Brass jungle: Trumpets, saxes, tuba = loud!
Oregon Hill Funk All-Stars and Dirty Dozen Brass Band
Starr Hill Music Hall
Wednesday, March 3
...the front of the room turned into a jungle of brass and woodwinds. Four trombones, two trumpets, four saxes, a tuba, a guitarist, and a drummer all crammed onto the stage...
I'm getting a little ahead of myself. Let's back up for a minute. If you like jazzy funky stuff, then you should have shuffled your feet over to Starr Hill this past Wednesday for the return of central Virginia's finest full-blown funk ensemble, Oregon Hill Funk All Stars, who opened the stage for The Dirty Dozen Brass Band.
Just in case you've been sleeping for the last quarter-century, The Dirty Dozen has been touring the country in some incarnation for the last 25 years. They are one of the most revered groups on the New Orleans music scene and have been influential in shaping (and redefining) the role of big brass in contemporary music.
Things started off on a good foot when Oregon Hill took the stage. They bring that high-energy funk that scares away the prudes and gets freaky people in the mood. You may remember the band leader as the sax player with long dreadlocks from The Jazz Poets.
This time around, he has a new brand of funk that includes a wicked horn section and an in-the-pocket percussionist whose mother probably quieted him with a bongo-shaped binky as a child. Yeah, these guys were born to play the funky stuff. The longer they played, the more the crowd ate it up.
Dirty Dozen got up next. The band looked expressionless as they stepped to their instruments. I couldn't help but think that by now, playing shows like these is just work for them.
Decked out in custom baseball and basketball jerseys, urban indie gear, with cell phones attached to their belts, they started their set as if they were doing a sound check. I don't think I was the only one confused. Because The Dirty "Dozen" brought only seven of their members to the show, they seem to missing some key ingredients.
But midway through their third or fourth song, things began to pick up. Maybe the soundman corrected something. Whatever it was, somebody did something right. The energy of the performance escalated and everyone could feel what good ol' New Orleans funk can do. (I've decided that the Sousaphone is the best bass tone in a live arena.)
For the finale, The Dirty Dozen invited the horn section of Oregon Hill to join them. With both bands together, the front of the room turned into a jungle of brass and woodwinds. Four trombones, two trumpets, four saxes, a tuba, a guitarist, and a drummer all crammed onto the stage. The wall of sound jammed out for at least a half-hour. The crowd was grateful. We all left with smiles on our faces.