This is easily the most heartfelt, honestly rendered, and stunningly captured moment of the DDBB's recording career; it belongs in every household where the celebration of life and its transition from the sorrow of death to the eternal afterlife is honored. It is not only a classic in the genre, but will come to be regarded as a jazz classic, period.
IN 1977, the Dirty Dozen Social and Pleasure Club in New Orleans began showcasing a traditional Crescent City brass band. It was a joining of two proud, but antiquated, traditions at the time: social and pleasure clubs dated back over a century to a time when black southerners could rarely afford life insurance, and the clubs would provide proper funeral arrangements. Brass bands, early predecessors of jazz as we know it, would often follow the funeral procession playing somber dirges, then once the family of the deceased was out of earshot, burst into jubilant dance tunes as casual onlookers danced in the streets. By the late 70s, few of either existed. The Dirty Dozen Social and Pleasure Club decided to assemble this group as a house band, and over the course of these early gigs, the eight-member ensemble adopted the venues name: the Dirty Dozen Brass Band.
A QUARTER OF A CENTURY LATER, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band is a world famous music machine, whose name is synonymous with genrebending romps and high-octane performances. They have revitalized the brass band in New Orleans and around the world, progressing from local parties, clubs, baseball games and festivals in their early years to touring nearly constantly in the U.S. and in over 30 other countries on five continents. The Dirty Dozen have been featured guests on albums by artists including David Bowie, Elvis Costello, Dr. John and the Black Crowes. In the past year alone, the Dozen have joined the likes of Dave Matthews, Widespread Panic and Modest Mouse for recording dates. And this doesn't even dip into the band's own recorded output, stretching back 27 years and 10 albums. The Dirty Dozen Brass Band is so ubiquitous that the city of New Orleans even has an official Dirty Dozen Brass Band Day.
THE SECRET TO THE GROUPS POPULARITY, success and endurance lies in its open-minded approach to music. "We play a lot of different styles of music, and we can change horses in the middle of the stream," says baritone and soprano sax player Roger Lewis, one of four remaining members of the original Dirty Dozen lineup. The bands trademark style is a kinetic hybrid of traditional Brass Band marches, Funk, R&B, Bop, Gospel and Rock that never fails to please their audience of frenzied dancers. The Dirty Dozen has also performed a classical suite composed by trumpeter Gregory Davis, as well as accompanying modern dance troupes. Their stylistic range is limitless, as is their willingness to try new things. Now, back to celebrate their citys vast musical heritage, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band return with Funeral For A Friend. Dedicated to their dearly departed friend and original tuba player, Anthony "Tuba Fats" Lacen, Funeral For A Friend finds the Dozen mining the treasures of traditional blues and gospel spirituals for a ten-song reflection on loss, love and the celebration of life. Craig Street (Norah Jones, Gypsy Kings, Joe Henry) returns to man the boards once again and displays a different side of the Dozen. Internationally-known as the only sure-fire way to get a party started, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band display a depth of emotion not often associated with New Orleans Brass Band music.
IN STARK CONTRAST TO 2002'S MEDICATED MAGIC, THE DIRTY DOZEN SHED THE GUESTS FOR THE MOST PART ON FUNERAL FOR A FRIEND, and create a tapestry of sound that can only be woven with 27 years of shared collective experience. The dirge-inflected "Just A Closer Walk With Thee" immediately places the listener at the steps of Gallier Hall in New Orleans, as a procession of onlookers march with the family of the recently deceased before introducing the distinct New Orleans flavor of the "second line." Cuts such as "I Shall Not Be Moved" and "Jesus on the Mainline" display the roots of the Dirty Dozen and the influence of the church on this album, while a re-arranged version of the classic Son House vehicle, "John the Revelator" slinks like a back-alley prohibition era storyville dancer. But the core of Funeral For A Friend is once again the Dirty Dozen membership. Lewis, Davis and fellow founders Kevin Harris (tenor sax) and Efrem Towns (trumpet) form a potent harmonic cannon with the return of Kirk Joseph (sousaphone) on many tracks, as well as longtime comrades Julius McKee (sousaphone), Terence Higgins (drums), Sammie Williams (trombone) and Jamie Mclean (guitar). No one member takes the reigns of this album, as the Dirty Dozen Brass Band show the power of the collective whole with fiery saxophone lines intermingling with a rock-solid rhythm section.
FUNERAL FOR A FRIEND is a fitting chapter of a New Orleans institutions ever-growing legacy. The Dirty Dozen Brass Band have played festivals and funerals, earned five-star reviews from Downbeat and Jazz Times, performed with Dizzy Gillespie and Branford Marsalis, and delighted audiences from New York to Berlin to Tokyo and just about everywhere in between. Says Lewis, reflecting on his bands success, "You look at the encyclopedia and you see all these famous places, and then one day you wake up and you're in the picture!" But he knows that its all about giving people the good time theyre looking for: "When you come to our concert, you get something for your body, your mind and your soul. I don't wake up in the morning and say this is gonna be this kind of music, that's gonna be that. I just wake up and pick up my saxophone and bring some joy and happiness into some people's lives."