He's the big man with the big baritone horn in the Dirty Dozen
Brass Band, and Roger Lewis took a few minutes to talk with me last
week as he recovered from a busy New Orleans Heritage Festival. The
DDBB hits the road this week for yet another busy summer,
celebrating 30 years of grooving together. They will be here in
Western Massachusetts on May 21 at the Iron Horse Music Hall.
Lewis is a living encyclopedia of New Orleans music,having
played the “chitlin circuit” with New Orleans legends like the late
pianist Eddie Bo, singer Irma Thomas and the legendary Fats Domino.
He attended Southern University, where he hooked up with trombonist
Charles Joseph, who was a factor in his joining the Dirty Dozen
Brass Band. Despite the inevitable personnel changes, thirty years
later, they are still going strong.
A survivor of Hurricane Katrina, Lewis lost his home in the
storm and resulting levee breach. He continues to rebuild and play
in town, with bands like the Treme Brass Band (for second-line
parades and jazz funerals), and Delfeayo Marsalis' Big Band.
is an interview with
Mr. Lewis and overview of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band's sound,
including memorable tunes like:
Dirty Dozen Brass Band - "Bongo Beep" from My Feet Can't
Fail Me Now
. This is the 25th anniversary of the release
of the DDBB's salute to their favorite jazz standards. Roger points
out in the interview that listeners still wonder how they played so
fast on this cover of the Charlie Parker tune.
Dirty Dozen Brass Band - "Kidd Jordan's Second Line" from
The New Orleans Album. A 1989 album featuring
guest appearances by New Orleans legends Eddie Bo, Danny Barker and
Dave Bartholomew, as well as Elvis Costello. The song was written
for them by Edward "Kidd" Jordan, a professor at Southern
University at New Orleans who was crucial is putting the group
Dirty Dozen Brass Band - "I Shall Not Be Moved" from
Funeral For a Friend. Howard Morris' song is part
of the suite of material the DDBB chose for their critically
acclaimed "New Orleans Jazz Funeral" album. For those unfamiliar
with the importance of musical accompaniment to burial in the Big
Easy, check out this excerpt from Wikipedia:
A typical jazz funeral begins with a march by the family,
friends, and a brass band from the home, funeral home or church to
the cemetery. Throughout the march, the band plays somber dirges
and hymns. A change in the tenor of the ceremony takes place, after
either the deceased is buried, or the hearse leaves the procession
and members of the procession say their final good bye and they
"cut the body loose". After this the music becomes more upbeat,
often starting with a hymn or spiritual number played in a swinging
fashion, then going into popular hot tunes. There is raucous music
and cathartic dancing where onlookers join in to celebrate the life
of the deceased. Those who follow the band just to enjoy the music
are called the second line, and their style of dancing, in which
they walk and sometimes twirl a parasol or handkerchief in the air,
is called second lining.
Dirty Dozen Brass Band - "Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)" from
What's Going On. In response to Hurricane Katrina,
the DDBB worked with friends and musical collaborators alike from
rapper Chuck Dto singer Bettye LaVette to recreate Marvin Gaye's
classic album through the prism of the resulting confusion of
post-hurricane New Orleans. This track includes G. Love on vocal,
over an electrifying horn chart.
Dirty Dozen Brass Band - "Dirty Old Man" recorded live in Las Vegas May 10, 2008
. Roger's "theme
song" ("I'm a Dirty Old Man/Dirty Old Man/I Feel Like Spanking
Somebody!") is usually the tune that send the audience home
grooving on his baritone sax line.