The Dirty Dozen Brass Band tickled a busy Bluebird Theater Friday with a surprisingly guitar-heavy show. Of course, the brassmen led the show, with Efrem Towns culling rich sounds from his pocket-sized flugelhorn and band co-founders Roger Lewis and Kevin Harris working in tight cooperation on their baritone and tenor saxes. The band’s other co-founder, Gregory Davis, delivered a trumpet muffled groove reminiscent of Miles Davis “Doo Bop” days.
Now in its third decade, the Dirty Dozen have perfected the dancing-in-the-streets, Second Line vibe in their live shows. The resonant sousaphone, handled by Kirk Joseph, instantly can ferry a dancer back to the French Quarter with his bellowing toots. There are fewer sounds that conjure grins like sousaphone-anchored brass blasting. And grins were plentiful Friday. The absence of a trombone was apparent, however, with a pretty sizable hole where there once was a sliding sound. Still, band newcomer Jake Eckert, who joined the New Orleans brass institution two years ago, ably filled any and all gaps.
Eckert’s terrific rendition of Little Feat’s “Spanish Moon” featured delicate fret work and wide open spaces ripe for brassy exploitation. Eckert is one of the most overlooked and underrated jam guitarists out there. His tack and patience is impressive. He lurks and stomps in the background but can swiftly step into tinkling jams that spoon perfectly with the bellows of his brassy bandmates.
“Spanish Moon” saw Eckert segue from a country twang into a rollicking rock-n-roll stroll that led to Bill Wither’s “Use Me Up.” Working the wah-wah pedal, Eckert drove “Use Me Up” to supremely funky realms. The Temptations’ classic “Ball of Confusion” followed, with Eckert’s swaying, repetitive groove proving fertile ground for deeply improvisational brass jamming.