Take a tuba, a fat drum beat, add a scorching guitar and you've got the foundation of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band as seen in Amsterdam last Thursday. Flesh it all out with a raving horn section and you've got a combination that is guaranteed to make you sweat. The Dirty Dozen are one of those bands that is keeping the Jazz scene vibrant. Leaning heavy into the traditional music of their native city New Orleans, the Dirty Dozen keep pushing the envelope. There's a reason why they worked with everybody from Dizzy Gillespie to Elvis Costello, from the Guru to Bettye LaVette. Few other bands today are able to expand on the great Jazz traditions of New Orleans quite like them. Few bands can tackle a classic masterpiece like Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On" and get away with it. The Dirty Dozen did and pulled it off. Not just that they made an entirely original wok out of Marvin's album. So my expectations were high for the Dozen's first appearance in Amsterdam. The half filled venue made it apparent that true talent often goes unrecognized in today's music business. Unimaginative programming on the radio and MTV leave stellar bands in the realm of connoisseurs. Jazz has a high (f)art aura to it that is off putting to a lot of people. A shame, because it denies them the raving party Jazz can be.
If there is one thing that the Dirty Dozen seem to understand is that Jazz has a strong tradition of being party music. "It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing" is a lesson some Jazz combos seem to have lost sight of. While experimental forms of Jazz are not without their own merits, they are hardly ever fun and cooking quite in the original sense of the word. Most Jazz clubs or performances today attract people who quietly sit and listen, stroking their chin in contemplation while secretly fighting sleep and boredom. The Dirty Dozen may not be as subtle live as on record but they do bring the Funk. The Dozen live drop bomb after bomb. Drummer Terence Higgins has a high Hip Hop sensibility, pushing and pulling with an approach that is both sloppy, loose and incredibly tight. You can't help but throw your hands in the air, wave em like you just don't care. The horn section adds a booty shaking grease that makes it impossible to sit down. If the Dirty Dozen don't get you off your ass it is advised to check your vital signs. You might be dead.
The material the Dozen picked to play was aimed at getting the audience into a sweaty Funk. After they were done my arm pits reminded me of the true meaning of the word. With the chops of the Dirty Dozen a classic like "When The Saint Come Marching In" sounds as fresh and funky as "Fire On The Bayou" or "Feet Can't Fail Me Now". Although the band was struggling with the acoustics of the venue some, they paid their dues and then some. The Dirty Dozen is the kind of band that doesn't play for you, they party with you. They are there for their own pleasure as well as yours. Though very accomplished musicians they never loose themselves in pointless solos for musicians sake. Still their music is adventurous and incredibly original. With the Dirty Dozen the music of New Orleans is as vital, challenging and cooking as it was a hundred years back.
"What's Going On (live)"
The Dirty Dozen "Live At Paradiso" is available through the Dime.