Words by Martin Halo | Photos by Rod Snyder
Rapid fire from the fare meter can be heard spitting out the total for a thirteen-block cab ride. There was no reason to sit in her backseat any longer with 42nd Street, in Manhattan, basically reduced to a parking lot. Cabs and pedestrians flood the entire causeway between the sides of the buildings. It is an awe-inspiring sight, not just because of the enormity of social interaction, but because even in the middle of an October evening the entire landscape is illuminated with the brightness of high noon.
The destination is BB King’s Blues Club, which displays a marquee welcoming New Orleans’ musical brotherhood, The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, for a late-night rendezvous.
A line has formed along the velvet rope lining the sidewalk that allows the patronage from the early evening performance space to clear the venue. Once the bar was re-stocked with enough alcohol to satisfy the desires of an audience’s lust for intoxication the line finally began to penetrate the doorway.
A short descent down a circular staircase unveils BB King’s underground house of blues. Candlelit booths of leather line the furnished dance floor as red flickering vanguard lighting fixtures hug the wall space. The atmosphere drives a fine line between a jazz lounge and juke joint, mixing a large-scale ballroom with the dives of the village.
At around 11:15 PM a very casually dressed Dirty Dozen Brass Band walked into the Manhattan spotlight and began to lay their mix of rhythm and blues, injected with soul, gospel, and Dixieland’s rags. New York is far from the swampland of the Gulf States but just laying eyes on the Dirty Dozen post Katrina is a constant reminder of why New Orleans will forever be the cultural pulse of this nation. It is a society, which honors life gratefully and pays respect to death with celebratory remembrance.
Supporting a new record, which was released in August of 2006 entitled What’s Going On?, the Dozen launched into a set of songs which not only energized the spirit of the bayou but paid tribute to their city left in ruins.
The record was a reworking of a Marvin Gaye classic and deals with the ideologies of social arrogance, human neglect, and racial injustice. Released on the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina the record stands as a social statement poised directly at America’s political leaders.
The Dozen’s touring lineup includes Roger Lewis (baritone sax), Efrem Towns (trumpet), Terence Higgins (drums), Revert Andrews (trombone), Kevin Harris (tenor sax), Kipori Woods and Jamie Mclean (guitars).
The dance floor became electrified with the swagger of a southern gathering as Efrem Towns provided the jolt, blowing two full hours of sweeping licks, while guitarist Kipori Woods mouth-picked an impressive break of electric improvisation.
Jamie Mclean emerged from backstage to supply guitar work on selected songs as the mingling crowd converged for a rendition of the traditional Crescent City classic, “When the Saints Go Marching In.” Small yellow and purple colored umbrellas could be seen bobbing over the audiences’ head.
The scene was one of unified jubilation as the set list included selected compositions from the Dozen’s twenty-year catalog and a cover of Stevie Wonder’s, “Superstition.”
The set stood as a definitive performance of screaming Louisiana gumbo.
TheWaster.com | New York City