Blast!, the hit musical about brass bands.
When it comes to the second line brass bands that
traditionally accompany New Orleans funeral marches, the Dirty
Dozen Brass Band set the standard. The custom grew out of
social clubs that arose to provide funeral arrangements for
poor black Southerners. The funerals were often accompanied
by brass bandsthe predecessors of jazz in its modern
formthat would play dirges, sometimes bursting into
dance tunes when the family of the deceased was out of earshot.
In the late 70s, at a time when the tradition had mostly
died out, the Dirty Dozen Social and Pleasure Club began to
showcase a traditional Crescent City brass band. The band
eventually took on the name of the club, becoming the world
famous music machine that is synonymous with the genre today.
Blending modern R&B vamps with the percussive punch of
a classic brass band, the Dirty Dozen feature two saxophones,
two trumpets, one trombone and one sousaphone, a tuba-like
instrument, in addition to a rhythm section. Over the years,
they have backed the likes of Miles Davis, Elvis Costello
and David Bowie, recording for labels including Rounder and
Columbia. The group is such an institution that they even
have their own Dirty Dozen Brass Band Day in the city of New
After a period in the 90s in which they tended to produce
more conventional recordings, the group returned to form in
1999 with John Medeski of the influential jazz trio Medeski,
Martin & Wood producing the well-received Buck Jump. Their
most recent recording, last years Funeral For A Friend,
however, is regarded by many as their best yet.
Released on Ropeadope and distributed in Japan by independent
P-Vine, the album is dedicated to recently deceased friend
and original tuba player, Anthony Tuba Fats Lacen.
It reenacts an actual funeral march, beginning with the dirge
Just A Closer Walk With Thee before moving on
to gospels that reflect the roots of the Dirty Dozen in church
As grief begins to give way to celebrations of a mans
release from the bonds of this world, the band breaks into
full swing with songs including Jesus On The Main Line
accompanied by the Davell Crawford Singers and John
The Revelator, which would be played at the graveside.
As the metaphorical funeral begins to break up and the crowd
goes home, the band plays rowdy songs like Down By The
Riverside before being resolved into the catharsis of
Amazing Grace. The Dirty Dozen Brass Band reportedly
played the entire set on the album for Lacens funeral
procession, leading the horse-drawn carriage procession through
the cobblestone streets of New Orleans.
Warming up the house for the Dirty Dozen at Club Quattro will
be another band signed to Ropeadope and P-Vine, the New York
organ/drums duo of Marco Benevento and Joe Russo. Reviewed
in these pages last week, the pairs debut disc Best
Reason To Buy The Sun is a storming set of organ jazz, updated
with heavy doses of free jazz and jam-band flavored psychedelia.
Club Quattro, Feb 28 and Mar 1. See
concert listings for details.
with METROPOLIS readers at http://forum.japantoday.com