Thanks to the luck of the spirit of jazz, my two top acts for the week both fell on the same night. Join me on my highlight night of the 2013 Jazz Fest.
First up was New Orleans-based The Dirty Dozen Brass Band under the Big Tent. I've been wanting to see this group for a while now, as it is one of the few jazz groups that is actually on my iPod, and which I listen to outside of the Jazz Fest every year.
The brass-heavy band has been playing since the 70’s, so I was a little surprised when the group played songs from its back catalog that I actually knew. Aside from hitting my tuba quota for the fest (represent!), the group included trumpet, bari and tenor saxes, drums, guitar, trumpet, and flugelhorn. It was tight, and a whole lot of fun -- a real brassy and reedy onslaught. Where else are you going to get a solo with somebody playing a trumpet and a flugelhorn at the same time?
Sadly, the group did seem to be battling sound problems. Both the sousaphone player and the drummer kept motioning to try to fix sound issues or switch mics, and not all the instruments were clearly audible at all times. And as fun as the group was, I'm not sure if it completely met all my expectations. But still, the group knew how to keep and rock out on a groove, and it was easy to get lost in it.
The night only continued to heat up from there. Next up was my highlight of last year's festival, Dwayne Dopsie and the ZydecoHellraisers, playing at Montage. I gushed over the group upon discovering it last year, and it was great to see the fiery zydeco unit back in full form. Electric guitars, sax, bass, and yes, washboard, formed the powerful backing band behind accordion master Dopsie himself. His sweat-soaked fingers were flying so fast that it nearly made my head spin, and he created a loud and powerful blend of explosive Cajun music. The band calls him the best accordion player in the world, and after sitting through a set, one would be hard pressed to disagree.
Last year I was completely caught off guard by the group. This time I knew what to expect, and the nearly two-hour set did not disappoint. This is how you play with energy, this is how you perform on stage, and this is how you should do it at the Jazz Fest. Solos passed between players, each one as in-your-face as the last. Having seen the group before, it does rely on a few of its same tricks. Dopsie always takes the stage after a warm-up song or two, band members will form dancing lines through the audience, so on and so forth. But boy, can Dopsie squeeze that squeezebox. Mercy.
And yet, words still seem to fall short of the enjoyable musical chaos. The Hellraisers will be back on the Jazz Street Stage at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. Saturday night, so if you see one act this week at the Jazz Fest, make it this one. You won't be disappointed.