Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Preservation Hall Jazz Band - So It Is


Here's a brand-new slab of vinyl by a very old band that has recently reinvented itself. Preservation Hall was opened in the French Quarter of New Orleans in 1961, as a no-frills venue designed to give the remaining first- and second-generation jazzmen of the city a place to perform. At first, there was no thing as the "Preservation Hall Jazz Band" - a different musician led the band each night, and the group was billed under his or her name. By the 1970s, though, Preservation Hall was a brand, and although there were still a varied lineup of bands that played the Hall, the main touring band was billed as The Preservation Hall Jazz Band. A classic lineup for many years was the one with the Humphrey brothers - Percy on trumpet and Willie on clarinet. For many listeners from the 1970s through the early 1990s, the Humphrey Brothers band was The PHJB. As the older musicians died out, they were replaced by younger ones - still playing strictly traditional New Orleans jazz.

But things change, and the owner of Preservation Hall (who also played tuba with the band), Allan Jaffe, died unexpectedly in 1987. His widow, Sandra, ran the Hall until 1993, when her son Ben Jaffe took over. Ben is an accomplished bassist and tuba player, and he also had some original ideas about what Preservation Hall and the band should be. As the 20th century turned into the 21st, Jaffe had the band collaborate with indie rock bands and pop and folk singers. In 2013, the PHJB released That's It!, an album totally composed of original compositions by the members of the band - no "Clarinet Marmalade" or "Tiger Rag" is to be found. But every track still sounds like New Orleans music. Just five days ago, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band released their second all-original album, So It Is. Like its predecessor, it's an excellent album of Crescent City music. For someone who savored every note by the Humphrey Brothers, the Wurlitzer electric piano and funk beats take a little getting used to, but yeah - this stuff is real. Here's a live version of "Convergence" from the new album:

 
                                 

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