Thursday, May 28, 2009

NOPV1 Reviewed by Alex Rawls in Offbeat Magazine!

"By now, it can’t be a surprise that there’s a lot that is subtly smart about the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Like the best traditional jazz, little of what’s special about New Orleans Preservation, Vol. 1 is obvious, but a little contemplation reveals a lot. For instance, it’s not until you get to Walter Payton’s faux-Armstrong vocal on “I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate” that you hear the sort of voice you expect on the album. Otherwise, Clint Maedgen and Mark Braud’s vocals suggest that traditional jazz isn’t just music for tourists and older generations. The inclusion of Jimmie Rodgers’ “Blue Yodel #9” and “Choko Mo Feel No Hey” (minus second line drums) says that traditional jazz is an approach to music, not a narrow library of antique texts. The inclusion of Maedgen’s original “Halloween” implies that the music can handle new songs as well. The pleasures of New Orleans Preservation, Vol. 1 aren’t solely conceptual. The ensemble playing is often wonderful, particularly in the ecstatic conclusion to “Tiger Rag,” where Braud’s trumpet and Charlie Gabriel’s clarinet keep threatening to break away from the band and each other, but never stray for good. On the Hall band’s first album since John Brunious’ passing, it also includes a second line of sorts for him, with “Westlawn Dirge” followed by a joyful “What a Friend” near the end of the album.

If nothing else, New Orleans Preservation, Vol. 1 is a public service because it reminds the many young traditional jazz bands in town how it’s done. Many are all energy with accelerated tempos and sometimes manic energy, but the Hall band measures out the music more deliberately, saving the energy so that when it ramps up, it has more impact. “Wish I Could Shimmy …” also tells young bands that nobody, not even Preservation Hall, should engage in Satchmo impressions because they’re always going to be FTO—For Tourists Only—no matter how well the song is played."
-Alex Rawls

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