[JPL] Serving Some Gumbo From Old New Orleans

r durfee rdurfee2003 at yahoo.com
Fri Jun 22 12:26:59 EDT 2007

June 21, 2007
Music Review | Preservation Hall Jazz Band
Serving Some Gumbo From Old New Orleans 
Even before Hurricane Katrina the Preservation Hall
Jazz Band had been reviving. Now, touring heavily,
making new records and collaborations, and perhaps
carrying a sharper mandate of cultural preservation —
because the New Orleans we knew really is gone — the
band has become worth another hearing. 

The band was still playing old New Orleans repertory
from the first half of the 20th century at its Town
Hall concert on Tuesday night, the first big concert
of the JVC Jazz Festival. It had drive, and funk, and,
believe it or not, youth.

Before the band came on, a young quartet called the
New Orleans Bingo Show warmed up the audience, setting
up in the front rows and playing like a theatrical
street band: whiteface makeup, vintage suits, a
ukulele, kazoos, fake tap dancing. It was a good
starting place, drawing a link between the old music
to come and the mysterious-funhouse atmosphere that
continues in New Orleans.

John Brunious is the Preservation Hall band’s leader,
singer, trumpeter. He kept the band on the up-and-up,
playing a kind of solemnized Armstrong style, an
orderly presence in the contrapuntal scrimmage of
horns at the end of “Bourbon Street Parade.” 

But much of the action was in the rhythm section. The
drummer Joe Lastie played like a dream, with a heavy
bass-drum foot and a tiny cymbal; he could put funk in
the slowest songs. (One of the things this band
preserves is slow tempos: In “Just a Closer Walk With
Thee” it found a crawl that you don’t really find in
jazz anymore.) And one of the band’s post-Katrina
changes is the addition of the bassist Walter Payton,
a beloved player and teacher in New Orleans. He played
calmly with a big tone, bumping the music along, while
Ben Jaffe, the son of the group’s founder, Allan
Jaffe, played tuba for most of the night, doubling the
music’s low end.

Some guests fed the band’s machine, making it play
harder. The violinist Jenny Scheinman — who plays in a
much more flowing, finely wrought style than the
abrupt staccato of old New Orleans phrasing — joined
it for “St. James Infirmary,” with Mr. Brunious
singing the lyrics and the Cab Calloway
“hi-de-hi-de-hi-de-ho” refrain. Ms. Scheinman dug into
her melody and variations, playing long notes and
repeated phrases. And Steve Wilson played soprano
saxophone with a strong, broad tone on “Shake That
Thing.” A product of the competitive, studious New
York jazz scene of the last few decades, he was
practically supersonic compared with the earthy,
chuckling sound of the band’s regular saxophonist,
Darryl Adams. But the band loved both musicians and
enveloped them in the songs.

Allen Toussaint, a New Orleanian now living in New
York, lent his light, pretty voice to the show,
playing a song in praise of the band. “Put pep in your
step and pride in your slide,” he purred, playing
piano hard and rhythmically, increasing the funk. And
in two final numbers — “Last Chance to Dance” and
“When the Saints Go Marching In” — the band paraded
around the room with the audience, the Bingo Show guys
mugging and miming, the friskier audience members
joining the dance and opening their umbrellas, in
second-lining style.


Roy Durfee
P.O. Box 40219
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87196-0219
rdurfee2003 at yahoo.com

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