Tuesday, March 23, 2010


No collection of ensembles that employ unconventional tuba playing would be complete without a plug for one of the most recognizable New Orleans jazz-funk groups, the Dirty Dozen. The octet combines the tradition of New Orleans street playing with straight-ahead bop, and Parliament-esque beats.

One reason for the group's unique sound is, in my opinion, their choice of bass-oriented instrumentation. Outside of the two trumpeters, all the remaining instruments are from a lower tessitura: tenor, baritone, trombone, sousaphone, guitar, and drum kit. In accompaniment, the band produces relentless, interlocking grooves. As soloists, each member is a risk taker with a different style than his bandmates.

Anthony "Tuba Fats" Lacen was the group's original sousaphonist and his energetic playing made that role into one of the band's trademarks. Kirk Joseph later played with the group, taking a leave of absence due to tour fatigue and eventually returned to record with the group numerous times. Julius McKee has also appeared on albums and currently tours with the band (I have been fortunate enough to see him live) and is, to my ears, the best sousaphonist yet to play in the group. McKee has been featured on NPR and in Bass Player magazine (as a sousaphonist!)

Since incorporating in 1977, the group has recorded or performed live with a diverse swath of musicians including Dr. John, Dizzy Gillespie, Branford Marsalis, Elvis Costello, DJ Logic, Norah Jones, Danny Barker, Widespread Panic, Modest Mouse, John Medeski, Dave Bartholomew, Eddie Bo, Olu Dara, Government Mule, and Robert Randolph.

You can listen to the Dirty Dozen cover Stevie Wonder. Maestro Wonder is no easy cover.

1 comment:

  1. Good Job Pat,

    Check these out: