Terence Higgins and SwampGrease
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Terence Higgins and SwampGrease


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"Terence Higgins: New Orleans Magic"

Parade drumming has been a way of life in New Orleans since the 1880s, when brass bands began performing at picnics, dances, riverboat trips, and, most significantly, funerals. Indeed, the idea of giving the recently deceased a celebratory musical send-off is a New Orleans tradition that goes all the way back to Mother Africa.

In New Orleans, brass bands and second-lines go together like red beans and rice. And while many groups still perform at New Orleans funeral processions on a daily basis, one renegade group spearheaded a revolution in the brass band genre by breaking away from standard parade music and spirituals and incorporating familiar bebop, R&B, pop, and funk tunes into its repertoire. As writer Lee Hildebrand of the San Francisco Chronicle noted, "New Orleans funeral music had changed little since the days of King Oliver and Louis Armstrong until The Dirty Dozen Brass Band entered the picture."

From its inception in 1977, the group has grown from a Crescent City cult phenomenon to an international sensation, touring nearly constantly in the US and in over thirty other countries on five continents. Over the years The Dirty Dozen Brass Band has also been featured on albums by such pop artists as David Bowie, Elvis Costello, Dr. John, and The Black Crowes. Last year, the group shared the stage with Widespread Panic at a gala Halloween concert at Madison Square Garden, opening the door for The Dozen to infiltrate the burgeoning jam-band scene.

New Orleans monster drummer Terence Higgins has been the driving force behind The Dirty Dozen Brass Band for the past eight years. Hailing from Algiers on the West Bank (just across the Mississippi river from downtown New Orleans and the French Quarter), the thirty-three-year-old Higgins apprenticed with two important New Orleans musical figures'meters bassist George Porter and legendary pianist and pop icon Fats Domino.

Since joining The Dozen in 1995, Higgins has endeavored to keep one foot firmly in the parade drumming tradition that runs so deep in New Orleans while striding forward with the other foot into bold new territory for brass bands. Aside from incorporating some powerful funk backbeats and a touch of hip-hop aesthetic into the fabric of The Dozen's signature shuffles and second-line grooves, he's also pushing the envelope with a MIDI trigger setup that allows him to create rhythmic loops and interact with the horns in exciting new ways.

A budding songwriter as well, Higgins penned the title track of The Dirty Dozen Brass Band's smokin' new live release, We Got Robbed. And while the Dozen remains his primary activity as a drummer, Higgins has also found time to put together his own group on the side known as Swamp Grease. We caught up with the Dirty Dozen drummer just prior to the Mardi Gras season in New Orleans, a traditionally busy time for all brass bands in the Crescent City.

MD: It's clear that you've got a real authentic street beat going on in your playing, but you're also putting up some serious funk beats and bringing some hip-hop flavor into the band.

Terence: Yeah, I guess my generation grew up with the hip-hop thing, so I'm definitely influenced by that. Plus growing up in New Orleans gave me a foundation as a drummer. I mean, second-line is a way of life down here. We deal with it on a daily basis. It's part of the culture.

There's so much going on in music today that cats tend to forget about where the stuff actually came from. But living in New Orleans, you never forget that. The street beat is alive down here. It's in the air, man. I grew up with that stuff and I always go back to it as a foundation of my playing.

MD: And it goes beyond technique. It's also about the spicy food, the feel of the paddleboats on the Mississippi, the relentless humidity in August?.

Terence: Everything, man. It's the crawfish, the gumbo, and the way people walk and talk down here. It's embedded in the fabric of New Orleans life. I mean, we have a second-line for all kinds of social occasions. It doesn't just have to be a funeral procession. They have a second-line every Sunday in the French Quarter. So this music is just a part of life in New Orleans.

A lot of cats move to New Orleans and try to cop this vibe, and if you're here for a couple of years you might get it a little bit. But I was a kid playing second-line when I didn't even know what it was. Just hearing that all the time as a kid, its becomes a part of you.

