CD - Dirty Dozen Brass Band: What's Going On
There have been a number of musical responses to the devastation created by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. This could be said to be the most original approach - an interpretation of Marvin Gaye's 'What's Goin On', applying it to a context somewhat different to Gaye's original. There's no denying it's relevance however.
Guest vocalists Chuck D, Ivan Neville, G. Love, Guru and Bettye LaVette contribute to album, and a portion of the proceeds from the sale of each copy of What’s Going On will go to the Tipitina’s Foundation, benefiting the music community of New Orleans. Applying the funky New Orleans sound of the Dirty Dozen to such a reflective album had to result in a different feel to the original and that's probably both the album's strength and weakness.
For the past three decades, The Dirty Dozen Brass Band has taken the traditional brass band music of New Orleans, combined it with funk, jazz, gospel and soul, and introduced this special blend of the old and the new to the rest of us. So it's a positive if you're a fan of the band, with the band's style and guest vocals providing a completely different dynamic to the Gaye masterpiece. For example, Chuck D provides a harder edge to the classic opening track, Bettye LaVette wrings every bit of emotion out of 'What's Happening Brother', and Ivan Neville leads on 'God Is Love', a spiritual call and response with the band. And of course, the playing is excellent throughout.
The downside is that a significant part of the magic of the original was the integration of message, music and, crucially, Gaye's voice. I f you're wedded to this view of the world, you might well draw the line at this interpretation.
If you like the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and best that New Orleans has to offer, you'll love this. If you don't, it's unlikely that this will change you're mind.