CD review: Preservation Hall Jazz Band

St Peter and 57th Street
(Rounder 0011661912021)

After an introduction from that great jazz impresario George Wein and a slow and soulful clarinet and piano introduction, the band is introduced and that familiar New Orleans beat kicks in, the sides of the mouth have no option but to lift and the feet get itchy to move.

The occasion of the concert from which this album is taken is the 50th anniversary of the band which epitomises a New Orleans jazz tradition. The venue is a long way from the Big Easy though – it’s Carnegie Hall in New York.

The band is at the heart of the album and plays throughout, but they absorb a lot of different New Orleans traditions along the way, from the bluegrass of the Del McCoury Band to the country/folk music of Steve Earle, to the gospel of Givers and The Blind Boys Of Alabama, to the Louisville rock of My Morning Jacket, to the contemporary MC Yasiin Bey, or Mos Def as he is perhaps better known.

Burgundy Street Blues is straight Preservation Hall Jazz Band and could there be anything purer? It’s a fine start.

The Del McCoury Band help celebrate

Of course, when you have a party, you need to give everyone a chance to join in and some guests are more suited – and in better form – than others. So the McCoury Band and Steve Earle, and Trombone Shorty and Allen Toussaint and The Blind Boys all sound great.

But some of the guests just don’t cut the mustard – or should that be just don’t spice the gumbo? – so I’d give a big thumbs down to My Morning Jacket’s off-key Jim James, and a more moderate one to the straining Merrill Garbus of tUnE-yArDs and the slightly out-of-tune Yasiin Bey.

Overall, though, that good-time groove of New Orleans music in general, and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band in particular, does tend to disarm any critic and leave one feeling stupidly po-faced. And it all ends well. The triumphant grand finale, with loads of guests involved and the Preservation Hall’s junior band in there too, is I’ll Fly Away.

Oh, what the hell – let’s all join the party!



Categories: CD review

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