Music » Livewire

The Dirty Dozen Brass Band

Saturday, May 15, at the Beachland Ballroom.

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The Dirty Dozen Brass Band formed in New Orleans in 1977, when interest in traditional brass-band music had hit an all-time low. The genre was widely viewed as dated music played by stodgy, tuxedoed senior citizens. Think "When the Saints Go Marching In." The Dozen retained the instrumentation of a brass band -- drums, tuba, and various reeds and horns -- but rehabbed it by channeling divine inspiration from the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, James Brown, and Earth Wind & Fire. The result was a highly danceable breath of fresh air that encompassed Bop, Afro-Caribbean funk, and R&B. Brass-band music was suddenly youthful and hip.

Twenty-seven years and 10 albums later, the Dirty Dozen have become a Crescent City brand name. Their prowess and sophisticated approach have landed them guest appearances on albums by David Bowie, Elvis Costello, and Dave Matthews. Even Norah Jones got in on the action, singing on their 2002 release, Medicated Magic.

In the pantheon of New Orleans musical powerhouses, the Dirty Dozen stand shoulder to shoulder with the Neville Brothers, the Meters, and Dr. John. They present a high-octane display of alchemy and rhythm that's akin to the Marshall stack. This ain't your grandpa's oompah band.

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