Bassist, Sousaphone player and creative director Ben Jaffe stood on stage at the College of Saint Rose’s Massry Center on Tuesday night, and introduced his bandmates one by one. They ambled out on stage individually, each adding their instrument to the musical mix.
“We’re gonna take you on a trip to a very special place…,” Jaffe told the sold-out crowd.
And if there was any doubt about where the Preservation Hall Jazz Band was coming from, they made it perfectly clear with their opening one-two salvo of “Basin Street Blues” and “Bourbon Street Parade,” name-checking two of the most famous avenues of New Orleans and indeed the jazz world.
Led by trumpeter Mark Braud – the nephew of the late PHJB leader John Brunious – the seven-piece band romped through an evening of traditional Crescent City jazz.
The rhythm section dropped out to spotlight an intoxicatingly interwoven four-horn breakdown during “Bourbon Street Parade.” Saxman Clint Maedgen stepped up to the microphone to sing a 1920’s vintage “Short Dress Gal.” Freddie Lonzo kicked off “Has Anybody Seen My Gal?” with an unaccompanied, vaudevillian solo that ended with his horn in two pieces, and then offered a valiant and charming vocal, too.
They closed out the first half with the requisite New Orleans funeral parade rendition of “Just a Closer Walk With Thee” – slow and mournful during the first half, then kicking up the tempo to double-time for a joyous celebration of life.
78-year-old clarinetist Charlie Gabriel and Jaffe kicked off the second half of the evening with a strutting duet, as the audience provided the syncopated rhythm with their hand-clapping. And pianist Rickie Monie held court with a second-set solo piece that nimbly fused stride,classical and gospel on the Steinway grand. Throughout the night Joe Lastie barely moved his shoulders at all – a model of economical drumming, as he churned out the trademark Big Easy beat.
And, of course, the evening ended with a parade, as it always does at a Preservation Hall Jazz Band performance. As the band launched into the Latin-flecked “El Montecero,” Braud led the chant, “Tear the roof off the sucka! It’s your last chance to dance – get up!” The bandmembers lined up, marched off stage and through the theater, the audience instinctively joining in for a single-file, second-line strut up the stairs and out into the lobby.
Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk
THE PRESERVATION HALL JAZZ BAND SET LIST
Basin Street Blues
Bourbon Street Parade
Short Dress Gal
I Want a Little Girl
Old Man Mose
Five Foot Two
Just a Closer Walk With Thee
??? (Gabriel/Jaffe duet)
Shake It and Break It
His Eye Is on the Sparrow
El Montecero (marching out of theater)