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JAZZ REVIEW : Dirty Dozen at Palomino

June 17, 1989|LEONARD FEATHER

You might not expect to find the Dirty Dozen Brass Band at the Palomino, but the excitement they generated at the North Hollywood rock emporium indicated that their message carries the same impact no matter how far they stray from New Orleans.

Never actually more than two-thirds of a dozen, they have now reduced further to seven pieces. Their brassy, blowzy blowing is dominated by the tuba of Kirk Joseph, though the front line includes two trumpets and two saxophones.

From the first bar, there is no doubt that infectious vibes are about to be disseminated. This is strictly a good-time band.

Roger Lewis, a full-blooded baritone sax player, doubled on a squealing soprano sax, playing both at once on one tune, later alternating them in such fast-moving two-bar trades that he seemed to spend as much time switching horns as playing them. Kevin Harris on tenor sax is more orthodox and hard driving.

Along with all the noisy fun Thursday night, there was a menu top-heavy with surprises. After the traditional blues pieces and "St. James' Infirmary," there were pop songs from the Stevie Wonder and Rolling Stones song books and, for a wild finale, a bop medley that began with Thelonious Monk's "Well You Needn't" and segued to Miles Davis' "So What," with the string bass role played by the tuba. Finally trumpeter Greg Davis coaxed the crowd to its feet for "Feet Don't Fail Me Now."

The rhythmic undercurrent of this unique septet is endemic to its success. One drummer, Jenell Marshall, plays snares and cymbals, leaving him free to sing. The other, Lionel Batiste, groans under the weight of a bass drum suspended in front of him, which he bangs incessantly on its right flank.

With no piano and no other chordal instrument, the music at times sounds simplistic, even atavistic; but swing it does, good humor it has, entertain it can and no doubt always will.

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