One of the enduring images of New Orleans is the jazz funeral, a long procession of mourners walking toward the cemetery with a full-piece brass band playing along behind. On their most recent release, “Funeral for a Friend,” the Dirty Dozen Brass Band re-creates this jazz funeral with gusto. Perhaps their best work to date, the Dirty Dozen dedicated the CD to the late tuba player and DDBB member, Anthony “Tuba Fats” Lacen, and this month they will bring their unique style of New Orleans’ music to Japan.

Don’t expect anything slow, sad or morbid — the music on “Funeral,” perhaps their most serious and traditional set of tunes, is more an affirmation of life than consolation for its loss. DDBB’s lively marching rhythms, call and response melodies, and funky guitar draw more from Mardi Gras party music than glum dirges.

The central focus, though, are the horns. In New Orleans, brass bands have traditionally been on call to play for any celebration, be they happy occasions or sad. Coming out of this still-vital brass brand culture, the members of DDBB have been recording a unique style of brass band music for 20 years and counting. Having worked with everyone from Dr. John to Widespread Panic and Norah Jones, they like to get around musically.

Founding member and baritone saxophonist Roger Lewis took time out from their current tour to talk by phone from Boston about one of his favorite subjects — the DDBB.

This new CD feels like a return to your roots.

It is back to our roots. We really wanted to capture that feeling of a jazz funeral. You can kind of visualize what it’s like. On this tour, though, we’re playing a little of everything. We’ve got 13 CDs out. You can’t cover all that stuff. We try to change it up from time to time.

Was that a project you wanted to do for a long time?

It needed to be done. The opportunity presented itself, so we took it and recorded it all in just two days. The music was arranged in the studio. Usually we take material out on the road and test it out first, but this time we just went into the studio and did it. Music can be put together in so many different ways. For this CD, there wasn’t any written music. It was just based on feeling. We just said, “I’ll do this here, you do that there.”

It sounds very heartfelt.

That’s true improvisation. The most important thing is to capture the feeling. The spirit that you have when you play is the most important thing. Technically speaking, musicians are never satisfied with their work. When the playback comes, you think, oh, I could have done this, or I could have done that. But even if you go back and do what he said you could do, you still aren’t going to be satisfied with what you did do. You can go crazy doing that. We’re always our own worst critics. You just have to relax about it. Musicians just have to be cool.

That feeling is very New Orleans.

If you are raised in the city, you are exposed to that. As a musician there, you just get into the certain pace of the music, whatever it is. New Orleans is enriched by all these kinds of music together, gospel, blues and jazz. It’s just in you. It’s a part of you.

When you started DDBB, were brass bands an endangered species?

No, people always ask me that. The brass bands never died out. There have always been brass bands. It goes back to the 1800s. When we came along, they had a lot of brass bands. The only thing that made our band different from those bands at that particular time was that we played Duke Ellington, Thelonius Monk, Horace Silver or Charlie Parker, too. We also picked up the beat a little bit. Then, later we started playing the funk, James Brown and so on. We had all these influences and we wanted to bring that to the street. A lot of the purists said we weren’t playing traditional music, but we were. We just put a little more in it. Like gumbo, you put a little more in it, it just tastes that much better.

Do you still play in the streets?

People will still hire us to play a parade in the street sometimes, and we still play funerals, but not so often. We’re always on the road. We’re never home enough to do them. Last year at the Bonnaroo festival, we did a huge parade. I play with another band, The Tribute, though, and we do funerals all the time.

You’ve also played with a lot of other people — Widespread Panic, Dave Matthews, Dr. John and more.

Well, you know, musicians play music. That’s all I can say about that. It don’t matter what kind of music you play; it’s nothing but music. A C chord is a C chord, whether you’re playing rock ‘n’ roll or jazz or whatever. Once you figure out the style of the music, it’s just a collaboration. They hire us to play on their record because of what we do. We have freedom to play however we want to play. We listen to the music, invent the parts, and boom, that’s a rap.

The baritone you play must take a lot of lung power?

It takes a lot of air to fill that sucker up. But you get used to it. I marched with that thing for years. Not as bad as the sousaphone, though; that thing really takes a lot of air to fill it up. Some brass bands have clarinet in them, but the baritone sax can support the bass or can play the melody at times, even up with the trumpets. A lot of sax players don’t mess around with the baritone. They stick with the tenor, alto or soprano. Maybe when I get older, 85 or 90, I’ll go back to playing soprano, I don’t know. I got to think what I’ll be playing when I’m 90, you know.

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