The sousaphone shakes the floor and your chest; the drums make you want to march in protest or celebration of something, or to dance; the saxes and trumpets riffle and riff through all the pages in the history of jazz; and the guitar gives the whole thing the blues.
It’s the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, and it takes The College of Saint Rose’s Massry Center for the Arts (1002 Madison Ave., Albany) to New Orleans on Saturday.
They have a complex history and play from a distinguished tradition. But, this is no jaded crew of Bourbon Street tourist entertainers.
First, the history, or at least some high points: Formed in 1972 as the Fairview Baptist Church Marching Band in the Treme, they became, in turn, the Hurricane Brass Band, then the Tornado Brass Band, then defunct. But this was a band what wouldn’t die. The demand for brass band music dried up, but they rehearsed anyway, playing whatever they wanted. Freed by lack of gigs, they stretched beyond conventional brass band tunes (syncopated Mardi Gras parade chants and funkifized gospel) to play jazz numbers and such fun fare as “The Flintstones” theme.
They resumed performing as the Original Sixth Ward Dirty Dozen but were the Dirty Dozen Brass Band (DDBB) by the time a regular bar gig earned a record date then the first of many European tours.
When they returned in 1984 from Europe for brief bookings in New York City, the gig stretched to six weeks. By 1987 they were recording for Columbia and playing everywhere, including a tour opening for The Black Crowes. High-profile guests over the years have included Dizzy Gillespie, Branford Marsalis, Norah Jones, Elvis Costello and Widespread Panic.
As in their early rehearsals, they play however and whatever they want. They’ve mixed up their instrumentation, adding guitar, keyboards and electric bass at times. And they consider any song suitable for brass band funkifizing. After Hurricane Katrina drowned their city (and some friends), they recorded Marvin Gaye’s entire angry “What’s Going On” album — the 13th of their 15 albums.
The current touring Dirty Dozen Brass Band is actually seven strong: sousaphonist Kirk Joseph, trumpeters Gregory Davis and Efrem Towns, saxophonists Roger Lewis and Kevin Harris, drummer Terence Higgins and guitarist Jake Eckert.
Albany’s own funk hybridizers the Chronicles open the show at 7:20 p.m., boasting similar instrumentation, energy and funk to the DDBB. Tickets are $30, students $15. Phone 337-4871 or visit www.massrycenter.org.
Bopitude at Van Dyck
The Massry Center isn’t the only venue with heavy-duty horn action erupting this weekend. On Friday, drummer Michael Benedict’s all-star crew Bopitude plays the Van Dyck, augmented by Gary Smulyan, widely hailed as the world’s top baritone sax player. The regulars are saxophonist Brian Patneaude, trumpeter Chris Pasin, pianist Jon LeRoy, bassist Mike Lawrence and Benedict.
Downbeat magazine praised “Five and One” — the band’s album with Smulyan — in a four-star review, and their show at A Place for Jazz placed high on some Top 10 lists.
Bopitude with Gary Smulyan plays two shows on Friday at the Van Dyck (237 Union St., Schenectady), at 7 and 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $15. Phone 348-7999 or visit www.vandycklounge.com.
OK, first thing — and, really, I just thought of this — try to imagine Béyoncé going bowling. Enough . . .
Now, the second thing, and looking back a bit: Do we care if she lip-synced at the Inauguration? Recognizing when a performer has been miming instead of singing annoys me in concert; but maybe just because I’m there, in the house. Anybody facing a gigantic crowd in person and via TV might want to hedge their bets against nerves, a cough or microphone failure, so I think it’s all right.
Third thing: How can she ever top playing the two greatest gigs in the world within less than two weeks? Where can she possibly play now? Getting back to that first thing, how would it be, seeing her play Rock ’N’ Bowl in New Orleans, with the rolling, guttural growl of bowling balls and the woody crash of pins behind her? Wait, maybe she did, the night before the Super Bowl.
Fourth thing: She was sensational at the Super Bowl, in athletic/charismatic terms. Right afterward, I thought, “If she just had better songs, she could have taken over the world in those 13 electric minutes.” Then I realized those radio-ready, perhaps focus-group-tested, stunningly generic tunes were perfect for that purpose. They were nondescript audio wallpaper that allowed her to fill the room completely — with powerful physical energy, towering belief in herself and an equally enormous desire to please.
Despite all the manufactured perfection of that spectacle, she seemed genuinely a bit out of breath at times, and you could see her recover while carefully seeming not to work too hard; but I really don’t care if she lip-synced THAT gig, too.
Maybe get a room or maybe go twice, but Club Helsinki (405 Columbia St., Hudson) has two drive-worthy shows this weekend: Black Francis on Friday at 9 p.m. and Robert Randolph Presents the Slide Brothers on Saturday at 9 p.m.
Born Charles Michael Kittridge Thompson IV and known as Frank Black as a prolific solo artist, he’s Black Francis with the on-again, off-again proto-alt-rockers the Pixies, and on this gig, too. Reid Paley opens. Tickets are $25. Phone 828-4800 or visit www.helsinkihudson.com.
On Saturday, Randolph leads his “Sacred Steel” brethren the Slide Brothers in soulful, funky, bluesy music sanctified by their tradition of playing gospel on pedal steel. Randolph is as restless as he is talented and accomplished. And this gig, away from his own Family Band and tours with Eric Clapton, should feel like home — surrounded by Calvin Cooke, Chuck and Daric Campbell and Aubrey Ghent. Tickets are $28 in advance, $32 at the door.
Reach Gazette columnist Michael Hochanadel at [email protected]