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The Dirty Dozen Brass Band - What's Goin' On

Dirty Dozen Brass Band Whats Goin On
best of 2006The Dirty Dozen Brass Band - What's Goin' On
(CD) Shout Factory Records, 2006-08-29

Tracklisting :
01. What's Going On
02. What's Happening Brother
03. Flyin' High (In the Friendly Sky)
04. Save the Children
05. God Is Love
06. Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)
07. Right On
08. Wholy Holy
09. Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)

Links :

Press release :
On the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, The Dirty Dozen Brass Band releases its reinterpretation of Marvin Gaye's classic LP What's Going On. Thirty-five years after its original release, the political and social themes of the album are just as relevant as ever. Along with many others along the Gulf Coast, the members of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band lost their homes to Katrina. Their take on What's Going On is not only an attempt to express their feelings about this tragedy and other current events, but also a tribute to the spirit of their hometown of New Orleans.

A bevy of guest vocalists turned out for the recording, including Chuck D, Ivan Neville, G. Love, Guru and Bettye LaVette.

Shout! Factory is donating a portion of the proceeds from the sale of each copy of What's Going On to Tipitina's Foundation, benefiting the music community of New Orleans.

Full Press Release :
In a world of war, poverty, ecological disasters, dissent and conflict in the social fabric of society, Marvin Gaye found himself looking to the heavens in 1971 and asking the heartfelt question Whats Going On? And with that Gaye created the unqualified masterpiece of his astounding career, an album addressing these questions of an uncertain world.

In 2006, with the same questions looming even larger, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band has borrowed on Gayes inspiration to create a crowning achievement in their own career, which spans more than three decades of innovation and leadership in New Orleans music and beyond.

Mixing vibrant instrumental pieces with simmering, scorching vocal numbers (performed by guests Chuck D., Bettye LaVette, G. Love, Ivan Neville and Guru), the Dirty Dozen has translated the songs from Whats Going On into its own music language. The new recordings are infused with the powerful feelings resulting from the bands own experiences with Hurricane Katrina, the subsequent massive flooding and the devastation of their homes and communities.

The August 29th Shout! Factory release of Whats Going On marks the one-year anniversary of Katrinas devastation of New Orleans.

It just made sense in light of all that happened with the storm, says trumpeter Gregory Davis, who with fellow Dirty Dozen co-founders Roger Lewis (baritone and soprano sax), Kevin Harris (tenor sax) and Efrem Towns (trumpet, flugelhorn), make up the groups core. But even beyond that, to ask Whats going on? in the world makes sense. What happened with 9/11, what happened with the tsunami, what happened with the earthquakes over in Iraq and Afghanistan, whats happening with the so-called war. Whats really going on?

Its a timely question, adds Harris. What the hell is going on? Its been freaky out there. Bad enough when human beings are snapping at each other left and right, but when nature is drowning thousands of people with tsunamis and hurricanes and scourges? Things are changing, getting strange.

The idea for the project came as the group discussed potential album plans with Shout! Factory A&R executive and producer Shawn Amos.

I was spending time with the guys, getting to know them, says Amos. We were thinking about what kind of record to make, and one afternoon the conversation turned to Katrina. The Dozen were the first people from New Orleans I had hung out with post-Katrina and it shook me to hear their stories. They lost their homes and their memories. One of them was on a cell phone dealing with an insurance company. The guys were so understandably angry at what was going on in their city, or rather what wasnt going on. We talked about it, and the discussion led to the war and to other political matters. I asked them how they would feel about remaking Marvins album.

The Dirty Dozen has been up for big challenges in the past with its bracing, innovative blend of traditional New Orleans sounds and modern jazz sensibilities. The ensemble has recorded with artists from Dizzy Gillespie (a hero and inspiration) to Elvis Costello, taken on the music of jazz inventor Jelly Roll Morton for the album Jelly and reinterpreted the hymns and parade songs of the Crescent City second-line bands for 2004s Funeral For A Friend (following the death of co-founding member Tuba Fats). Theyve mixed intriguing approaches to traditional and familiar material, but in a context emphasizing challenging original music composed by the Dozen members themselves. In the course, the band resurrected, revitalized and put distinctly personal stamps on what was a dying tradition of New Orleans brass bands when the group formed in the late 70s, inspiring a full-on revival thats flourished with several new generations of young brass bands each bringing their own twists to the form.

The Dozen had interpreted one of these Marvin Gaye songs before, recording a hot, soulful arrangement of Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler) for their 1999 Buck Jump album. (The new version, with Guru, provides some new twists.) But taking on the entirety of Gayes landmark was a huge challenge.

Im a big-time Marvin Gaye fan, says Towns. You listen to the words on that album; its his personal diary of what the hells going on. God Bless My Father, Mercy Mercy. Marvin was a bad dude, one of the greatest who ever lived. Just to contend with Marvins music was a challenge in itself. I didnt want to just copy his music, but make the songs our own.

The album came together very quickly.

Its different from stuff we have done in the past, but we still tried to maintain our identity, says Lewis. We never really rehearsed the music before we went into the studio. We had some music written out for guidelines, but we put it together on the spot. Just went in and did it. Came out pretty good, I think!

But the very process of making the album was impacted by the post-Katrina circumstances.

We recorded every single idea any of us had, gave it a shot so we wouldnt shut out anybody emotionally, says Davis. This was even more important because the band is spread out now. Before, we could call a rehearsal and say, Well meet at this place and rehearse for two or three hours. This time it was, Gotta get the flights, make sure everyones available. Its really like booking a gig to make it happen. Very difficult when youre trying to concentrate on the music, but in the back of your mind or front youre thinking about your house that was under water.

As it stands, Davis and Lewis have returned to the Gentilly neighborhood where most of the band had lived pre-Katrina. Harris is in Baton Rouge and expects to be there for some time to come after his father had a heart attack three years ago, hed moved in with him, then their house was flooded beyond repair. Towns is currently based in Northern Virginia, not sure when hell be back in New Orleans full-time.

More than their homes, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band is distressed about the loss of their communities and personal treasures; photo albums and mementos of their travels were all destroyed.

Im not talking about clothes and shoes and material things, but family albums, says Lewis. I have a 7-year-old daughter. I had pictures of myself as a child, but I cant share them with her because they were destroyed. All shes really going to know is her dad as a 64-year-old man.

Overall, the band believes the problems created by the hurricane can be addressed effectively, and maybe even some good can come from all this.

Katrina exposed a lot of issues and social irregularities that shouldnt be tolerated in the society we live in, but appear in our own backyards, says Towns. New Orleans will prevail, but as far as the social stuff, its whats been going on. Gee, it takes a catastrophe like Katrina to expose the whole thing.

These feelings and more are what make this interpretation of Whats Going On the Dirty Dozen Brass Bands very own.

During the making of the record, we went through a lot of highs and lows, anger and joy, says Davis. Whats Going On is all of that.


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