1. Introduction by George Wein
2. Burgundy Street Blues
3. Introduction to the Preservation Hall Jazz Band by Tom Sancton
4. Bourbon Street Parade
5. Introduction to the Del McCoury Band by Ed Helms
6. One More `Fore I Die
7. Introduction to Allen Toussaint by Ben Jaffe
8. Preservation Hall Jazz Band
9. Introduction to GIVERS by Ben Jaffe
10. Just a Closer Walk with Thee
11. Bonjour Cousin
12. Introduction to Steve Earle by Mark Braud
13. `Tain't Nobody's Business
14. Introduction to Tao Seeger by Ben Jaffe
15. El Manicero
16. St. James Infirmary, Part 1
17. St. James Infirmary, Part 2
18. Tootie Ma
19. Introduction to Merrill Garbus and Frank Demand by Mark Braud
20. Careless Love
21. It Ain't My Fault
22. I'll Fly Away
Mark Braud - Trumpet and vocal
Charlie Gabriel - Clarinet
Ben Jaffe - Tuba
Freddie Lonzo - Trombone
Clint Maedgen - Tenor saxophone and vocal
Rickie Monet - Piano
Joe Lastie - Drums
Del McCoury Band - Bluegrass
Allen Toussaint - Piano, songwriter, arranger
GIVERS - Indie rock
Steve Earle - Country, vocal
Tao Seeger - Folk-rock fusion, vocal
My Morning Jacket - Rock
Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews - "Supafunkrock" [his term], trombone
Yasiin Bey (aka Mos Def) - Hip-hop
Blind Boys of Alabama - Gospel
Merrill Garbus (aka tUnE-yArDs) - Vocal
Frank Demond - Trombone
Recorded on January 7, 2012, at Carnegie Hall, New York City
To begin with a small caveat, the review copy of this CD came to me with no liner notes, with nothing but the track information. I did manage to unearth some data pertaining to the recording from various sources but cannot vouch for its accuracy.
It's hard to believe that Preservation Hall is now a half century old. Today the hall and band are run by tubaist Ben Jaffe, son of Allen and Sandra Jaffe (who were not, as legend has it, the founders of the institution but did bring it to its maturity, as William Carter shows in his book Preservation Hall, 1991.) The musical styles prevalent in the city in the early decades of the hall's existence are gone, being replaced by some that have a different emphasis, although they can still be called "New Orleans." Keenly aware of this metamorphosis, Jaffe has endeavored to keep the hall and its music relevant and has embraced these changes, not to everyone's delight. But he sees it as the way to keep "preserving" the music and the culture of New Orleans, the goal of the institution since the beginning, and this recording is evidence of that direction's being taken. And now Preservation Hall has made "the big time"-Carnegie Hall. Its location on (West) 57th St. in N.Y. coupled with that of Preservation Hall on St. Peter St. in N.O. form the title of the CD.
While the opening track, Burgundy Street Blues, takes a glance back at the earlier style, the next track, Bourbon Street Parade, looks in the other direction as the band displays the kind of funk/blues/fusion/rock influence that we hear in the performances of New Orleans bands such as the Dirty Dozen, the Rebirth, the Squirrel Nut Zippers, etc., some of whom have been around now for several decades, and the contemporary young bands such as Loose Marbles, Tuba Skinny, Jazz Vipers, et al. What has always swung the brass bands for me is the syncopation of the bass drummer, coupled of course with that of the snare drummer, and here Joe Lastie shows his considerable chops, playing both roles simultaneously. Even if one prefers the older brass band style, as I must confess I do, no one can say that this track does not swing.
The compatibility of jazz and bluegrass, both forms of folk music, had been already shown in a previous joint album featuring the Preservation Hall Band and the Del McCoury Band: the American Legacies CD that the Preservation Hall band issued in April of 2011. It is amply demonstrated again by the coupling of the two bands here where they play One More `Fore I Die, seamlessly alternating between vocals backed by the bluegrass group and solos from the jazz musicians.
In similar fashion the other groups and individuals are featured, some more successfully than others, in attempting more jazz oriented material than they are used to, perhaps. I was not particularly taken with the long rendition on St. James Infirmary by Jim James, the vocalist with My Morning Jacket, which is also accompanied by Trombone Shorty, but the audience certainly seemed to love it. On Careless Love Merrill Garbus does better with the vocal, other than some straining at the upper end of her range, but again the audience was highly pleased. Also on this track Frank Demond, who was for so long trombone player with the band, joins the group. When Tiffany Lamson of the GIVERS opened Just a Closer Walk with Thee with a throaty, "breathy" rubato chorus reminiscent somewhat of Janis Joplin, I braced for a disaster as she had trouble staying in tune, but thereafter she picked up and evened out the tempo, and it came off fairly well. Even more successful is the following number, Bonjour Cousin, a fairly simple little ditty-somewhat repetitious, but catchy.
The folk tradition is also represented by Tao Seeger, grandson of folk singer Pete Seeger. Accompanied by the band, he sings El Manicero, better known perhaps as The Peanut Vendor, which, with its habanero rhythm, reminds us of the Latin tinge that Jelly Roll Morton insisted was a key ingredient of jazz.
The entire cast comes on stage for the finale, I'll Fly Away, and manages to avoid the "mega mess" in which such mass groupings so often result. It is the only track on this CD where the Blind Boys of Alabama, the gospel group formed over sixty years ago, are heard, and it provides a rousing finish to what seems to have been a lively anniversary celebration, only a portion of which we have on this CD, unfortunately. Reports are that people were dancing in the aisles-shades of the Benny Goodman concert of 1938!
So this CD displays considerable variety in its program. While I have some difficulty getting my ears around all the new styles that have been and are developing in the New Orleans music scene, I appreciate Jaffe's attempt to nourish the tradition: to keep the music alive and relevant to the current generation of consumers and, at the same time, to try to preserve what has gone before in what those of us long in tooth tend to think of as a "golden age."