Second-line music is not textbook-friendly or video-friendly. You can learn the basic technique, but you have to know where the stuff comes from. And I'm just beginning to realize the legacy of New Orleans drumming. I don't think I fully embraced it at first, but once I did I started to have a greater appreciation for the whole rich history of the great drummers that came before us - Baby Dodds, Zutty Singleton, James Black, Freddy Coleman, Hunger Williams, Leo Morris, and all those great cats. I hope to make my own little mark some day.

http://www.moderndrummer.com/updatefull/200001315/Terence%20Higgins - Modern Drummer Magazine

"Terence Higgins and SwampGrease at the Maple Leaf"

Terence Higgins and SwampGrease
The Maple Leaf

September 03, 2004

Good for Terence Higgins. The Dirty Dozen drummer has been playing in New Orleans since the '80's, but he's finally gonna get some individual songwriting credibility with his new album, "In the Bywater." Who knows what took him so long to get his pen out, but after what I heard Friday night at The Maple Leaf, I hope he keeps the cap off.

Higgins and Swampgrease ran through pieces that were ear candy to anybody who liked progressive funk. Most of the songs were energetic originals with horns a blazing and hooks a plenty. The enjoyable twists and turns were a testament to Higgins' songwriting ability. It'd be great if New Orleans only gained a new and talented funk frontman in the form of Higgins. Luckily, the city is also getting a fusion freak who also revels in space jazz and the sounds of Funkadelic pianist Bernie Worrell. Higgins was joined by bassist Calvin Turner, keyboardist Andy Bourgeois, guitarist Renard Poche, alto saxophonist Roderick Pauline, and baritone saxophonists Roger Lewis and Bobby Jordan.

The diversity in Higgins' sound was what made the concert so interesting last night. I got a slow and dreamy jazz cut-out in the middle of a funk piece, and I also got a fast do-your-best freak-out. Through it all, Higgins hid behind cymbals, drums, and a sequencer. He used everything. Higgins was a fan of many notes, and he was more than happy to show his jazz influences.

The highlight of the set was an epic fusion song that allowed Higgins to show his skills. The horns bowed out, and this allowed the Moog sounds and the psychedelic atmospherics to stand out more. In the middle of the song, Higgins rolled around the set with ferocity and used a double bass pedal to add strength. I was very impressed and happy at the end, and Higgins even went "Whoooo!" into the lens of a camcorder after he conquered the hardest part of the song.

Unfortunately, there wasn't a large turnout for the show, but people will surely get more chances to see the band. It was the first time last night's incarnation of Swampgrease played in front of a crowd, so hats off. Good job, guys - Live New Orleans

"The Skins Game"

The Skins Game

Dirty Dozen Brass Band drummer Terence Higgins goes out on his own with his debut album, In the Bywater.

