Now that the 2009 Portland Jazz Fest is officially over, we can finally start to gather our thoughts about almost two weeks of pretty rad shows. Freelancer Keith Casper went to a lot of shows during the festival, and even though we tend to run concert and photo reviews close to the date of the show, Casper's stuff was too good to pass up. Here's his take (and great photos) on the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and Greyboy Allstars. -Ed.
The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Friday, Feb. 13 @ the Roseland
"Ain't nothin' but a party y'all."
— George Clinton
The Dirty Dozen Brass Band showed up for the 2009 Portland Jazz Festival at the Roseland Theater and proceeded to show our fair city how New Orleans likes to do things. Last Friday, the get-up-and-dance musical celebration (with guest appearances from band members of the night's opening band, Trombone Shorty) played to an enthusiastic and responsive audience.
It's no secret that the band has had a significant impact on the New Orleans brass band sound. What began as a youth marching band at a local Baptist church gradually evolved into a professional musical group. It fused the existing brass sound with heavy injections of funk and bebop. Over the decades, the highlights of the band have been almost too numerous to count. For example, it brilliantly re-interpreted the works of Jelly Roll Morton and more recently Marvin Gaye's masterpiece "What's Going On." It certainly bears witness to how Gaye's musical work still possesses such relevance, particularly in regards to the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina.
Over the years as a result of its groundbreaking sound, the band has been a major influence for generations of musicians near home and throughout the nation.
Along with this influence, Dirty Dozen has collaborated with scores of outstanding performers. As far as recordings, it has featured a long list of musicians such as Dizzy Gillespie, Branford Marsalis, Ian Neville, Elvis Costello, Nora Jones, Chuck D (of Public Enemy), Guru (of Gang Starr) and John Medeski, just to scratch the surface. The list of performers is as multifaceted as the band's diverse span of musical flavor.
Last time the band was in Portland, it played a much smaller showcase venue, and catching the band in full size at the Roseland was a very different experience. Up on a roomier stage things just seemed much more at ease. With its big boomin' sound, the band filled the space, spread out, got comfortable and let loose.
It was the kind of jazz show where you could spill a little beer and nobody would care: This was the kind of evening to just enjoy the music and have fun. There would be no one to tell anyone to hush if someone were to scream "Hell yeah!" Also unless you knew, you might not ever think a sousaphone could make such fat, funky party bass.
It was almost distracting to think about what it might be like to see these guys in New Orleans during Jazz Fest. Fortunately for us, they helped make a great festival right here in Stumptown.
The Greyboy Allstars, Sunday, Feb. 15 @ the Crystal Ballroom
The Greyboy Allstars are a San Diego-based band started at a weekly jam co-founded by DJ Greyboy (who does not tour with the band) and master saxophonist/flutist/badass vocalist Karl Denson. The collaboration eventually grew into a full-blown band lineup. With initial support from former James Brown bandleader/trombone maestro Fred Wesley, the band has played their white-hot blend of Jazz, Funk and R&B to many enthusiastic crowds throughout the world.
Jazz Festival or no, this band did plenty to stretch and challenge the definition of a single type of music, which is exactly what you would expect from such a hyper-eclectic crew. It was sweaty show for the Crystal's sizeable crowd and they got to dance to a band with sharply honed skills and a ton of class.
With jaw-dropping Jazz Festival bands like this, it's fun to wonder what would happen if a few these "funkier" jazz bands managed to make the lineup and get in front of an audience of thousands on a hot July evening weekend during the Portland Waterfront Blues Festival. One can only imagine.
Dirty Dozen Brass BandSpace
The Greyboy AllstarSpace
Photos by Keith Casper