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Concert review: Preservation Hall Jazz Band at Capitol Theatre

by on April 15, 2014


When it comes to musical ambassadors, New Orleans certainly has an incredible array of worthy artists to choose from, but I can’t imagine there are any better than the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.

Taking their name from the venerable venue in the French Quarter, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band deliver all manner of Big Easy sounds, and even someone unfamiliar with jazz (like myself) can easily find themselves sucked into the band’s music as they perform. Not only are they ace musicians playing insistent, horn-heavy grooves; they are also a remarkably entertaining set of personalities.

Monday at the Capitol Theatre, those personalities came through on songs old and new, including a few from the band’s first set of all-original music, the new That’s It album. Ben Jaffe’s parents originated the New Orleans venue, and now the man with the Sideshow Bob hair is creative director of the touring band, occasionally taking the microphone as emcee between his stints on bass and sousaphone.

Surrounding him Monday were joyful players like the 81-year-0ld Charlie Gabriel, who focused on clarinet and occasionally took over for some spoken/sung lead vocals; when Gabriel sings “come with me to New Orleans,” you want to go. Trombone man Freddie Lonzo is a character, twisting and turning in his chair while blasting some tasty tones from his instrument.

Drummer Joseph Lastie plays a compact kit with style and a remarkably economical style. The solo he took after Jaffe flashed his own bass-solo skills was one of the highlights of the show.

I couldn’t tell you the name of many of the songs, as I had some difficulty hearing some of the between-song banter from my seats, but I can say “Panama Rag” and “Basin Street Blues” were both excellent. As you would expect, because Preservation Hall Jazz Band has been great the three or four times I’ve been fortunate enough to see them. Catching them at a sweet space like Capitol Theatre was quite a bonus.


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