BluesWax Sittin’ In With
By Robert Putignano
In Part One of his interview with BluesWax‘s Bob Putignano, Dirty Dozen Brass Band drummer Terence Higgens spoke about the his work with the band and his solo career. They continue their conversation in Part Two.
Bob Putignano for BluesWax: Okay, so Tab calls and your first gigs with Benoit are on the Delbert cruise earlier this month.
Terence Higgens: And now the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise.
BW: You’re a lucky son of a gun, back-to-back cruises.
TH: Look who is talking, you too! But I was available when Tab called me, so here I am.
BW: Is it me, but I hear new sounds coming from Tab? He’s taking it out there.
TH: Tab’s really pushing the envelope for sure. You know there’s been some serious trios that came before us. Being in a trio gives all of us a lot of space, trio projects don’t always work, but this Tab trio with Corey [Duplechin] on bass is an intelligent combo. I don’t know if I added to Tab’s band, but I’ve previously had a lot of experience playing in trios, so I’m just trying to do my thing. You know the first time we played together on the Delbert cruise; it was our first time. Period, No rehearsals, nothing. Tab sent me some tunes to listen to and away we went. So I felt I had to keep on my toes, but I also tried to stay true to my instincts.
BW: Does the Dozen rehearse?
BW: That’s amazing to me as they are a very complex band, especially the horn charts. Some nights it feels telepathic with what’s all going on in that band in live performances.
TH: It’s totally telepathic, and when it clicks it’s the best thing you ever heard in your life. Being in the Dozen is a serious drum gig, it’s not like regular blues or regular funk, we communicate so well musically. I know each of their nuances and they all approach the music differently. So when Roger Lewis [founding member, baritone sax] takes a solo, I know what to do. I learned a lot about understanding musicians feelings from playing with George Porter, and from Fats Domino too! I got to work with Fats because of Roger’s longstanding association with Fats. Fortunately I have a lot of history from New Orleans music within me, like R&B, the second line, the funk,, you know. So knowing what different musicians might do at any given time is very important to me, reading what might be coming during a live performance is very important to me. Following their lead is imperative, but pushing the envelope and making the music better is what I try to do as often as I can. You’ve got to be able to read those cats. I’ve played with musicians that I thought would be able to push the music, but it doesn’t always work like that. Artists need to be aware of chemistry; they also need to know how to stay out of each other’s way and know when to contribute. That’s the essence of being a part of a band.
BW: So what’s next for the Dirty Dozen?
TH: They’re going on the road.
BW: Is Efrem [Towns, trumpet] okay?
TH: Efrem is not touring. He’s healing, but I haven’t heard any recent updates.
BW: Let’s send out good wishes to Efrem. In a Downbeat article Roger Lewis was quoted as hinting at perhaps retiring soon.
TH: That’s not going to happen. Roger will continue playing till he falls. He ain’t stopping. He doesn’t know how to stop. Plus he’s extremely healthy, and he has so much energy.
BW: His baritone sax means so much to the Dozen.
TH: No doubt, but it’s cardio for him.
BW: Do you have much influence within the band?
TH: Oh yeah, I get involved with arrangements, even our set lists, all kinds of stuff with the band. I’m proud to say that they look to me. That’s why I feel that I could have bandleader qualities.
BW: Is there really a set list for the Dirty Dozen?
TH: Not really. [more laughs] The thing is, we know how to read the crowd and know what to play next.
BW: And you all always know how to have a good time!
TH: That’s right we always have a very good time.
BW: Let’s get right.
TH: In the New Orleans way!
Warren Haynes Band with Terrence Higgens
BW: What’s next for this edition of Tab Benoit’s band?
TH: He has one more album to do for Telarc, and Tab told me we might record in March.
BW: Do you think you will be staying in Tab’s band?
TH: I’d like to hangout, but if Warren [Haynes] and/or Ani [DiFranco] give me the call, I’d have to go. I’m sure you understand.
BW: So you are comfortable working with Tab?
TH: Absolutely! He’s easy to get along with, Corey’s great, Tab also knows how to take care of business, he has a bus, I get my own room, so I feel that I can’t lose.
BW: Especially if you keep getting on these cruises!
TH: That’s right.
BW: Your Web site?
BW: And your new record is due…?
TH: It’s due on March first and is titled Terence Higgins Swampgrease 2: Raise to a Sunrise.
BW: Don’t wait so long in between album releases!
TH: Well, you know we had that whole Katrina thing…
BW: Were you affected badly by Katrina?
TH: I didn’t lose my house, but had to move to Atlanta so that the repairs could be done, plus my daughter was in school in Atlanta and I didn’t want to be moving her around all that much.
BW: Terrence, it’s been a pleasure and a nice surprise to see you again [with Tab] back to back.
TH: Two cruises back to back!
BW: Way to go Terence, see you [with one of these bands] sometime soon.
Bob Putignano is a senior contributing editor at BluesWax, a contributing writer at Blues Revue, and the heart and soul of Sounds of Blue.
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