Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Dirty Dozen Asks What's Going On

With JazzFest having concluded this past weekend, it is worth looking back at an album the Dirty Dozen, one of the pioneering bands of the modern Brass Band scene issued after Hurricane Katrina with their interpretation of a classic Marvin Gaye album. This review originally appeared in the October 2006 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 287). I purchased the CD.

Like others from their home city of New Orleans, the members of The Dirty Dozen Brass Band have been greatly affected by the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. With some friends they have their new album, What’s Going On, (Shout Factory), which reinterprets the classic Marvin Gaye album on a recording that is very relevant in light of the catastrophic events of last year in which the band members, like so many, lost their homes, and so much more.

More than their homes, they were distressed about the loss of their communities and personal treasures; photo albums and mementos of their travels were all destroyed. “I’m not talking about clothes and shoes and material things, but family albums,” says Roger Lewis. “I have a 7-year-old daughter. I had pictures of myself as a child, but I can’t share them with her because they were destroyed. All she’s really going to know is her dad as a 64-year-old man.”

The album opens with Chuck D rapping on the title track with a justified bitterness as the Dozen provides a sobering backing with Revert Andrews contributing a strong trombone solo. This followed by Betty Lavette take on What’s Happening Brother as she sings “Are things really getting better like the newspaper says … I just don’t understand what’s going on in this land … will the Tigers win the pennant, do they stand a chance …” with the tenor sax reaching to the higher registers behind her. Flyin' High (In The Friendly Sky), is taken at a medium tempo with a rather nice rendering of it before the tempo picks up as the members chant “Help Me Somebody,” with some nice spirited playing as the tune rides out. Nice trumpet leads Save the Children which also includes some nice sax work including Roger Lewis’ baritone, original member Kirk Joseph provides a foundation on the sousaphone and Jamie Mclean’s guitar brings African flavoring and rhythm. Ivan Neville guests on God Is Love, as Joseph and Lewis add the deep bottom behind his vocal as the brass punctuate the lyrics. G. Love raps the lyrics Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology) with the Dozen providing a sharp funk groove before the Dozen get a groove going on Right On, as Revert Andrews takes the lead on trombone prior to Kevin Harris’ tenor sax. The last instrumental, Wholy Holy, is rendered almost as a funeral dirge before they conclude with Guru rapping on Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler), concluding a very thoughtful and moving recording.

A portion of the proceeds from this CD will be donated to the Tiptina’s Foundation, benefiting the musical community of New Orleans.

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