New Orleans’ Dirty Dozen Brass band is nationally known for blending traditions
of second line jazz with influences of bebop, funk, and R&B. The eight-man
big band has been spreading dance-happy Big Easy vibes for more than two decades.
But distress and displacement in post-Katrina life has caused the band to bear
an obviously angry political side. Their latest album is a cover of Marvin Gaye’s
famous protest statement, &ldquo;What&rsquo;s Going On?&rdquo; <br>
The dark and funky reinvention comes 35 years after the original release, but
the band saw obvious similarities in its present situation. While the Gaye masterpiece
was lamenting the Vietnam War and violence in black communities, it&rsquo;s not
difficult to see the parallels now. From the album cover that depicts a heartbreaking
image of a shirtless man pulling a canoe through the flooded streets to the dubbed
in pleas of help from Mayor Ray Naigin, it&rsquo;s apparent from the beginning
that the band has a message to deliver. <br>
Although the point gets across, the arrangements are optimistically upbeat, filled
with the band&rsquo;s usual blazing brass, marching beats, and gritty guitar
fills. The group gets some help from hometown friend Ivan Neville (&ldquo;God
is Love&rdquo;), and rappers Guru (&ldquo;Inner City Blues&rdquo;) and Chuck
D. of Public Enemy, who rhymes sparsely on the title track. G. Love puts a twist
of his acoustic licks and Northern urban soul into &ldquo;Mercy, Mercy, Me, &rdquo; while
other cuts, like the elegaic &ldquo;Flyin&rsquo; High&rdquo; are left perfectly
wordless. <br>
&mdash;Jedd Ferris