New Orleans music ushered in the 20th century with the wail of a joyful noise: collective improvisation, syncopated rhythms, eclectic stylizations and an infectious joie de vivre that was exhilarating. Indeed, thanks to New Orleans musicians such as King Oliver, Jellyroll Morton, the ODJB, and above all, Louis Armstrong, the 1920s became known as the "jazz age."
Just like early jazz was an amalgamation of the music of its era, The Dirty Dozen Brass Band's musical revolution was actually a reintroduction of the basic eclecticism that made jazz the most dynamic music of the 20th century. With the release of their Mammoth Records recording Buck Jump, The Dirty Dozen Brass Band is poised to extend New Orleans music into the 21st century.
Founded in April of 1977, The Dirty Dozen Brass Band created a musical revolution in New Orleans. For over seventy-five years, the brass band tradition existed largely unchanged until this forward-looking, bebop-influenced ensemble completely changed both the style and the repertoire of brass band music.
Trumpeter and bandleader Gregory Davis points out, "The concept of the Dirty Dozen is to play and experiment with all types of music. We will take a song -- and not worry about if it is a jazz song or any particular type of song -- we'll just take a song and see what we can do with it as The Dirty Dozen."
This time around, the band has called on the services of John Medeski of Medeski, Martin & Wood to produce their new recording. "It's the first time we worked with a producer who actually plays an instrument on the record and is making a living as a musician. The company went for the first take concept. For them, funky meant if it had a mistake in it, so what. And that was cool because it was like doing it live on a gig," commented Gregory Davis.
The results are impressive: Buck Jump offers a broad range of Dirty Dozen stylizations. From a rollicking interpretation of "Run Joe," a song associated with jump blues master Louis Jordan all the way to a sax-heavy, hard-blowing interpretation of Marvin Gaye's anthem "Inner City Blues." Other tracks like "Unclean Waters" and "Pet the Kat" pack the same punch that the band is legendary for delivering in concert. There is no question that John Medeski's influence has helped The Dirty Dozen finally record an album that sounds like it catapults you into the middle of one of their live performances.
This spirit of experimentation has led to the Dirty Dozen playing songs as diverse as the jump blues war horse "Night Train," Thelonious Monk's modern jazz classic "Blue Monk" (which is now part of the standard New Orleans brass band repertoire), folk music such as "Little Liza Jane" and even television cartoon music such as the "Flintstones" theme. "We not only do jazz shows, we do rhythm and blues festivals, rock and roll gigs, blues festivals. Because we play a variety of music, it allows us to get into different venues that we probably would not have been invited to otherwise."
For over two decades, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band has literally been barnstorming the world (more than thirty countries on five continents)--they once knocked out 72 gigs in 90 days. They've played all the major festivals--Newport, New York, New Orleans Jazzfest, Playboy, Montreaux--and they have played one-nighters in no-name venues in small towns you need a local map to find. If they didn't love the music, they couldn't keep up the pace, but, as their signature song exclaims, they roll on, confident that their "Feet Can't Fail Me Now."
Davis believes, "being a New Orleans band has marquee value. The other side of that coin is that people expect you to do a good job. The audience expects something special. So our challenge is, every night, to make sure that you are not only playing some good music, you have to also put on a good show."
Moreover, it's not just been dancers and the general public who have embraced the Dirty Dozen. The band has received broad critical acclaim including a "Jazz Album of the Year" award from CMJ as well as five star ratings from both Downbeat and Jazz Times. Additionally, they have performed and / or recorded with an assortment of established musical giants: jazz greats Dizzy Gillespie, Danny Barker and Branford Marsalis; New Orleans legends Dr. John, The Neville Brothers and Dave Bartholemew; pop stars Elvis Costello, The Black Crowes, and the Cajun two-stepping of Buckwheat Zydeco.