Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Live Review - Preservation Hall Jazz Band & Friends 1/7/12

Preservation Hall Jazz Band & Friends 
Golden Anniversary Celebration and Concert to Benefit the Preservation Hall Music Outreach Program
Carnegie Hall, NYC

The year is only 1 full week old and already there is a show that will be remembered well beyond the calender year of 2012 (assuming we as a planet get there).  The Preservation Hall Jazz Band celebrated it's 50th year of functioning Saturday night in the most elegant of locales, New York City's Carnegie Hall.  As was mentioned multiple times by the band it is quite a trip from Preservation Hall to Carnegie Hall, and you "Traded waiting in line, for a seat" but no cocktails were allowed to be near those seats and dancing was limited to the upper edges of the balcony both odd occurrences for this celebratory of a show.
The night opened with piano player George Wein writer Tom Sancton taking some time to act as an introduction, well I will let Tom say it himself from his blog:

 What am I doing here? I asked myself more than once. Nonetheless, when the show started, there I was onstage with the legendary festival promoter and pianist George Wein seated at the Steinway behind me. I recited a passage from my memoir, Song for My Fathers and played "Burgundy Street Blues" as a tribute to George Lewis and the other great jazzmen who played at the Hall when it was founded half a century ago. Wein and I were onstage for all of eight minutes, but it was for me an unforgettable occasion.

There was no doubt this was going to be a special night and this was all before the guests of honor came out.  Mark Braud Trumpet/Vocals, Charlie Gabriel Clarinet/Vocals, Clint Maedgen Saxophone/Vocals, Freddie Lonzo Trombone, Rickie Monie Piano, Joe Lastie Drums and Ben Jaffe who is the Creative Director of the band along with his duties on the Tuba and Bass lead the group on this night and acted as MC for the evening.
The players eased in with some standards including one that would show up later and no one minded a bit, "When The Saints Go Marching In".  This version began very laid back jazzy as the group slowed things down and vamped before moving into the song and out again with a slew of tempo changes and excursions.

 The band then moved into their collaboration with the Trey McIntyre Project as they played "Ma Maison" which started out as a commission from the New Orleans Ballet.  Ben Jaffe shined here with the Tuba laying the beefy bass line as everyone began to cut loose around him.  To add to the performance skull masked dancers flooded the stage to get down with grace and heart, the dancers would reappear throughout the night and it must be said they were always a welcomed site, not always the case when it comes to these kinda shows...

 The first full on musical guest to play with the band were The Givers whose best contribution was a showcase for Gabriel on clarinet while lead singer Tiffany Lamson belted out the spiritual, "A Closer Walk With Thee".  Ed Helms then came out to introduce The Del McCoury Band, everyone on stage were very comfortable together as they just recorded the fantastic American Legacies album.  The two groups did a violin and muted trumpet version of "Sugar Blues" and a 1st set closing bluegrass soaked "One More 'Fore I Die" that focused on Del's timeless voice and even had Ed Helms rejoin the guys on stage with his banjo, doing himself proud.

The band came back to showcase the raw soul of Clint's saxophone and voice before keeping the guest train rolling with original PHJB member Frank Demond coming out on stage with Merrill Garbus from tUnE-yArDs.  While not a bad collaboration the night certainly jumped up a level for the legendary Allen Toussaint with his sparkling shirt joining the group on piano.  After running through an almost theme song, Allen stayed out as the crowd gave the biggest reaction of the night to Yassin Bey (F.KA. Mos Def) and specifically Trombone Shorty, who with arms raised soaked in the cheers as the fellas rolled with "It Ain't My Fault" an old tune, which Bey added updated lyrics to after the BP Oil Spill:

The crowd stayed energized as Bey switched places with Jim James who threw down an emotional rendition of "St. James Infirmary Blues", Shorty even stuck around to help blow those blues away.

After the slow jam, the group transitioned into their King Britt infected remix of the tune with all of the members of My Morning Jacket coming on stage to help out, Shorty happily continued to hang out and contribute his 'bone.  Jacking up the backbeat to get the party pumping again, Clint sang and the poly-rhythmic rumblings brought out the dance troupe to add some visually striking moves, raising the celebration factor.   

Kind of surprisingly after this high energy showcase of talents, My Morning Jacket alone played the slow "Wonderful (The Way I Feel)".  MMJ were the only band to play a song without Preservation Hall Jazz Band helping them out and it was a definite down moment on the night.  Even fans who were their to see MMJ specifically seemed confused as the vibe was certainly derailed.  The group did it's best to try to crank start the engine with PHJB on board to play "Carnival Time" but it wasn't until the clap along habanero spice of Tao Seeger singing in Spanish that got the crowd fully invested again.

Steve Earle then strolled onto the famous stage and talked about doing a New Orleans song Chicago style, or was it a Chicago song NOLA style? Either way when he dug into "Ain't Nobody's Business But My Own" with the horn accentuation throughout nobody needed to ask anyone their business.  Then Steve with the PHJB closed the second set via Earle's fitting tribute song to a city he and everyone in attendance loves, "This City".  It is good to see this song take a major slot in a set so focused on New Orleans as Earle's warm voice and emotional lyrics flowed while the brass backing burst like firecrackers.     

After a brief break the encore on this night saw over 50 performers gracing the stage with new comers and old timers rubbing shoulders to sing the standard "I'll Fly Away" in anything but a standard style.  The Blind Boys of Alabama made an appearance and sang some verses but they got a bit drowned out with all the other people on stage banging away.
Part 1

Part 2

 The version was fantastic and a second encore was slipped in as The Preservation Hall Jazz Band along with some recent graduates of their music education program led the crowd in revisitng "When The Saints Go Marching In" to end the night, full on with some "Who Dat!" chants (The Football Saints, had taken the lead for good by then over Detroit) as the party flowed out onto 57th St with joyful tunes still ringing in the ears.

When this young year grows old, this epic show will still stand as a highlight as luminaries of the Jazz, Blues and Rock world's all came together and let America's heart seep into one of its most glorious venues, truly a memorable evening.  If you sadly missed it, buy your Jazzfest ticket now as a similar event will happen this year as The Preservation Hall Jazz Band plan on recreating some of this magic with the Festival closing slot on Sunday May 6th.

(Special thanks to Pat for the Tom Sancton blog find and all of the youtube uploaders for the great clips.)

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