Demand for big band brass was at a low ebb in New Orleans as the 1970s came to their inevitable conclusion. Early incarnations of the Dirty Dozen – including the Hurricane Brass Band – folded with little hope of commercial support, while mainstream tastes turned toward the then mighty disco trend sweeping the country. Musicians were left to scrabble for what money was available on the diminishing club circuit, while the prospect of a recording contract belonged to a different age. Amid the gloom, a group of players - including trumpeter Gregory Davis, trombonist Charles Joseph and tenor saxophonist Kevin Harris – resiliently practiced their chops. There seemed little prospect of meaningful success, but the group played out of the simple shared joy of the sound. It was this lack of expectation which allowed the early Dirty Dozen to incorporate elements of rhythm and blues, rock and traditional jazz into their New Orleans big band sound, ultimately differentiating them from their peers and, ironically, leading to a wider success.

Joined by sousaphonist Kirk Joseph, Ephram Towns and Roger Lewis on saxophone, Benny Jones on bass drum and Jenell Marshall on vocals, the early incarnation of the band toured Europe, building a reputation as a live act and honing their repertoire. While there were pockets of support for the group across the United States, they were still a number of years away from achieving mainstream success. It was this period in the band’s evolution which would eventually be documented on 'My Feet Can’t Fail Me Now', originally released by Concord Records in 1984.

Re-released by Retroworld to celebrate a quarter-century as a band, the album opens with a pair of original compositions. 'Blackbird Special' and 'Do It Fluid' both dazzle with the original energy of the recordings, the heat little diminished by the intervening years. Marshall incites the listener to move their feet, while the watertight rhythm section chips away. Numbers from Charlie Parker – 'Bongo Beep' – and Thelonious Monk – 'Blue Monk' – follow, with the group also taking in pieces from Duke Ellington and Dave Williams. The energy and vitality of the Dirty Dozen is evident throughout the record, with the original 'Mary, Mary' and title track closing out the performance.

Following the release of 'My Feet Can’t Fail Me Now' the group would continue to establish itself as a live entity, touring throughout the 1980s. Success was hard won, but by the end of the decade their role in re-establishing the city of New Orleans as a beacon of American popular music had been confirmed. By subverting the core elements of New Orleans brass band music the Dirty Dozen were able to reinvigorate and have since recorded with everybody from Dr John and Dizzy Gillespie to, more recently, indie stalwarts Modest Mouse.











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