One of the pleasantly central and centrally pleasant frissons of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band has always been the more or less 10-man collective’s seamless integration of good-time horn-a-plenty feel-goodism with the group’s roots in the second-line tradition of New Orleans street funerals. Death is the occasion and joy—aural joy, at least—is the result. It’s one of those seeming paradoxes that’s not really a paradox at all—certainly not for anyone who’s ever experienced aural joy, and not to anyone who’s ever experienced the humor, the irreverence and the eventual urge to dance in the face of the nearly comatose sadness of death.
The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, 25 years into its own journey of personnel addition, subtraction and continuance, made that friction explicit with the May release of Funeral for a Friend, dedicated to the memory of founding tubist Anthony “Tuba Fats” Lacen. It’s a fun record. Tuba Fats must’ve been a fun guy. They say in the early days of social club funeral, the second-line bands that followed the processions switched from gospel and dirges to party jazz once the mourners were out of earshot, but the mourners are going to want to hear this one.
There are 10 horns plus a few drums, a few vocals, a little accordion and a whole lot of soul. The Brass Band is long established as a powerhouse live performance, and who knows what they’ll play in Missoula. They’ve got the new album’s Jesus triple-play— “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” “Jesus on the Mainline” and “Is There Anybody Here That Loves My Jesus”—plus a sustained and varied career’s worth of catalog to draw on. If only Tuba Fats could have been around to hear it, though one suspects he’s dancing in heaven anyway.
The North Mississippi Allstars, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and the Rising Star Fife & Drum Band play the Wilma on Tuesday, Oct. 26, at 8 PM. Tickets cost $16.