Dirty Dozen Brass Band/Sun Messengers | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Dirty Dozen Brass Band/Sun Messengers

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They've come a long way, baby, flaunting their contradictions time and time again. The Dirty Dozen Brass Band--which was named for its home venue (and in fact comprises just eight blissfully meshed players)--started by resurrecting the traditional New Orleans brass-band format. But even as these guys provided the model for the 1980s revival of that sound, they were taking it far beyond its roots. For years, they've applied the idiom's second-line rhythm and ancient instrumentation--tuba, not bass fiddle, and separate snare and bass drummers--to modern material (from bebop to Stevie Wonder); they've also opened up their ranks to guest artists from Branford Marsalis to Elvis Costello. But this process of anachronic tinkering has readied a new plateau with their release, the aptly named Open Up, which concentrates on the band's original compositions; for the first time, the Dozens' diverse ingredients sound fully integrated instead of layered one atop the other. At FitzGerald's, the Dozens provide the entree for a well-spiced menu of musical soul food; serving up appetizers will be the Sun Messengers, a Detroit creole of jazz and rhythm and blues. Like the Dozens, the Sun Messengers have often found unexpected and evocative linkages between seemingly disparate musics--and it's been way too long since they last visited Chicago with their answer to the musical question, what happens when Sun Ra meets Ray Charles? Tonight, FitzGerald's, 6615 Roosevelt, Berwyn; 708-788-2118.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Mike Smith.

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