Monday, February 13, 2006

Dirty Dozen Brass Band - 10/02/2005, Brussels

In between getting out of work, bumping into N at the FNAC and buying a new printer at Media Market, I was home for barely half an hour before it was time to leave again.

When we walked into the AB's ABBox (800 capacity, seemed very full), the Orchestre International du Vetex were in the middle of the crowd, warming it up. I saw them last summer.

The DDBB seems to have sedentarised: they have a full drum kit and the bass sousaphonist sat down throughout the concert. I don't blame him: that thing is huge! The 7-piece line-up isn't exactly that listed on the site: there was only one trumpeter (Efrem Townes) and the trombonist was different.

I was initially kind of disappointed: the music was a little too slick and facile for the first few tunes. The trombonist really stood out at first. He wasn't playing anything particularly complicated, but his phrasing and sound were really perfect (in a funk way) and still kinda raw. They progressively warmed up, got into some dixieland (and, yes, the inevitably kitsch "When The Saints") and the concert really took off after a brilliant trumpet/baritone duo rendition of "St. James Infirmary." Later, the baritonist would goof around, rapping about being "a dirty old man" and inviting three women on stage ("3 is better than 1!"), but on "St. James" he also showed he was an awesome player. While the trumpet played, he stuck to a bass vamp, but then took a killer unaccompanied solo that went from straight blues to modern jazz lines to Ayler. After that, they were flying, and the crowd followed. The guitarist was really good too, but as the only white guy, he was kind of forced to stand out. :) The drummer reminded me that, yes, pan-American rhythms (such as, say, the 3-accents-to-the-bar pattern heard in lots of musics) are to be found in New Orleans, too.

Before the two encores, the DDBB invited the Vetex to join them, which thrilled the crowd. The DDBB struck up some kind of rocking 12-bar blues and the Vetex eventually filed in and tried to fit in. The juxtaposition was really interesting. Obviously, the musicians from the two bands are on totally different levels, but the DDBB's flexibility and spontaneity contrasted with the Vetex's difficulty to "just jump in." When that tune finished, the Vetex surprised everybody by immediately starting one of their own songs. The DDBB joined in with smiles on their faces, which was nice to see. Again, flexibility and rigidity clashed: they wanted to give the DDBB trumpeter a solo, but had huge difficulty making space for him and then had huge difficulty resuming when he'd finished.

The second encore was a tender, quiet trumpet/sousaphone duet in memory of the Katrina disaster. During this, a girl in front of us fainted and fell to the ground. Dr. IVN jumped in and assisted her. The girl came to a minute later and seemed okay. Not exactly the perfect ending to a perfect evening, but then, our evening was far from over... We toured three bars with a couple of friends, were barred from entering the Grand Casino (hey, if Toots is promoting it, it's gotta be good, right? Plus, I'v never really been to a casino) because a member of our party (not me) was wearing sneakers and finally got home in the very wee hours.

The last bar was totally new to me. It's in a small alley that branches off from the horrible tourist-restaurant street, the Petite rue des bouchers and is just opposite the Jeannekepis statue (Mannekepis's much less famous "sister"). It's a cool place. Old beer-themed trays are stuck to the ceiling and walls and there are beer-themed clocks set to random times. I asked for a menu and was handed a clothes catalogue-sized tome. A place for connaisseurs and the adventurous, who don't mind sitting around the massive wooden barrels that serve as tables, despite their uneven surfaces.