by Wade Liguet
What do you get when you cross America's best traditional jazz band with 20 emerging or legendary musical artists? You get a terrific collection of highly listenable traditional jazz performances by a highly improbable combination of musicians and vocalists. Who would have thought to have Del McCoury sing "After You've Gone" with his heavy country twang? Or
Jaffe made a wish-list of performers whom he hoped would come to
The album elicits feelings of both joy and bemusement. Joy because that is what traditional jazz creates when played by some of its greatest musicians, and bemusement because of the pairing of some great singers and musicians with the band. Andrew Bird brings his skillful violin playing, as well as a voice with great range, to "Shake It And Break It." Tom Waits' craggy voicings on the Mardi Gras-tinged "Tootie Ma Was A Big Fine Thing" is just plain fun. Merle Haggard's version of "Basin Street Blues" skillfully joins a country voice and jazz in a surprisingly pleasant rendition of this old standard. Richie Havens sings a hauntingly beautiful blues ballad on "Trouble in Mind" with banjo and the horn section playing beautifully in the background. Preservation Hall vocalist Clint Maedgen performs with the Blind Boys of Alabama on the fired-up gospel tune "There Is a Light" behind the powerful organ playing of the hall's pianist Rickie Monie. Each of the tunes on this album deserves a comment, but more than that, each deserves a listen.
Preservation is released as a benefit album to support Preservation Hall and its Music Outreach Program. The album will also benefit traditional jazz in general. As younger generations shun jazz for hip hop, country and independent music, how will jazz lure listeners? How will a century old (and counting) music form stay fresh? Ben Jaffe and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band have created something brilliant with this album. They have kept the jazz traditional, and have brought in popular artists to collaborate with them. This album will no doubt have cross-over appeal. It is something that both young and old listeners should enjoy, be they country, rock or jazz fans. In that sense, the disc, as the title implies, is a preservation of all that is good about traditional jazz, while at the same time being an ambassador to a new generation of fans.