Dirty Dozen Brass Band

If the resilient spirit of New Orleans could be summed up with a sound, it would likely reflect the music of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, a group whose synthesis of jazz, blues, bop, funk, and R&B has made them the Crescent City's cultural ambassadors for the better part of the past 30 years. The critical kudos that accompany most of their recordings have helped expand the band's reach, both stateside and abroad. In the process, they've redefined the well-etched notion of the New Orleans brass band, taking it beyond the tourist traps of the city and into the festival circuit and concert halls of Europe. In fact, it was an appearance at the famed Montreux Jazz Festival in the mid-'80s that helped the band achieve their first big breakthrough. In recent years, they've moved further into the mainstream, mingling with the likes of Elvis Costello, DJ Logic, Norah Jones, Modest Mouse, and others. Happily though, they've never shunned their roots; two years ago, they released a timely cover of the Marvin Gaye classic "What's Going On," reshaping it as an incisive critique of the government's fumbled efforts to help Hurricane Katrina victims. Nowadays, their music continues to stir the soul, while reminding the rest of the world that N'awlins isn't just a city, but an enduring symbol of celebration.

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Lee Zimmerman