Dirty Dozen Brass Band
After nearly three decades, it’s hard to imagine Lexington without at least a semi-regular visit by the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. From performances at the University of Kentucky’s Memorial Hall and the defunct downtown nightspot Breeding’s at the end of the 1980s, to dates at Lynagh’s Music Club and festival outings at the Kentucky Horse Park in the 1990s, and to comparatively recent shows at The Dame, Cosmic Charlie’s and even Rupp Arena (where it played alongside Widespread Panic), the group has long been one Lexington’s favorite tastes of New Orleans musical culture.
Taste, in fact, is what brings the veteran Crescent City troupe back to town this weekend. It will serve as one of the headline acts performing for the Crave Lexington Food and Music Festival at Masterson Station Park. It performs Saturday just ahead of a return engagement by Lexington-bred pop fave Chico Fellini. Talking Heads tribute band Same As It Ever Was, another frequent local visitor, closes out Crave on Sunday.
The Dirty Dozen is not only one of the first traditional brass bands to break out of New Orleans street parade tradition by exploring contemporary rock, soul, jazz and funk sounds. The band also opened doors for a succession of like-minded New Orleans brass-savvy outfits to build national followings.
The baker’s dozen of albums (excluding compilations) the Dirty Dozen has issued since 1984 represents numerous variations of New Orleans inspiration. Cross-generational jazz icons Dizzy Gillespie and Branford Marsalis, along with New Orleans musical patriarch Dr. John, fortified the socially inclined jazz charge on 1987’s “Voodoo,” the band’s breakthrough album. A broader array of guest artists — Elvis Costello, Norah Jones, Robert Randolph, John Medeski — would expand the Dirty Dozen’s national appeal in the years and decades to come, along with the artists the band, in turn, would help support (Modest Mouse, Joe Henry, Widespread Panic).
But the two recordings that perhaps best reflect the stylistic breadth of the Dirty Dozen were released just over a decade ago, separated by a mere two years.
The first, 2004’s “Funeral for a Friend,” trimmed back the guest list to allow the Dirty Dozen to present a traditionally minded set of solemn and jubilant spirituals (“Just a Closer Walk with Thee,” “Jesus on the Mainline”) and roots-conscious requiems (“I’ll Fly Away,” “John the Revelator”), set into beautiful motion in the vein of a New Orleans street funeral. The album title rang true, too, as the record was a tribute to the band’s late friend and associate, Anthony “Tuba Fats” Lacen.
The other, cut in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, was a song-by-song remake of Marvin Gaye’s landmark soul treatise, “What’s Going On.” Designed as a dramatic topical shift for Gaye in 1971, the original record was an album-long prayer for peace amid the rampant racial, generational and ecological strife of the day. The Dirty Dozen’s 2006 remake was also a requiem, but with an eye more to its ravaged homeland with guest help from Bettye LeVette, G. Love and Chuck D.
There hasn’t been a new Dirty Dozen album since 2012’s “Twenty Dozen.” But mainstay members Roger Lewis, Gregory Harris, Efrem Towns, Kevin Harris and more continue to tour, playing to jazz, funk and jam band enthusiasts around the globe. This weekend, their delicious music finds a new local home at Crave Lexington.
Here is the performance lineup for the 2016 Crave Lexington Food and Music Festival. Event activities begin each day at noon.
Aug. 13: DeBraun Thomas Trio (12:15 p.m.), Ezra (1:30 p.m.), LoFidel with Allen Poe and Fredd C (2:45 p.m.), Whiskey Shivers (4 p.m.), The Payback (5:45 p.m.), March Madness Marching Band (6:30 p.m.), Dirty Dozen Brass Band (7:30 p.m.), Chico Fellini (9:30 p.m.)
Aug. 14: Young Heirlooms (12:30 p.m.), The Wooks (2 p.m.), Freekbass (3:30 p.m.), Same As It Ever Was (5:30 p.m.).
Read more about the culinary aspect of Crave in Janet Patton’s LexGo Eat column on Page 8.
One of the more underappreciated bands to roar out of a still-fertile Athens, Ga. music metropolis is The Whigs. Since its formation in 2002, the trio — guitarist and singer Parker Gispert, drummer Julian Dorio and bassist Timothy Deaux (who joined in 2008) — have released a series of fine power trio albums bolstered by pop lyricism and indie rock immediacy constructed into songs that thrive in a live setting. The newest of those recordings is 2014’s “Modern Creation.”
The Whigs return to Lexington to play The Burl, 375 Thompson Road, on Aug. 18 (9 p.m., $12). C2 and the Brothers Band will open. For tickets, go to Theburlky.com.