Dirty Dozen does it N’awlins style in Breckenridge | SummitDaily.com

Dirty Dozen does it N’awlins style in Breckenridge

KIMBERLY NICOLETTI
summit daily news
Summit County, CO Colorado

A true taste of New Orleans blasts through Breckenridge Monday, as the Dirty Dozen Brass Band plays a free show at the Riverwalk Center.

The celebrated group is well known for revitalizing the tradition of brass bands in New Orleans more than 25 years ago.

In 1977, proprietors of the Dirty Dozen Social and Pleasure Club ” one of the few remaining social clubs in New Orleans formed in the 19th century to provide burial services to members’ families who couldn’t buy insurance ” hired seven musicians to carry on the tradition of playing at funerals and festive occasions.

It took less than a decade for the Dirty Dozen Brass Band to gain international acclaim.

One reason the band has garnered such attention is because it’s not afraid to tamper with tradition.

The Dirty Dozen began experimenting with sounds not heard in traditional “second line” parades. (The second line is a tradition in funerals in which people drawn to the music would follow the “first line,” made up of mostly family and friends of the deceased; the “second line” began with more mournful songs on the way to the funeral then, on the way back from the funeral, transformed into uninhibited dancing full of beads and feathers, meant to celebrate the joy of releasing the soul of the deceased.)

The band broke out of traditional gospel tunes, honoring any compositions band members originated, from avant garde, reggae, country and classical elements.

And, as the band performs with other acts like the Black Crowes, Elvis Costello or Modest Mouse, they are inspired to morph their sound.

Still, the band’s trademark style is a kinetic hybrid of traditional brass-band marches, funk, rhythm-and-blues, bop, gospel and rock ” always aimed at enticing people and getting them to dance.

When audiences hear the Dirty Dozen, bandleader Roger Lewis says they get a three-for-one ” something for their bodies to move and groove to, something for their minds to think about the music in a technical way, and something to stir the soul.

In 2006, the band took Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” album and remade it ” infusing it with its own vibrant instrumentation and vocals, and then layering it with powerful feelings stirred by the musicians’ experiences with Hurricane Katrina ” from their homes flooding to hearing other people’s stories.

“To ask ‘What’s going on?’ in the world makes sense,” said tenor saxophonist Kevin Harris. “What happened with 9/11, what happened with the tsunami, what happened with the earthquakes over in Iraq and Afghanistan, what’s happening with the so-called war. What’s really going on?”

They’ve also re-interpreted parade hymns of the Crescent City second-line bands for Funeral for a Friend in 2004, following the death of co-founding member Tuba Fats.

In doing so, they revitalized ” and personalized ” what was a dying tradition in New Orleans. Now, young generations of brass bands are putting their own twist on the form.

Overall, the band strives to bring soul and meaning into its music, whether it be re-issuing the words of Gaye or keeping New Orleans’ tradition alive, and up to date.

“People have sacrificed during war and other disasters. … But still each life is going on. That’s how culture is born and passed down through generations. Life has got to be going on.”

That’s the message from the band, using Gaye’s words.


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