Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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The Dirty Dozen Brass Band

  • My Feet Can't Fail Me Now [George Wein Collection, 1984] B
  • Mardi Gras in Montreux: Live [Rounder, 1986] B+
  • Voodoo [Columbia, 1989] B
  • This Is the Dirty Dozen Brass Band [Shout! Factory, 2005]
  • What's Going On [Shout! Factory, 2007] Choice Cuts
  • Twenty Dozen [Savoy Jazz, 2012] **

Consumer Guide Reviews:

My Feet Can't Fail Me Now [George Wein Collection, 1984]
I may never get over early reports describing this New Orleans neotrad octet as "funky," which I took to mean that in addition to integrating Monk and Bird tunes into marching-band polyphony they had a bottom like James Brown or at least the Meters. After one listen, I realized what I already knew--that to get a funk beat out of tuba, bass, drum, and snares isn't difficult, it's impossible. Maybe the big deal is that they're not only fun in a mild, neotrad way, but also what Dr. John used to call "fonky"--that even though they play jazz, people dance to it. A not inconsiderable conceptual triumph, but those who dance a lot anyway are unlikely to appreciate it. Upped a notch for integrating Monk and Bird tunes into marching-band polyphony. B

Mardi Gras in Montreux: Live [Rounder, 1986]
No longer bummed out by false promises of funk, we can settle for fun. Even if it's right to suspect that their synthesis is less than historic, their lively, unsentimental update of New Orleans jazz heritage proves once again that the best way to honor the dead is with a party. But not that the guest of honor should get up in his best suit and sing "Stormy Monday." B+

Voodoo [Columbia, 1989]
The cameos--by Dr. John, Dizzy Gillespie, and Branford Marsalis--are the giveaways, because this jaunty concept needs those guys, to sing or solo as the case may be. The headliners are the lounge band of a tourist's dreams, and that's all they are. Why in the world cover Stevie Wonder's message-laden "Don't Drive Drunk" as an instrumental (polyphonic, mais oui)? Because it's a deathless piece of music? To prove how up-to-date you are? Or to stump the clientele in a game of name-that-tune? B

This Is the Dirty Dozen Brass Band [Shout! Factory, 2005]
Strange to think it, but this amorphous outfit--go ahead, name a soloist--may be New Orleans's most original modern band, and also its most tipico, which is why. What could be more eclectically tourist-friendly than bebop-flecked polyphony over "funk" bass played on a sousaphone doing tuba duty? Yet it can be fun, no quotation marks necessary, at least on this comp, which is both looser and less schlocky than the leavings strung together on Columbia/Legacy's Jazz Moods--Hot cheapo--and includes a solo you'd want to ID, by one John Birks Gillespie, who provides a vocal you'd want to ID as well. [Recyclables]

What's Going On [Shout! Factory, 2007]
"Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)," "What's Going On" Choice Cuts

Twenty Dozen [Savoy Jazz, 2012]
Greatest practitioners on record of America's premier you-had-to-be-there music ("Dirty Old Man," "We Gon' Roll) **

See Also