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Bringing home their music for the holidays…

10th December 2012   ·   0 Comments

By Geraldine Wyckoff
Contributing Writer

Kirk Joseph’s Sousaphone Groove

A plus of the holiday season in New Orleans is that many local musicians who’ve spent much of the year on the road return to their hometown. They often pop up to sit in at gigs or, like sousaphonist Kirk Joseph, take advantage of the time and freedom to pursue their individual musical interests.

Joseph, the sousaphonist with always-busy Dirty Dozen Brass Band since its infancy, expresses his many musical sides leading his Backyard Groove band that performs Thursday, December 13 and December 20 at Canal Street’s Chickie Wah-Wah club.

“I’m trying to bring something different to the table right now,” Joseph says of the groove/funk/R&B/brass ensemble that often mixes it up with various musicians. Most times, saxophonist Calvin Johnson is onboard and the two are also heard together in Johnson’s unit Chapter Soul. Joseph keeps it all in the family by using his cousin, Jasmine Butler on the drums. “It’s as wide as it can be,” he says of the band’s repertoire and groove. I try not to be enclosed musically.”

Joseph is perhaps best noted for developing his own modern style on the big horn and having it play a different role in a band. He remembers when he was a student at Andrew J. Bell Middle School where he first picked up the instrument and he attended a school dance. He heard the bass guitarist and realized that the bass and the sousaphone could be interchangeable in their contributions to a band. Joseph’s mentor, the late great Anthony “Tuba Fats” Lacen, had also begun exploring that approach and Joseph took it one step further. His influence has been a factor in the instrument’s growing popularity outside of the New Orleans brass band scene.

“Yes, I think it has caught on,” says Joseph mentioning its use by the renowned band the Roots. “It’s one of the purest sounds other than the voice. A sousaphone is just your air going through a brass instrument.”

Joseph makes sure to call his big horn by its proper name, sousaphone, while aware that most people call it a tuba. “They were all tubas first until John Philip Sousa invented the sousaphone,” he explains. “They have the same sound, the same pitch with just a different location of the bell.”

Sousa, who was called the “march king” and wrote such anthems as “Stars and Stripes Forever,” had good reason for changing the horn’s configuration. As Joseph points out, a tuba’s bell points up so while the instrument worked well in concert halls where the sound would resonate off a ceiling, they weren’t good for marching purposes because the sound would project straight up in the sky. With its bell projecting forward, the sousaphone has a definite advantage in parades.”

Whether playing with the Dirty Dozen, with whom he appears at d.b.a. on December 28, his Backyard Groove or the Forgotten Souls Brass Band, Joseph delivers his singular drive and excitement on the big horn. It’s a sound derived from those who came before and one that continues to influence the future.

“I’m just trying to carry my end up of doing what I do to the best that I can do it and pass it on to the younger generation and hopefully they can take it forward.”

Grammy Nominations Announced

New Orleans native, R&B/hip-hop artist Frank Ocean, who moved to Los Angeles following Katrina, racked up an impressive six Grammy nominations including album of the year for his CD Channel Ocean and for record of the year “Thinkin Bout You.” Not bad for a musician who was also named in the best new artist division. Ocean is up against another Louisiana native, Hunter Hayes, in that category. Hayes, who began his musical journey performing Cajun music and dug into country sounds after moving to Nashville, is also nominated for best country album for his self-titled release and best solo performance for his single “Wanted.”

Proving that it’s not necessary to move away from Louisiana to be recognized by the National Academy of Recording Arts & Science (NARAS), which presents the Grammy Awards, some notables who reside in the state were also nominated. Dr. John, who has already won five Grammys, is vying for another for his solid CD, Locked Down, for best blues album. Zydeco accordionist Corey Ledet makes his first entrance into the competition for best roots album for his album Nothin’ But the Best. He’s up against a Southwest Louisiana all-star group, The Band Courtbouillon, with Wayne Toups, Steve Riley and Wilson Savoy for its self-titled CD in that category.

Both vocalists Ledisi and Lil’ Wayne got props for the 2013 awards having been featured in collaborations with other artists. Comedienne/talk show host Ellen Degeneres was nominated for best spoken word release for her album Seriously… I’m Kidding.

The 55th Annual Grammy Awards will be televised on February 10, 2012

Tremé Swings with Holiday Spirit

Tremé will be filled with lights and song this weekend as the neighborhood gets into a festive spirit. On Friday evening, December 14, trombonist/vocalist Glen David Andrews is the featured artist at the free Yuletide festivities taking place at the Treme Villa, 1418 Governor Nicholls Street, which is home to the New Orleans African American Museum. A gospel group opens up “Christmas in Tremé—A Neighbor?hood Holiday Celebra?tion” that includes music, food and the lighting of a Christmas tree. The event runs from 6 p.m. until 10 p.m. with Andrews hitting the stage at 7:15 p.m. along with the Congo Square Preservation So?ciety. A deejay will take over after Andrews’ undoubtedly invigorating set at 8:15 p.m.

The sounds of the season move over to the historic St. Augustine Church on Saturday, December 15, for the last in the very popular “Christmas: New Orleans Style” series. At 4 p.m. vocalist extraordinaire Germaine Bazzle leads a stellar New Orleans jazz ensemble that includes the father and son rhythm section of vocalist/bassist George French and drummer Gerald French plus saxophonist Roderick Paulin and pianist Mike Lemmler.

This article was originally published in the December 10, 2012 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper

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