Dirty Dozen Brass Band brought Mardi Gras to Albany

On Saturday February 9th, the legendary Dirty Dozen Brass Band brought their thirty plus years of funky syncopation to the Massry Center for the Arts at The College of Saint Rose in Albany.

The opening band, The Chronicles, are Albany natives and I arrived in time to catch the last four songs of their opening set. Their sound made me imagine Lettuce and The Roots, canoodling in a jazz bar, full and polished with energy to spare. I’ll be hoping to see them at a venue where the space is more dance friendly.

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After a short intermission, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band took the stage. On tour promoting their newest album Twenty Dozen, they are not quite a dozen, but seven musicians. Original members Gregory Davis (trumpet/vocals), Roger Lewis (baritone sax), Kirk Joseph (sousaphone) and Kevin Harris (alto sax) were joined by three younger musicians, a trombonist, keyboardist and Terrence Higgins on drums. At 24 years old, Terrence may be younger than the band, but he holds the rhythm down.

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Starting out with “Big Chief” and continuing on into “Burn Down the Levee” and “Oo-Poo-Pah-Doo” before returning to “Big Chief”, DDBB had me wishing Massry was better suited to let loose and dance. Through fiesty solos and a hot backbeat, most of the crowd remained seated, even after prompted by Davis to stand up. “Just for tonight, it’s Mardi Gras in this 20° weather” he instructed us. “You aren’t in Albany anymore.” He had us all clapping and singing along after demanding “When I call to you, you respond!” When the power failed in some mics, they powered through it, their sound saucy and resonating in the room. Davis kept us involved, shouting out over the crowd for us to sing a long.

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During “Git Up”, again we were instructed to stand and dance, and this time it worked. Most of the audience complied and were clapping and dancing with the beat. Towards the end, Davis brought two audience members onstage to dance, which they did with enthusiasm, if nothing else.

Not to leave the crowd unsatisfied, DDBB stitched songs into a closing medley with “Big Mamou” followed by a favorite “When The Saints Go Marching In” reprised by “My Feet Can’t Fail Me Now.” Leaving the stage to a standing ovation and much fanfare, we were graced with one last song, a duet by Davis and Lewis. They perform a very sweet and sultry “Saint James Infirmary Blues” which was a beautiful end to a very intimate show.

Listen to “Jook” from their new album Twenty Dozen

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