Last night I went to Tipatina’s with a friend to see the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. I was entirely ignorant of the awesomeness I was about to encounter. But then that’s just another one of the many things I love about this city – you dont necessarily need to be looking for it to find something incredible. Unfortunately there is no photo to accompany this text because I was having too much fun dancing to think of whipping out my phone.
As my feet shuffled and my hips shook, I could feel my body comparing the sound to that of the familiar Rebirth Brass Band (Maple Leaf on a Tuesday night) and Soul Rebels (Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler on a Thursday night), and I couldn’t help but wonder why these guys didn’t have a weekly gig somewhere. But I was much mistaken to do so! They dont have a regular gig in New Orleans because they are so busy touring the world all the time, I had just been fortunate to catch them whilst on a brief stop home for Jazz Fest.
The Dirty Dozen aren’t similar to Rebirth or Soul Rebels, Rebirth and Soul Rebels are similar to the Dirty Dozen! They were the first. They were the ones who revamped the traditional second lining brass bands playing the same old tunes, and developed the funkier side of the soulful sound of this city that I love. They started out and have carried on as experimentalists, creating sounds in the same way, as one band member has described, that you make a good gumbo – throwing in a variety of ingredients and flavours to make one mouth watering soup. And in much the same way that the scent of a good gumbo will have you drooling, the sounds of these guys will have sweat beads gathering on your brow from the exuberant dancing.
They originally formed out of a church in Treme in the 1970s. It’s not just the combination of seven individual artists (ranging in ages up to 70!) that keeps their sound so fresh, but the fact they will draw inspiration from anywhere and everywhere. They aren’t just jazz or funk; they have blended Carribean spice and Latino suave, they have honoured the classics and meshed the modern.
If you can’t make it here to visit this unique and vibrant city, try and catch the Dirty Dozen Brass Band when they pass through a bar near you, and then you can saturate yourself with their sound and for a little while be transported to the sweaty, rhythmical streets of New Orleans.