Dirty Dozen Brass Band at Hamilton Live

Trumpeter Efrem Towns, drummer Terence Higgins, and tenor saxophonist Kevin Harris of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band
Nico Dodd
Trumpeter Efrem Towns, drummer Terence Higgins, and tenor saxophonist Kevin Harris of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band

For a band that has been performing together for 36 years, it might be easy for every concert to become a trip down memory lane. Not so the case for New Orleans's Dirty Dozen Brass Band, which put on the most engaging and energetic show I've seen at the Hamilton Live.

The stage was set with fog machines and club-style lights, and the front row of tables closest to the stage was removed to create a dance floor that was densely populated through the band's two sets.

Dirty Dozen used a a huge range of sound to create some great polyrhythmic jamming, a New Orleans brass band with modern and creative vibe. The band is actually comprised of only seven musicians, each of whom is deft at his instruments. It's not just progressive ideas; these guys can play. Sousaphone player Kirk Joseph uses a wah pedal to distort his sound and switched to beat-boxing later in the show. Baritone saxophonist Roger Lewis opened the second set with a reverb and echo effects to create a huge, rocking sound. At one point, Efrems Towns played trumpet and flugelhorn at the same time.

The night's performance was co-presented by D.C. Jazz Fest and whetted my appetite for the upcoming festival in June. Dirty Dozen played at the first D.C. Jazz Fest in 2004. Festival founder and executive producer Charlie Fishman was there, taking in the first set from different vantage points around the venue. He simply said the show was "excellent."

Covers included performances of James Brown's "Get On Up" and the classic, "When The Saints Go Marching In," with plenty of "Who dats?" thrown in for good measure.

Local musician Clarice Karter lent her pipes to one song and danced onstage with the group and other female fans for the band's final number.

Dirty Dozen Brass Band will be playing its next concert on March 8 at the Manship Theatre in Baton Rouge, La.

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