NOLA Comes to Norman
The city of Norman celebrated its 30th annual Jazz in June music festival a couple of weeks ago by shaking its hips to the funky grooves of New Orleans’ Dirty Dozen Brass Band. Led by Roger Lewis (soprano saxophone, baritone saxophone), the band’s lineup also featured Gregory Davis (trumpet), Efrem Towns (trumpet, flugelhorn), Kirk Joseph (sousaphone), and Alvin Ford (drums). Substituting on tenor saxophone and Hammond organ, respectively, were Calvin Johnson, Jr. and Richard Knox.
The band’s set included numerous traditional New Orleans tunes, including Professor Longhair’s Tipitina and Mardis Gras in New Orleans, Jock-a-Mo a.k.a. Iko Iko, and St. James Infirmary Blues, as well as crowd pleasers Me Like It Like That and Dirty Old Man.
Audience participation was mandatory (not that anyone had to be strong-armed), with Towns inviting a bevy of bodacious beauties onto the stage to shake and shimmy. Bandleader Lewis kept to the shadows, mostly giving the limelight to his fellow players, but he finally cut loose on the aforementioned Dirty Ol’ Man, wiggling his hips like a 20-year-old and pantomiming the full lechery of the title character while simultaneously wailing away on the baritone. Twice, Towns thrilled the audience by playing the trumpet and the flugelhorn simultaneously.
About midway through the show, local trumpeter Stan Engle joined the band during a 22 minute medley ending with that old chestnut, When the Saints Go Marching In. Other highlights included James Brown’s Sex Machine and the burlesque standard, Harlem Nocturne.
Established in 1977 by Benny Jones together with members of the Tornado Brass Band, the world famous Dirty Dozen Brass Band revolutionized New Orleans brass band music by fusing elements of funk, R&B and bebop jazz with traditional styles. They last played Norman’s Deli in 2001. Here’s to hoping they won’t stay away so long in the future!