By Andy J. Gordon
New Orleans bands know that when they travel through Los Angeles, they have to hit The Mint for the best, most rabid fans. The Dirty Dozen Brass Band show on May 23, 2011 at the Mint brought out lots of New Orleans transplants and lovers of rousing brass band music. The opening act, a local band called Super Duper, contributed a wacky and exciting set that concluded with a pleasantly odd version of “Welcome to the Jungle,” with a tease of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” That warm up prepared the audience for some New Orleans party music.
After a short break, Dirty Dozen (www.dirtydozenbrass.com/) unleashed their legendary brand of danceable brass band music. This band has been together for over thirty years and they continue to produce tight arrangements and have fun doing it. The band consists of Roger Lewis on baritone sax, Kevin Harris on tenor sax, Gregory Davis on trumpet, and Efrem Towns on trumpet. Kirk Joseph on sousaphone, Jamal Watson on the drum kit, and Jake Eckert on rhythm guitar complete the ensemble. They pulled songs from their extensive catalog and chose some interesting covers. Early in the first set “Ain’t Nothing But a Party” segued into The Temptations’ “Papa Was a Rolling Stone.” Later in the set Efrem Towns broke out his pocket trumpet, the tiny instrument that looks like a toy. Towns blasted a scorching solo, as did Kevin Harris on sax. Some traditional second line music brought out the white hankies and umbrellas. The set closed with the always inspiring “When The Saints Go Marching In.”
They opened the second set with a cover of The Meters’ “Fire on the Bayou” and invited guitarist Kirk Fletcher, who toured with Charlie Musselwhite and The Fabulous Thunderbirds to join the band for a nasty version of “Cissy Strut.” After Fletcher left, the band gave each horn player a chance to shine. Roger Lewis played a long, melodic solo. Greg Davis, Efrem Towns, and Kevin Harris followed with excellent solos as well. As the show was coming to an end, the band brought out Daniel Safarik, the lead singer from Super Duper to help out with “My Feet Can’t Fail Me Now.” The show closed with “Dirty Dozen After Party” leading into “Dirty Old Man.” After thirty plus years, these guys still bring tons of energy to their live performances, and show no signs of slowing down. The crowd left the Mint (http://www.themintla.com/) sweaty, exhausted and totally thrilled to have experienced an authentic NOLA brass band party.
Photo courtesy of Andy J. Gordon