The Preservation Hall Jazz Band has been a staple of the crescent city’s (New Orleans for the uninitiated) French Quarter for almost half a century, offering a vibrant look into American roots jazz music. The New Orleans Jazz style along with Dixieland Jazz, encompass the foundation and concepts of modern day jazz as we know it today. The ladies and gentlemen of the Preservation Halls’ hallowed walls (past & present), have perpetuated a great American art and music that is simply defined as Jazz or "American Classical Music". During the turn of the 20th century (1900), New Orleans personified jazz - a music as diverse rhythmically and melodically as the culture encompassing the "Big Easy". The crescent city contains an amalgamation of people, food, culture and music that have become synonymous with the vibrant American spirit, especially in the South. We call it Jazz! The mission of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band is pure freedom of the artistic spirit which is self-evident as they perform their brand of spicy music for the masses in the USA and worldwide.
The New Orleans Jazz style of the Preservation Jazz Band, is not to be confused with the two beat Dixieland Jazz which differs in the make up of musical elements. New Orleans Jazz is usually performed at a slightly slower tempo than other jazz styles and the melody is the heart of the improvisational focus. Simplicity in harmony and the melodic line improvisation is the fertile canvas the band’s music thrives upon with an uncluttered beauty. Although the New Orleans Jazz style has less complicated arrangements than other jazz variations, the fire and energy of great improvisation moves people in the crowd to clapping, singing and marching to the music. While being a cornerstone of the New Orleans Jazz circuit for tourists, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band has toured for over twenty five years in the US and abroad. The band has even performed with symphonic groups in Boston, New York, Washington DC and most recently, two dates with the Nashville Symphony for a Thanksgiving series. Tuesday night, December 4th, the Goodnight Theater and the Franklin -Simpson Community Arts Council, hosted yet another world-class concert and the result was a jubilant crowd response and American music celebration.
The lights dimmed and a film began to roll with jazz luminaries such as Satchmo / Louis Armstrong and Sweet Emma gave testimonials to the importance of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. The movie gave the history of New Orleans Jazz and how it became the form of music we know as jazz today. When the film clip ended the band immediately hit the stage with intense energy. The seven-piece Preservation Hall Jazz Band entered the stage with fervor as they performed "Hindustan" with the players entering with solos and a loud crowd response. The hot house music was swinging and off to a great start as the musicians offered enthusiastic soloing and great showmanship that connected immediately with the Goodnight audience. The hour and a half set included a clarinet feature over gypsy rhythms on the tune, "Petit Flur" which is French for petite flower. Another highlight, was the hard swinging "St. Louis Blues." The Creole French song "Ala’ Ba" was an audience interactive piece that had a calypso meets zydeco flavor that had the crowd singing which added energy to the festive mood of the music. The tune was sung in French, of course! The instruments featured were; tenor banjo, upright slap bass, drums, slide trombone, clarinet, upright piano and trumpet. The band was well balanced ( only one microphone on center stage) and the tone of the instruments blended very well as foot taps and impromptu shouts from the band would accent the cornucopia of tones. The night was full of gut-bucket blues and lyrical soloing that intensified with each tune as the program progressed. The band performed some of their staple hits from the PBS video / DVD and the double CD collection, ‘Songs of New Orleans -Volumes l & ll.’ The crowd was equally surprised and elated with a heartfelt rendition of the Stephen Foster classic, ‘My Old Kentucky Home.’ The circle of solos from the ensemble was inspiring and the Goodnight audience responded with cheers and loud applause throughout the evening. The band interacted with one another like a vaudeville act resembling the joyous interplay of the Harlem Globetrotters during an exhibition. The crowd fed off of the bands energy and given the holiday season, a Christmas Medley was a welcome diversion from the usual play list. The three-tune medley featured syncopated, blues - tinged variations of "Winter Wonderland", "Silent Night" and "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town". Next up, the tune " Mama Don’t Want No Music Playin’ In Here" which used the audience for the call and response as each of the seven soloist was featured as the verse relative to their instrument was sung. A gospel piece " A Closer Walk With Thee" had great vocals and great soloing throughout. The evening performance was about to end but not before the highly anticipated Tour De Force song, "When The Saints Go Marching In" would get the crowd up and full of excitement. The band proceeded to march into the crowd shaking hands and greeting people while coaxing them to join the human train that was circling the bottom level of the theater. The band made it back to the stage with a large entourage of happy fans and the set ended with a great celebration. The music and history that are part of New Orleans and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band can help us appreciate jazz as our indigenous music and vehicle to keep in touch with our cultural "roots." God Bless America! FINE
For more information about the Preservation Hall Jazz Band 726 St. Peter St. New Orleans LA 70116 call 1-800-785-5772 or email: music@preservationhall