John Alagia and The Dirty Dozen Brass Band

Renowned producer talks Speed Ball entertainment

Story by Mariah Kline

Louisville native and music producer John Alagia may not be a household name, but his work is one of the reasons stars like Dave Matthews and John Mayer are known around the world.

Alagia’s achievements behind-the-scenes have earned him three Grammy nominations and given him the opportunity to produce for Paul Simon, Herbie Hancock, Lukas Nelson and countless others.

Because of his connections in the world of music, Alagia was able to assist with one incredibly important task: booking a band for the Speed Ball. Thanks to him, guests can look forward to seeing the Dirty Dozen Brass Band in action on March 3.

Growing up in Louisville, Alagia found inspiration all around and attributes his choice of profession, in part, to a few local musicians he always admired.

“There was always a band I wanted to check out and a lot of them I looked up to,” he said. “I watched Nervous Melvin and those guys, and I saw them as big brothers. I thought, ‘One day when I grow up, I want to be like them.’”

He also credits his four older siblings for influencing his tastes.

“My oldest sibling, Marie, was very influential in my musical makeup,” he continued. “She pointed me in the direction of the Beatles. She’s 10 years older than I am, so I basically had a whole decade of music that was laid out in front of me before I ever came into the world.”

Currently, Alagia spends much of his time either working in his Los Angeles recording studio or traveling and performing as a side man with various musicians. Recently, he spent two weeks in Seattle working with Dave Matthews on the rocker’s new album, but he was glad to return to Louisville to work alongside the Speed.

He got involved with this year’s Speed Ball through his friend and event co-chair Laura Benson Jones. Once Alagia became part of the planning committee, he was charged with finding the perfect musical act for the evening’s entertainment. After brainstorming a few options and reaching out to a number of contacts in the industry, Alagia helped to orchestrate the booking of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band.

John Alagia. Photo by Kathryn Harrington.

Based in New Orleans, the Dirty Dozen came together in 1977 and have played shows throughout the world. Their style cannot be boiled down to one specific genre. They’ve employed jazz, soul, R&B and other styles to create an eclectic and crowd-pleasing songbook that’s all their own.

Alagia first encountered the Dirty Dozen in the late 1980s when they were working with Elvis Costello. After seeing them perform more and more often over the years, his respect and appreciation for their talents continued, and to him, made the group an obvious candidate to play at the ball.

“I thought a brass band would be a good fit since you can boogie to that music,” he explained, “and everyone on the committee liked the idea.”

According to Alagia, those attending the annual fundraiser can look forward to an energetic performance from the artists.

“They really integrate with the audience and move around a lot when they perform,” he said. “They’ve been known to start a conga line or two, and they’re just a fun band.”

Since he’s been away from the area for a long time, Alagia didn’t have the chance to visit the Speed until last month.

“The museum is really incredible,” he said, “and it’s amazing all that they’re doing with their concert series and their After Hours.” VT

Speed Art Museum Ball Late Night

March 3, 9 p.m.

For tickets, call 502.634.2704

speedmuseum.org/events-programs