Picks and Pans Review: The New Orleans Album

updated 07/23/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/23/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

The Dirty Dozen Brass Band

Despite the name, there's nothing dirty about them, nor are there 12 members in this spirited New Orleans street band. With a crew of eight, plus such guests as local star Eddie Bo and worldly rocker Elvis Costello, this tradition-minded group offers a variety of Crescent City-steeped tunes. They range from good old woolly R&B such as "When I'm Walking" to the parade-inspired opener by Nat Adderly, "inside Straight."

The raucous raw energy that the band puts into all its numbers stems from a New Orleans tradition—the "social and pleasure" nightclubs spawned by black burial societies that existed all through the South before World War II. Nearly all these clubs had vanished by the 1970s, except for a few like the Dirty Dozen Social and Pleasure Club, from which the band who played there took its name.

What makes this, the group's fourth album, special is the lineup of featured singers and musicians, many of whom ordinarily perform only in New Orleans. There's Louis Armstrong alumnus Danny Barker singing and playing guitar on the bluesy teaser "Don't You Feel My Leg," which Barker co-wrote. Fats Domino bandleader Dave Bartholomew does a reprise of his huge funky '50s hit "The Monkey." and Elvis Costello cuts loose on the Bartholomew gem. "That's How You Got Killed Before."

Dozen bandleader and trumpeter Gregory Davis contributes a couple of his own compositions, which don't feel inspired so much as artfully arranged. There's solid soloing throughout though, and the second-line syncopation on many of the numbers creates a joyous mood. When was the last time you heard a bopping sousaphone line?

You don't, fortunately, need a funeral or even a parade to enjoy this unusual brass band blend of New Orleans blues, bop, jazz, funk and fun. (Columbia)

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