October 13, 2005

Where Africa Meets Oompah (Replay)

The DDBB these days

"Do It Fluid" (Dirty Dozen)
Dirty Dozen Brass Band, from My Feet Can't Fail Me Now, Concord Jazz, 1984

Catch 'em live

If you’re just getting here, or just haven’t been paying attention (and who could blame you), I am featuring some replays of tunes I posted last October when HOTG was new and I didn’t know what I was getting myself into, and most of you didn’t either. I have resived my comments somewhat from the earlier post in hope that they may make more sense.

My Feet Can’t Fail Me Now was the first LP for the
Dirty Dozen Brass Band, and was re-issused on CD around 1990. They are both out of print now; and more's the pity. I bought this very well-recorded LP a few years after it’s 1984 release on Concord Jazz. I never heard the CD or even saw a copy. As the LP was pretty hard to find, many people regard the DDBB's Rounder album/CD, Live: Mardi Gras in Montreux, from 1986 as their first; and it is one of their best, with full-tilt in-concert performances. But, as much as I love that record (it was my introduction the band), and their subsequent fine CDs, this Concord LP is special, because it was their first and is an absolutely great-sounding, insistently grooving example of the band fairly early in their career (they formed, more or less, around 1977). "Do It Fluid" (a title with new meaning, post-Katrina) shows what these young guys could do with their intense, accomplished musicianship and super-charged delivery. Note the consummate sousaphone/tuba work of Kirk Joseph (who is no longer with the group) on this track for a workshop in propulsive bass pumpin'; and marvel at the rhythmic interplay of the horns, all churning and burning along like pistons in some reved up monster engine, while the percussion itself is stripped down to just cowbell, snare rim, and cymbal syncopation until some snare head beats sneak back in around the three minute mark. So hip.

The Dirty Dozen helped revitalize the brass band tradition in New Orleans, which was dying out for lack of new blood and material. They threw out the rule book, got busy, and led way for all the other young bands to come with their adventurous repertoire, compositional skills, enormous energy, and monumental fonk.

Over the years the Dozen have changed from a "pure" brass band (brass and percussion), adding keyboards, guitar and, occasionally, trap drums to the killer horns;and they still have undeniable groove power. But I prefer the simpler instrumentation. At this year’s Jazzfest, I saw them do a great set in more or less their original configuration; and that confirmed it.

When African-Americans were introduced to brass marching band instruments in 19th centrury New Orleans, they did something remarkable with them over time, engendering no less than a new musical form, jazz, where, as Baby Dodds said, “every man in the band has his own rhythm to keep”, and improvisation is the norm. That's an extreme over-simplification of the process, for sure; but there's no way to neatly sum up the confluence of influences that became New Orleans music. My bias is for the visceral, syncopated, funk-infused second line grooves which arose in the streets of that humid, atmospheric, sub-sea level city through the marching, parading, and general struttin' of brass bands, Mardi Gras Indian gangs, and associated revelers. The repercussions linger to this day. Both jazz and funk were born in those streets, went separate ways at times and came back to intertwine again and again. To my mind, the music of the Home of the Groove is at its finest when those streams merge. Look no farther than the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and the whole modern Crescent City brass band movement for the free-flowing evidence.

Thanks to the Reaper for sending along this link to the srream of a live DDBB set, if you want to get a taste of 'em live the night before Katrina came to town.


Blogger The Reaper said...

Ahhh, conceptual continuity. With New Orleans music on the brain yet again, I headed over to the Internet Archive and started streaming an excellent set from the Dirty Dozen. (the show was recorded the night before Katrina hit, so there are a couple of jokes about the upcoming storm that don't seem quite so funny now, but don't let that stop you from DLing the show). Imagine my surprise when I wandered over to HOTG and found that Dan had posted a Dirty Dozen track just a couple of hours before.

Could it just be a coincidence? Maybe. Is it further proof that HOTG is the place to be when you're jonesing for the real deal? Hell yeah.

3:52 AM, October 13, 2005  
Blogger mr. nice guy said...

Dan, I am sure you know this, but I feel I must give props where them props is due: Do It, Fluid was written by jazz trumpeter Donald Byrd and first recorded by six of his students in the jazz dept at Howard U. They called themselves -- you know where I'm going with this -- The Blackbyrds.

If you didn't know that, then you need to check out their eponymous 1974 debut. Do It, Fluid is the first track and it absolutely kills. It's sicker than the avian flu.

8:30 AM, October 13, 2005  
Blogger Dan Phillips said...

Thanks for the live DDBB link, Reaper. I'll put it in the post. I guess great minds do dog paddle in the same stream of consciousness, or whatever that old saying is.

And Mr. Nice Guy, I did know of the Blackbyrds original. I always wondered why they received no credit on either DDBB album the tune is on; but I forgot to mention it last year - and doubly forgot this year! I've got some Blackbyrds, but not that debut album. It's on the list now. Thanks.

10:16 AM, October 13, 2005  

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