Dirty Dozen Brass Band

Medicated Magic, Ropeadope/Rykodisc
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The Independent Culture

Rather than the stiff military or academic backgrounds, which underpin most American marching bands, the New Orleans brass-band tradition is rooted in the city's peculiar funeral customs, in which bands would play slow and mournful en route to the graveyard, then get loose and funky on the way back to the wake. The form might have died out were it not for The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, who kept it alive through recent decades, rejuvenating it through work with pop stars such as Bowie and Costello. The enjoyable "Medicated Magic" is a tribute to their hometown's illustrious R&B tradition, featuring mostly covers of old Aaron Neville, Lee Dorsey, Irma Thomas, Dr John and Meters standards rendered in the band's infectious manner, in the company of guests like jazz trumpeter Olu Dara, turntablist DJ Logic, pedal steel guitarist Robert Randolph and, of course, the good Doctor himself. Their frisky second-line style, in which deep, honking sousaphone holds down the bassline while sax, trumpet and trombone dance around tricky snare rhythms, is best captured on The Meters' classic, "Cissy Strut", while slow, bluesy readings of "Ruler Of My Heart" and "Tell It Like It Is" – both boasting lyrical solos from Randolph – demonstrate their wider versatility.

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