Preservation Hall shines on 1st album in 50 years
Preservation Hall Jazz Band, “That’s It!” (Sony/Legacy)
With high-profile collaborations at Bonnaroo (Jack Johnson) and the Grammys (The Black Keys), the Preservation Hall Jazz Band has been reaching out to a wider audience. “That’s It!,” co-produced by Jim James of the indie rock band My Morning Jacket, continues this trend as the first album of entirely new compositions in PHJB’s 50-plus-year history.
Preservation Hall’s original mission was to preserve the authentic sounds of New Orleans jazz by presenting musicians with direct links to jazz’s founding fathers in the early 20th century. Now under the leadership of tuba player Ben Jaffe, whose parents founded the Hall, the band’s current lineup is preserving New Orleans jazz in the 21st century with a fresh-sounding repertoire that keeps the brass-heavy acoustic instrumentation and rhythms from the past.
The title track gets things off to an exuberant start with blaring horn section blasts prefacing Mark Braud’s blistering trumpet solo. Some tunes sound as if they were lifted from the band’s standard repertoire, including the gospel-inspired “Dear Lord (Give Me the Strength)” and “Come With Me,” a love song to the Crescent City sung by the band’s oldest member, 81-year-old reedman Charlie Gabriel.
The humorously spooky “Rattlin’ Bones” with trombonist Freddie Lonzo’s gravelly vocals evokes Dr. John’s R&B style. “August Nights” is a smoky ballad with Clint Maedgen providing sultry vocals and Braud playing muted trumpet. The instrumental “Yellow Moon” draws on Afro-Cuban influences.
But most of all what the band preserves is the infectious joy of New Orleans jazz sure to get listeners tapping their feet if not dancing.