I've had the privilege to hear a lot of great music, performed by some of the recognized masters in their fields. But an amazing thing happens when the Preservation Hall Jazz Band takes stage and breaks into their first piece of high energy New Orleans style jazz. You feel like you've never heard music before.
The band travels the world sharing what they call 'the planet's happiest music." You have to agree with them. Everyone in the Ford Theater's intimate 1200 seat outdoor stage where we heard them on July 5th was up on their feet by the end of the night, dancing and shouting for more.
The band is true old school in the best sense of the word, many of the musicians having spent decades with the band. The oldest, Charlie Gabriel, is 81 and keeps apace with the rest effortlessly, the pianist Rickie Money joined the band in 1982, Mark Braud on trumpet and spokesman, tells how it was Charlie who gave him his first job 40 years ago, and so it goes. Band leader Ben Jaffe is the son of the founder of the band and grew up in and around Preservation Hall in New Orleans (from which the band gets its name). "Music is in our blood," Mark Braud tells us during an aside to the audience. "Everyone in the band grew up in families that played music, and we all have family that still play music." It goes on like that.
The band is so tight, and each musician is so accomplished, that it sounds like each of the eight members are playing lead simultaneously. But the collision of sound and counter rhythm you'd expect rises impossibly into perfectly blended soaring compositions with solo hand-offs left and right.
This was the first of the three concerts this summer in the Zev Yaroslavsky series at the Ford Theater. The series brings world class artists who find collaboration with and inspiration from local celebrated LA artists. Imagine our surprise when the local artist Rick Manzarek joined the jazz musicians on stage. Manzarek spun electric guitar accompaniment to the band's jazz classics, but when the band joined him on "People Are Strange" and vocalist Clint Maedgen shifted from jazz crooner to 60's rock star, it was a one of a kind moment and one of the high points of the evening. Though with this kind of musicianship one could say each number the band played was the high point of the evening. Rounding out Preservation Hall Jazz Band are Joseph Lastie, Jr. on drums, Freddie Lonzo on trombone and vocals, Ronnel Johnson on tuba, piano and vocals,
The band returned for an encore after a rousing standing ovation that wouldn't stop. What a delight when their encore didn't stop either. Their infectious love of music washed over us and kept them on the stage long into the night. To think that the Jazz Band had flown in from London the night before and were leaving the next day for Europe made me appreciate their stay even more. Ben Jaffe, band leader (and string bass, tuba, backing vocals, banjo and percussion) says: "Our role is to nourish and help protect the community that gave birth to one of our great American art forms, something that is truly American -- and that is jazz."
They did so on July 5th at the Ford Theater in style.
The two other concerts in the Zev Yaroslavsky series this summer are John Adams' I was looking at the ceiling and then I saw the sky Produced by Long Beach Opera SAT Aug 23 and the Ezralow Dance by Choreographer Daniel Ezralow, SAT Sept 13 @ 8PM