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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of September 3 - 9, 2003

Arts and Entertainment

Gon' Be Funky

Legendary New Orleans
Brass Band plays Hailey

Express Staff Writer

Where y’at, ya’ll?

One place one must be "at" is Hop Porter Park in Hailey, Saturday, Sept. 6, when the Dirty Dozen Brass Band blows into town for a 6 p.m. Sun Valley Center for the Arts concert.

This family oriented show costs $15 for adults and is free for children under 12-years-old. Picnics, blankets, chairs and refreshments are welcome.

The band—Sammie Williams on trombone, Roger Lewis on baritone and soprano sax, Terence Higgins on drums, Kevin Harris on tenor sax, James McLean on guitar, Efrem Towns on trumpet and Julius McKee on sousaphone—are really not 12 musicians as might be expected. (Gregory Davis, one of the four founding band members, books acts for the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, and doesn’t tour with the band as much any longer.)

The band got its name from the Dirty Dozen Social and Pleasure Club in New Orleans, which decided to assemble a group as a house band.

Since those early days in the mid-1970s, the group has revitalized the brass band genre with super charged performances all over the world.

"Who would have thought I’d see the world, ya know?" Lewis said in a recent telephone interview. Lewis is one of four remaining members of the original Dirty Dozen lineup.

"I joined the Fats Domino Band in 1971, here we are in Paris, and I’m in the hotel looking out over the city. Said to myself, ‘I remember seeing this in an encyclopedia,’ all of a sudden I’m in the picture.

"There’re very few places we haven’t been. It’s hard to remember when you do 250 gigs a year. It’s public demand," the New Orleans native laughs. "People love our band. We just had a gig in Japan, it was great. Paris, South America, Iceland, all over Indonesia, hey, we been around 25, 26 years."

As well as touring constantly, the band has been featured guests on albums by artists who include David Bowie, Elvis Costello, Dr. John and the Black Crowes. The city of New Orleans even has an official Dirty Dozen Brass Band Day.

"New Orleans struts. When we play on the streets in New Orleans, you get a good work out," Lewis laughs.

It’s not that hard to maintain the band's trademark style of traditional brass band marches, funk, R&B, bop, gospel and rock, he says.

"In the beginning our band was traditional New Orleans. Then we incorporated other influences. Whatever your musical experience was you got a chance to do that—zydeco, cajun, jazz, gospel, rock—we don’t stifle anyone’s musical growth—Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Thelonius Monk—we mix it all in there. We play everything inside outside, avant-garde. We have a good time. That’s what music is all about. One reason we got popular was before us New Orleans music was just one thing. We put everything in, we were young.

"It’s all related, we even have some classical stuff in there. Our goal is just to play. We didn’t have in mind to change anything."

But, Lewis tempers, "We play real serious music. It’s no joke. Guys sit in with us thinkin’ this’ll be easy but then we come on with all those horns, they hear all those intricate riffs and say, ‘uh-oh.’"

Lewis good naturally gives his own history in a nutshell: "I’m the old man of the band, 61. My mother made me take piano lessons for 50 cents a lesson. Then she got me a saxophone. I met a couple guys and formed this little band, we thought we were hot stuff."

Hot stuff, indeed, Hailey beware, the mountains will be shakin’.

"I like to look out there and see people have a good time, that makes my day. There’s something for their body, their mind, their soul. Hey, everything is made for love."



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