The band that reinvigorated the brass band tradition and popularized it beyond the city of New Orleans is once again roaming free on Twenty Dozen, their 20th album that celebrates their 35 years together. After two tightly-conceptualized outings — the recreation of a Crescent City funeral parade on Funeral For A Friend in 2004, followed two years later by a rendition of Marvin Gaye’s entire magnum opus, What’s Goin’ On, to dramatize the political apathy to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina — DDBB stretches out stylistically, appropriately confident the hot musical sauce and pungent ensemble gumbo that keeps them atop of the brass band heap will unify the material.
The seven originals think globally, and blow-and-syncopate locally. “Tomorrow” and “Jook” both jumble the native musics of Jamaica and Nigeria with some broad, funky horn fanfares reminiscent of Tower of Power. “Best of All” likewise blurs the line between calypso, juju and highlife, with Jake Eckert’s chika-chika guitar meshing with New Orleans parade whistles on the treble side, while Kirk Joseph’s sousaphone makes a rubbery groove like an African talking drum on the low end. “Git Up” nods in the funk-n-roll direction of The Meters. The first cover, an extended rendition of Rihanna’s cannibalization of Michael Jackson, “Don’t Stop the Music,” is acculturated to the delta, crawling with crawfish and elbow grease.
On the last four cuts, DDBB decide to essentially reenact the stretch run of their concerts, with a pair of party-naughty vocal rave-ups, “Paul Babarin’s Second Line” and “Dirty Old Man,” sandwiched around two brass-band classics, “E-Flat Blues” and “When the Saints Go Marching In.” As the same five original DDBB horn players who appeared on the group’s 1984 debut wail away and chant their gruff, silly vocals, and producer Scott Billington, who was at the controls for Voodoo back in 1989, locks in the mix, this back end of Twenty Dozen re-plants itself in New Orleans after globe-trotting those Crescent City roots out to the Caribbean and across the ocean to the Motherland. To pervert a clichÃ©, the more things remain the same, the more they change.