Early Edition: Getting Down With the Dirty Dozen Brass Band



(Every Friday afternoon, Gambit will be posting a story from the upcoming week’s newspaper as a Web extra “early edition” for our Internet readers. This week it’s a profile of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, which will be honored Monday night at the Big Easy Music Awards, where they'll receive the Music Heritage Award.)


The Dirty Dozen Brass Band will receive the Big Easy Foundation's Music Heritage Award

By Will Coviello

Even if the Dirty Dozen Brass Band is not doing anything special to celebrate the 25th anniversary of its first release, My Feet Can't Fail Me Now, the album still marks some of the elements that have propelled the band through more than three decades together: dedication to practice and trying new things.

??"In the beginning, we came together to learn music," Gregory Davis says. "There weren't any gigs. They were rehearsals."

??The group included Roger Lewis and Charles Joseph, who were students at Southern University. Joseph brought his younger brother Kirk to play sousaphone. Davis was a student at St. Augustine High School. Drummer Benny Jones was in a band and had some connections to get gigs with social aid and pleasure clubs. The members agreed to work on any type of music.

??"Whatever you were exposed to, you could bring," Lewis says. "If you were interested in be-bop, avant garde, blues, rock — you could do it with the Dirty Dozen."

??By the time the group released Feet in 1984, some of those modern jazz strains were part of its repertoire.

??"On Feet [the song], you're listening to Charlie Parker — from a piece called 'Dexterity' — and by the end of it, we're playing Horace Silver and 'Tripping,'" Lewis says.

??Through experimentation, heavy touring and collaborations with artists in other genres, the Dirty Dozen opened the door for a new approach and a new generation of New Orleans brass bands. The Dozen literally showed the world what could be done with a brass band setup....

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