Kirk Joseph's Backyard Groove
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Kirk Joseph's Backyard Groove


Band Jazz Funk


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The best kept secret in music


"About the Band..."

"This current band may be the best forum for (Joseph’s) stupendous technique and far reaching musical vision… Kirk Joseph's Backyard Groove is an act greatly deserving of a wider audience and after seeing several performances now it is apparent that it may just be the best band, in a very crowded genre, currently working in New Orleans."
- A. Cohen, February 2005 - OffBeat Magazine

"About the CD..."

"Joseph has seemingly collected all of his I.O.U.'s at once in assembling a dazzling array of Big Easy All-Star guests for this energetic and fun album … it's refreshing to find an egoless solo artist who only wants to serve the songs and allow his compatriots their chance to shine. And when those compatriots are a bunch of top-notch ringers, that solo artist has a damn fine album on his hands." -

"About the Man..."

"Sir Kirk (Joseph), the sousaphone player, is such an obvious star cause it's so unusual to have somebody so fluent on an instrument which almost by definition is not fluent, really. He's a one-in-a-million player."
- Elvis Costello (to Tom Waits), July/August 1989 - Option Magazine


2005 - Sousafunk Ave.


Feeling a bit camera shy


(From "Sousafunk Synergy" by Lynne Jensen of the New Orleans Times-Picayne.)

Hailing from a noted New Orleans musical family, Kirk Joseph mixes brass band sounds with his own flavoring to forge a Backyard Groove

From the North Dorgenois Street hideaway where the Dirty Dozen Brass Band was born, co-founder and former member Kirk Joseph is blowing a new sound from his century-old sousaphone.

Like the patched brass instrument he has played since he was a student at Fortier High School, Joseph has pieced together traditional sounds and his musical imaginings to create "sousafunk" with his new band," Kirk Joseph's Backyard Groove."

The Backyard Groove is a natural progression stemming from the likes of the Dirty Dozen, Hurricane and Treme brass bands, Joseph said. "It all started from our fathers," he said, remembering his own, trombonist Waldren "Frog" Joseph, who died in September at 87. "It's a family thing, where most musicians know each other from way back."

Back then it was about "having a lot of connections with corner bars and social-pleasure clubs," Joseph said. Today it's about the Internet and CDs, and Backyard Groove is releasing its first CD as the band debuts today at 3:15 p.m. at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival on the Jazz and Heritage Stage.

Backyard Groove features Joseph on sousaphone, Kevin O'Day on drums, Chris Mule and Hiro Mano on guitars, "Sheik" Rasheed Akbar and Eric Traub on saxophones and Raymond Anthony Williams on trumpet. Several special guests sit in, including Mark McGrain on trombone. The music is a rhythmic, high-spirited concoction of jazz, funk and Afro-Caribbean flavors.

'I wanted to play now.'

Joseph, 44, was a teenager when the Dirty Dozen Brass Band formed in the small backyard building on his father's North Dorgenois Street property near Elysian Fields Avenue.

He began playing sousaphone -- distinguished from the tuba because it can be carried over the shoulder for marching -- as an eighth-grader at Andrew Bell Middle School.

"Before that, I played drums at Valena C. Jones School," he said. He put down the drumsticks and shouldered the sousaphone when Bell band director Donald Richardson told him the switch would guarantee him a place in the Bell marching band.

"I wanted that uniform on," Joseph said. "I wanted to be part of the music. I wanted to play now."

Music has always been "part of my life," he said. "It's having the parents I had and being able to have that inspiration at home, including my friends and the Dirty Dozen getting together and the Majestic Brass Band, the first band I got into."

Joseph was 13, sitting home watching cartoons, when he got a phone call from his older brother Charles, a trombone player with the Majestic band.

"He said, 'Come on, I'm coming to get you. Put on your black and whites,' " Joseph recalled. "I was freaked out. Being the baby of seven kids, I thought he might be messing with me, so I yelled, 'Mama!' but that was no help."

Adele Joseph knew the routine and started ironing Joseph's clothes.
"So that was my first gig: 13 years old, playing for a funeral over where it's now called Joe's Cozy Corner," Joseph said. "I didn't even know the word 'dirge.' "

Fear about joining the band vanished quickly as he instinctively began playing music he had heard at home.

"My dad was mostly on the road when I was a kid," Joseph said. "He was the breadwinner, and my mother held everything down. She would always play these recordings of my dad with different people. And I guess that was training for me, to have that in my ears, around for me to hear."

'I'm the lowest sound.'

His new band is ethnically eclectic -- black, white and Asian -- and Joseph credits the diversity to his upbringing. When he was growing up, "people from all over the world and all colors would come and eat dinner with my family, and as kids we would have to clean up afterward," he said. "We learned respect, and that you don't pick the person by their color."

His Backyard Groove band members were "handpicked," Joseph said. They "respect me and my instrument," he said. "There are some people who believe the sousaphone only belongs on the street. But I say no."

The sousaphone is the heart of his brass band, Joseph said. "You are part rhythm and playing the bottom chord structure. I'm the lowest sound."

His "sousafunk" sound has developed over the decades, and Joseph said his greatest inspiration was New Orleans legend Anthony "Tuba Fats" Lacen, who died in January 2004.

"He was the first person I ever heard walking the sousaphone, making it sound like bass," Joseph said. "I took it from there, and that's the way it's supposed to be. You learn and bring it to the next level. But at the same time, you pay tribute to who you got it from. That's what my father always taught me: Play anybody's stuff; don't try to claim it for yourself, because you don't want nobody to do that to you."

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