Dirty Dozen Brass Band with Dizzy Gillespie Take A Big Swing On ‘Live In New Orleans’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

The jazz is always flowing down in New Orleans, but in the early, to mid-’80s there was an extra sense of excitement every Tuesday night when the Dirty Dozen Brass Band took to the stage at the Glass House. The band was at the forefront of mixing traditional jazz with a New Orleans second-line swagger, dropping funk and bebop into a spicy gumbo pot of magic.

On a very special night, January 15th, 1986, the legendary Dizzy Gillespie himself joined the hot group for a set of cooking music that touched on everything the band (Gregory Davis – Trumpet, Efrem Towns – Trumpet, Roger Lewis – Baritone Saxophone, Kevin Harris Tenor Saxophone, Charles Joseph – Trombone, Kirk Joseph -Sousaphone, Lionel Batiste – Bass Drum, Jenell Marshall – Snare Drum) were becoming known for.   

After a quick opening salvo of “Bourbon Street Parade/When The Saints Go Marching In” with Gillespie joining the players, the Dozen dive into their mix of “The Flintstones Meets The President (Meets The Dirty Dozen)” which pops along on amazing Sousaphone work from Joseph while the drum duo keeps the band pumping forward in hip-shaking fashion. “Night Train” picks up speed with blaring brass lines before “A Night In Tunisia” finds Gillespie back with the band, working his smooth and graceful horn with the group during his classic tune. 

The traditional “Lil Liza Jane” is always a hoot when the Dozen get after it and this version is full of percolating call and response energy as Gillespie scats/sings with joyful abandon, resulting in an album highlight. “Who Took The Happiness Out?” ends the A-side of the vinyl on a blistering note as the skittering trumpet work and grooving low end are impossible not to get up and shake your ass too. 

The B side wastes no time as a snaking version of Duke Ellington’s “Caravan” plays both blissful and layered/nuanced. The sultry get-down party kicks up a notch as Gillespie leads the charge on a version of “Blue Monk/Hard of Hearing Mama”, taking over vocals and delivering the tale of the slightly deaf/but very desirable woman with the passion of an old bluesman. For the culmination of the evening, the Dirty Dozen charges to the front on “My Feet Can’t Fail Me Now”, wrapping up the live album on a demonstratively funky final note.  

On a night when a jazz legend lent his chops to the party, Gillespie sounds as if he is smiling through his trumpet when not expertly singing. This rare live set is a gem from The Dirty Dozen who was riding high back in early ’86 and are still killing it decades later. Produced by Ben Ellman and Robert Mercurio, mastered by Brent Lambert, it is a true treat to relive this magical night thirty-six years later, and forevermore. 

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