Efrem “E.T.” Towns &
Graham Whorley Band
w/ The Sol Driven Train Horns, Juke Joint Johnny, and guests
Wed. Dec. 13
9 p.m.
$8 ($6 adv.)
Pour House
1977 Maybank Hwy.

Let’s admit it — when some sort of jam session or open-ended gig gets listed and promoted as “an all-star” event, it really means a circus of friends and musical acquaintances standing around on stage, sometimes clueless as to what’s up next and what it all means to say. These shows are crapshoots — anything can happen. Sometimes it’s magic. Sometimes it’s catastrophic. Sometimes it’s actually well organized and arranged.

“This show at the Pour House is not like a pick-up gig,” says local guitarist Graham Whorley, who recently organized a special collaboration among Dirty Dozen Brass Band’s Efrem “E.T.” Towns and his band, members of Sol Driven Train, and special guests. “We’ve been working on the material for over a month. It’s ready to go. E.T. gets in town the day before the gig, so we’ll have less than 24 hours to rehearse. He’s such a great musician and this band we’ve put together is so tight, there’s no wrench to be thrown. Everything is right where it’s supposed to be. Throw E.T. in the mix and it’s going to sound great. Everything is arranged. The percussion players have been getting together a lot. The musicianship of the band is so strong, there’ll be no worries about what we can accomplish.”

Whorley first met Towns backstage at the Music Farm during a late-night set on Nov. 16 that included Gov’t Mule guitarist Warren Hayes.

“I got the whole thing together after my Sullivan’s Island friend Mark Myers suggested we check out the Dirty Dozen,” says Whorley. “E.T. had spoken to him about trying to put a show together in Charleston with a local backing band. I was going to see the Mule on the same night of my wife’s and my seventh anniversary and it just so happened that the Dirty Dozen were playing the same night. He asked me who I thought he should use, so, just messin’ with him, I told him to use the best band in Charleston [laughs]. He said he was thinking the same thing.”

Myers, Whorley, and Towns spent a few weeks shuffling possible lineups and dates and finally confirmed a date at the Pour House for this Wednesday.

Towns, 46, is a native of Queens, N.Y. and a longtime New Orleans scenester. He helped form the Dirty Dozen Brass Band in the late ’70s with core members Gregory Davis (trumpet), Roger Lewis (baritone and soprano sax), and Kevin Harris (tenor sax). In addition to his work with the Dirty Dozen, he’s collaborated in studios and on stage with a variety of acts, from the traditional Louisiana acts Rebirth Brass Band and Buckwheat Zydeco to such jam/rock and pop acts as Widespread Panic, Gov’t Mule, Galactic, Dave Matthews Band, and Elvis Costello (check the horn work on Spike and Mighty Like a Rose).

Dirty Dozen Brass Band have stayed busy over the last few years, recording, jamming, and touring. In August, the Shout! Factory label released the band’s cover of Marvin Gaye’s classic What’s Going On, released in part to benefit the people of New Orleans on the anniversary of Katrina through the Tipitina Foundation. It also marked the 35th anniversary of the album’s original release.

All four members of the Graham Whorley Band — Whorley, bassist Will Ames, drummer Brian Ledbetter, and keyboardist Daniel Walker — are signed on as the core rhythm section with auxiliary percussion from local instructor and hand drum wiz Justin Rivers (of Adande) and Mark Myers. The horn section features sax player Russell Clarke and trombonist (and guitarist) Ward Buckheister of local ensemble Sol Driven Train. Special guest players include sax player Louis Dixon (recently of The Tens) and Steve Spaulding (of Booty Call, Love Butter).

“Justin from Adande has played with us a great deal over the years. He’s the high school drum teacher for all of James Island. He’s sick, man — just an amazing musician. It’s a great four-piece horn section with lots of percussion.”

Local fans can expect a few sophisticated reworkings of some of the Dirty Dozen’s vast catalogue. Classic funk stuff out of New Orleans (a la The Meters, Neville Brothers, etc.) are in the mix along with some clever arrangements of popular radio hits and deeper tracks from the classic rock world.

“E.T. is a showman of showmen,” says Whorley. To see him perform is more than just an average horn player — he gets in to the music so heavy, the audience becomes part of the music. He’s so filled with the music and expresses it in every manner — bodily and mentally. He puts on a hell of a show. He sings and gets into that whole aspect — that’s something that’s probably not appreciated as much as it should be.

“I’m terribly excited about it,” he adds. “We’ve done as much promotion as possible to be able to get E.T. down here and back on an airplane and pay him what he normally makes in about a half an hour on stage. He’s been so gracious about it. Everyone wants to have fun with it for the love of the music.”