Photos by Robyn Gould
Dirty Dozen Brass Band has been around in one form or another since the 70’s, only within the past 20 years have they begun to be widely recognized for their work. They have made their way across different audiences and have recently found a welcome reception from the jamband/funk movement. I caught the band playing in Williamsburg at Brooklyn Bowl, which has brought in plenty of funk and soul acts already. The deep bass lines made the music perfect for a venue with a bowling alley inside.
Dirty Dozen opened on a blue note playing the Duke Ellington classic “Caravan” a song originally composed by Juan Tizol. After a couple of swing tunes, including a tease of “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)” they broke out the funky NOLA brass band sound with “When The Saints Go Marching In.” They then went into the Meters’ “Cissy Strut,” which took on new colors with a full horn section. This was followed by a jam which worked in the melody of Outkast’s post 911 hit “The Whole World.”
The night proceeded in such a manner, drawing on a range of songs (as well as a guest appearance by former DDBB guitarist Jamie McLean). At the end of the evening the oldest member of the group, sixty-six year old Roger Lewis, kicked off a song called “Dirty Old Man” the song had a very funky baritone saxophone line, with a heavy bass drop on the one beat (The song has one line of repetitive lyrics, and as Lewis explained in the Charleston City Paper, “One night the band went off to the dressing room and left me on stage by myself. Everybody’s looking at me so I start playing this bass line on the baritone. People start moving and grooving to it, so I start singing between it and the first thing that came to my mind was ‘I’m a dirty old man, dirty old man. I want to spank somebody.’”)
Some things happened during that song that shocked and intrigued my more conservative older brother. As the band played, Lewis began inviting women onto the stage and having the crowd chant their name. Before I knew it, there were about six girls on stage, including one who had stripped down to her black stocking and garters. The dancers were rubbing up and down on Mr. Lewis and his band mates as they soaked in the enthusiasm of the audience. I have seen a few concerts in my time and this certainly ranks among the wildest I have seen things get. My brother asked me if I thought they knew the band and my only answer was, “It’s the power of funk.”
The Brooklyn Bowl is open until 4:00 am every night. After the intense spectacle offered by the legendary New Orleans brass band, people stuck around, postponing reality just a little bit longer.