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Heart of Brass

True to its roots, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band mixes jazz into a tasty gumbo


When the Dirty Dozen Brass Band bounced and blasted into the New Orleans jazz scene in 1977, the state of brass music was dismal at best. That quickly changed when the raw bebop big sound of DDBB started drawing dance-crazed crowds to their regular gigs.

The Dirty Dozen Brass Band’s attitude was that they could take any song—regardless of whether or not it was jazz—and put their own brassy twist on it. Old guard New Orleans jazz musicians were intimidated by the fact that a brass band was playing James Brown, Charlie Parker and traditional spirituals like “Old Rugged Cross” in the same set, but that didn’t deter the young people who ate it up, and as a result, brass music thrives today.

Now, over 20 years later, the funky improvisation, syncopated rhythms and molten bass grooves of DDBB continues to draw crowds and the attention of some of the most innovative names in music. In recent times, DDBB has collaborated with Dizzy Gillespie, Danny Barker, Miles Davis, Branford Marsalis, Dr. John, Elvis Costello and Cajun party-stepper Buckwheat Zydeco.

On its latest albums, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band again reaches out to the youth that has always supported them with their collaborations with college-scene superstars John Medeski on Buck Jump and Widespread Panic on Another Joyous Occasion. Buck Jump couldn’t benefit more from Medeski’s perfect chemistry with the band that makes the listener feel like you’re sitting in on a jam session, while Another Joyous Occasion is a live recording by Widespread with DDBB in tow.

The band is a tireless troupe of performers who have bounced crowds in over 30 countries on five different continents, and were referred to by the London Times as “one of the two or three most enthralling jazz acts in the world.”

A note of warning: Don’t come to a Dirty Dozen Brass Band concert and expect to sit in your seat. Last time the band played in Missoula at the University Theater, it seemed as if the people putting on the concert had intended just that—a calm, seated jazz concert. But that didn’t last long, as band-leader and trumpeter Gregory Davis quickly goaded the crowd off their cans and packed them into the front of the theater. The rest of the night was a brass-driven dance party with the confounded-looking security giving way to the joie de vivre spirit of the show. Everyone left sweaty and satisfied.

The Dirty Dozen Brass Band will be dishing out mind, body and soul on Tuesday, March 27 at the Blue Heron. Tickets are $15 in advance, $17 on the day of show, and are available at all TIC-IT-EZ outlets. Call 1-888-MONTANA for more information.

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