By Alex Rawls

There's only so much to do on a tour bus. "We've got DVD, we've got PlayStation," says Terence Higgins, drummer for the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. When Sammie Williams of Big Sam's Funky Nation was with the band, he ruled the bus playing Madden -- the ubiquitous football videogame -- though now trumpet player Efrem Towns dominates. "Lately it's been Tiger Woods and the NBA," Higgins says of the games of choice. "(Saxophonist) Roger Lewis kills in basketball. He gets '60s cats -- Dr. J, and '70s all-stars and be killin'!"
Though he wins his share of games, he spends a lot of time writing music. "Sometimes I get on their nerves because I'll sit down all day," Higgins says. "I'll pop an energy drink and I'll sit behind the keyboard and drum machine -- one time for a straight month I did it every day all day." The new album, In the Bywater (Gris Gris Bag), by Terence Higgins & Swampgrease is the funky product of those marathon writing sessions.
Calling from the tour bus on the road to Mammoth Lake after sharing a bill at the Hollywood Bowl with the Neville Brothers and Terence Blanchard, Higgins says his album was more than a year in the making. "When I recorded this record, it was during Jazz Fest not last year, but the year before that," Higgins says. "I was playing every night with the Dozen at TwiRoPa, and everybody else in the band had things to do so we had to cut a song, cats would leave to make gigs, come back and we'd start cutting again. It was hectic."
The last track, "Beyond Neptune," was recorded at the last minute. "We were running out of time before the bass player (Calvin Turner) had to leave, so I said, Let's drop this last track.' It was one take. Bam!" Higgins says. The track is the most obvious showcase for Higgins' jazz chops, rolling around the kit in what seems like a slightly restrained free jazz piece. In fact, Billy Cobham inspired the track. "The Cobham stuff, the Mahavishnu Orchestra stuff, Jean-Luc Ponty -- that had a big impact on my early development," Higgins recalls. "I wanted to give homage to that.
"I'm a big fusion head. I dug that kind of music and that's what I was into growing up," he says, and while In the Bywater is funkier than a lot of jazz/funk fusion, keyboard player Andy Bourgeois' Moog-like sounds do recall the '70s. "I wanted to use those sounds in a modern-day atmosphere," Higgins says. Bourgeois used a Yamaha Motif, a contemporary synthesizer, but more out of necessity than desire. "I wanted to use a Moog and '70s sounds, but we didn't have access to them, so we went with what we had. At one time I thought I was getting too synth-y, but we rolled with it."
"Gotta Get Swamp Jiggy," the album's second track (after a short overture), starts with a rack tom drum roll into a loose, funky go-go groove. "It's influenced by Chuck Brown," Higgins says, referring to the Washington, D.C., artist thought of by many as the father of go-go with whom the Dirty Dozen often shared bills. The groove, Higgins contends, "is like a D.C. second line; it's totally a cultural thing. Same kind of party thing."
Besides the drum and bass pattern, go-go's sense of fun is evoked by guitarist Renard Poché's talk box. "When Renard came in, I wanted some vocal thing to happen and he had the talk box so I said, 'Drop this right here!'"
Recording during Jazz Fest affected more than just the final tracks. The band members -- Poché, Turner, Andy Bourgeois, Scott Bourgeois on alto sax, Jamie McLean from the Dirty Dozen on guitar and Sammie Williams on trombone -- were so busy that even rehearsals happened in a catch-as-catch-can fashion. "We had rehearsed a few times before the sessions, but a month passed before we got in the studio, so everybody kind of retained the rehearsal stuff," Higgins says. "My ideas were already on tape, so when I presented it to the band, I said do what you do. This is the idea; what are you hearing? That made it a group effort."
Higgins had planned to feature his drums more, and wanted to provide more solos, but things didn't work out. "The tunes weren't developed for that, and I didn't have time to work it out. I went into the studio whipped." Besides giving Higgins a chance to explore musical ideas that don't fit the Dirty Dozen and to see a project through from beginning to end, Swampgrease and In the Bywater should raise Higgins' profile in New Orleans. "At the beginning of this year, I said to myself, 'I need to do more. I want more visibility.' I've been playing New Orleans since at least the late '80s and people still don't recognize who is Terence Higgins."
- Gambit Weekly

"Terence Higgins PASIC Masterclass Review"

9:58 We come in and it looks like a photoshoot. TH is on stage and playing amongst a buzz of photographers.

10:03 Pearl Rep comes out. Is everybody ready to get their “Swamp Grease?” Plugs all the gear.

10:05 TH comes out. Plays groove. Lot’s of kick and snare syncopation. Adds some cowbell grooves into the mix. He sits WAY high ip on the throne. As if he’s siting over the kit. Moves further away from the groove as he blasts around the it. Lots of explosive snare and tom work. Lays into a New Orleans stye groove. Lots more snare work. He’s playing a green Pearl Reference kit in Oz Mist … or something like that. Moves into a Latin groove and comps around on the toms. Huge cymbal and kick ending!

10:15 TH takes the mic
TH: I tried to take you through a bit of history there in that solo. THe New Orleans feel with the modern styles that we play. I’m going to play one more song before we get into the New Orleans pocket of this Masterclass. This is a tune from my solo CD called “Catharsis.” (TH pumps up the crowd before starting the track).

10:17 THe tune is a wah-heavy, organ funk tune. Odd groupings at the start before laying it down straight. TH’s groove is big with cowbell punches sprinkled in. He takes big breaks at the turnarounds and fills. The tune opens up, with a delicate breakdown. TH fills around the cymbals before settling back into a groove. Huge ending. He is crazy fast! He moves up and down the kit with ease.

10:24 TH takes the mic and plugs his CD.
TH: Good morning! We’re gonna get this thing started. Welcome to New Orleans! In my neverending quest in unlocking the secrets, what makes this style so funk and so wild? Every drummer needs that pocket. The primary role of the drummer is to have that pocket - to get gigs. We’re going to talk about a different kind of pocket - the New Orleans Pocket. From a historical and cultural perspective.

I have the pleasure of playing with the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. These guys pioneered the modern brass band movement in New Orleans. The music history in New Orleans dates back to Congo Square. The 2 traditions that came out of New Orleans are the Second Line and the Black Mardi-Gras Indian culture. These are like 2 sides of the coin. There both African influenced and at some point intermingle. Most of us think they know what Second Line. It transcends music that came out of segregation. The European INfluence on brass music, but after the creoles got a hold of it, the beat changed. It’s the way we speak in NO, it’s the way we celebrate life and death. It’s indigenous to NO. It originally referred to the funeral procession. Second line is what the clave is to Latin America. It’s a way of life that transcends music. It’s not just a street beat. Another term that means second line refers to the whole parade - and event. Within that event, there are different characteristics. There’s Secondlining, that’s the dance. The drumming comes from the bass drum and snare drum player. The beat is specific. Originally it was inspired by the clave and the 2/4 European street beat (demonstrates Euro marching rhythm.) Back in Congo square, which was the only place where slaves were able to be African, and when they began to play the music of the day, the beat changed (demonstrates how the bass changed. Adds more hits on the Big 4.) The most important aspect is the bass drum. YOu can play the second line with just a bass and cymbal. The cymbal would add a lilt to the beat with a coat-hanger beater. (Demonstrates. The cym is on the offbeat with the kick getting more and more funky.) Then every four bars they’d play a little turn around (demonstrates). I call that the “Holy Beat.” When you go down to NO, these cats take this so serious! It’s like a tribal, spiritual experience. The whole community is into it.

10:38 TH: In order to demonstrate this, I’m going to ask you guys to participate in this (audience claps off beats and says “ahhh” on the and of 4.) Can you feel that?! This beat is so intense … it’s the most realist thing in America. Not to get political, but yes we can” and yes we did! (applause) I took this culture for granted and I figured it was like this all around the world. Once I embraced that culture, I had a much deeper understanding.

I have a few excerpts from the Dozen I’d like to play for you to get a feel for what the horns are doing. This tune is from a tune called “Gloryland.”

10:42 Plays to Dirty Dozen Brass Band track. Kick and snare second line. The brass band seems to all be group improvising. Adds in some cowbell then woodblock.

TH: So you see what happens on the streets of New Orleans. That was ore along the lines of a traditional thing. Here’s a variation of a groove they’d play ON the streets.

10:44 Plays with track. Tuba lick opens up the piece. Baio kick and hat pattern with snare and cowbell punches.

TH: That real real modern street joint there. (Demonstrates the groove without the track). I might comp a little different

Now, the clave thing … a lot of cats I see - the way they approach second line is all about the 3-2 clave. (Demonstrates 3-2 on kick with snare comp). That’s more like a Bo Diddly thing or the Dixie Cups. That’s a more modern approach, from an outside perspective. On the street, the groove is more (demonstrates kick with accent on the and of 4 then begins to sing the groove). As you can see, I started to add the cowbell, and that’s where the Mardi Gras Indian tradition carried over. We would wake up on Mardi Gras day and see Indians in full costume to honor American Indians who helped slaves. We would go around the neighborhood and pay homage the Native Americans. It’s a powerful thing to see this, to witness this.

The rhythms of this culture was also influenced second line. It was on the floor tom (demonstrates, sounds Native American. Adds cowbell and tambourine.) You can hear all these rhythmic ideas. I’m gonna play one more song for you in the last 2 minutes. This tunes is called “In the - http://drummertalk.org/2008/11/08/terence-higgins-clinic/


2006 - What's Going On (Shout Factory)
2005 - This is the Dirty Dozen Brass Band (compilation, from Shout Factory)
2004 – In the Bywater: Terrence Higgins and SwampGrease
2004 - Funeral For a Friend (Ropeadope)
2003 - We Got Robbed: Live in New Orleans (Self-released)

2002 - Medicated Magic (Ropeadope) Featuring John Bell, Dr. John, Olu Dara, Norah Jones, DJ Logic, and Robert Randolph

1999 - Buck Jump (Mammoth) Featuring John Medeski

1998 - Ears To the Wall (Mammoth)

Terence has performed with artist like Dr. John, Earl King, Marva Wright, Kermit Ruffin, Snooks Eaglin, Johnny Adams, George Porter Jr., The Wild Magnolias, Dave Badie, Ivan Neville & Dumpstaphunk, Jon Cleary, Donald Harrison, Allen Toussaint, Michelle Shocked, Norah Jones, Renee Mcrary, John Scofield, DJ Logic, Bobby Jordan, Ed Perkins, Theryl "Houseman" Decluet, Micheal Ward, Robert Randolph, Widespread Panic, The Black Crows, North Mississippi All-Stars, Treme Brass band, Fats Domino and many other New Orleans artist. He is now touring and recording with one of New Orleans premier groups the Dirty Dozen Brass Band as well as his own band Swampgrease.



New Orleans is known for its great music and culture, and it is also known for spawning some of greatest drummers in the world. Every serious drummer has been influenced by New Orleans style drumming at some point in there development.

With a unique blend of slinky street beats, New Orleans funk, R&B, Zydeco, blues, traditional jazz, and swing, gives New Orleans Drummers that thang!!!.....But don't get it twisted, "New Orleans style of drumming is not method book friendly, it’s all about the feel of it, it’s a feeling thing and its part of the fabric of New Orleans".

Terence was born in New Orleans in 1970 and was raised in the suburb of old Algiers. He was introduced to the drums at a very young age by his great grandfather and he has been playing ever since. In high school he was one of two students chosen from the state of Louisiana to perform in the McDonald's All-American band, after high school he enrolled in music studies at Southern University, after a few years he decided to pursue a career in the music business.

Specializing in New Orleans grooves and keeping in touch with the Crescent City's second line tradition and early New Orleans funk and R&B, he draws his influences from the legends of New Orleans drumming such as: Baby Dodds, Earl Palmer, Smokey Johnson, Charles "Hungry" Williams, Shannon Powell, James Black, Herlin Riley, Zigaboo, Joe Lastie, Idris Mohammed, Ricky Sebastien, Herman Ernest, and Mean Willie Green and also his peers: Adonis Rose, Brian Blade Gerald French, Donald Edwards, Troy Davis, Stanton Moore, Russell Batiste Jr., Jeffrey "Jellybean" Alexander, Doug Belote, Alfred Salvant, Raymond Weber and many other drummers around the world.

His professional career has taken him all over the world and his unsurpassed skills on the drums have allowed him to play with an eclectic group of musicians. Terence credits George Porter Jr. of the Meters for taking him under his wing and introducing him to the vast repertoire of New Orleans music. Terence has performed with artist like Dr. John, Earl King, Marva Wright, Kermit Ruffin, Snooks Eaglin, Johnny Adams, George Porter Jr., The Wild Magnolias, Dave Badie, Ivan Neville & Dumpstaphunk, Jon Cleary, Donald Harrison, Allen Toussaint, Michelle Shocked, Norah Jones, Renee Mcrary, John Scofield, DJ Logic, Bobby Jordan, Ed Perkins, Theryl "Houseman" Decluet, Micheal Ward, Robert Randolph, Widespread Panic, The Black Crows, North Mississippi All-Stars, Treme Brass band, Fats Domino and many other New Orleans artist. He is now touring and recording with one of New Orleans premier groups the Dirty Dozen Brass Band as well as his own band Swampgrease. Growing up in New Orleans has exposed him to some of the greatest music and culture the world has to offer, Terence is no exception, as the next generation continues the legacy of the musical heritage of the city of New Orleans