Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Performance Review: 'American Legacies,' PHJB and the Del McCoury Band in Boston

The Preservation Hall Jazz Band and the Del McCoury Band combined efforts Saturday at Symphony Hall.
photo by Matthew J. Lee / Globe Staff
Celebrating jazz, country, gospel in a collaborative spirit
By Bill Beuttler
Boston Globe Correspondent / March 22, 2011  
Bluegrass and New Orleans jazz came together at Symphony Hall Saturday as the Celebrity Series of Boston brought the Del McCoury Band and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band to town for a joyous and virtuosic celebration of their joint album due out next month, the aptly titled “American Legacies.’’

Ben Jaffe, whose parents founded Preservation Hall 50 years ago, came onstage with pianist Rickie Monie, who played some gentle stride as Jaffe introduced the other five members of the band, the horn players each blowing a short, personable solo en route to their chairs. Del McCoury (who was playing in Baltimore honky-tonks the year Preservation Hall opened, joining bluegrass titan Bill Monroe’s band in 1963) brought his group out to join them, and everyone finished off “Basin Street Blues.’’ A Jaffe original, “The Band’s in Town,’’ followed, featuring McCoury trading vocal lines with saxophonist Clint Maedgen and solos from Mark Braud on trumpet and McCoury’s son Ronnie on mandolin, and the table was set for an evening of mostly collaborative music.

There were brief separate sets as well. The McCoury band revisited “Rain and Snow,’’ tore through the instrumental “Rawhide,’’ and then slowed down for four-part vocal harmonizing on “Get Down on Your Knees and Pray.’’ The Preservation Hall bunch went it alone on “That’s a Plenty’’ and “Shake It and Break It,’’ with Braud explaining that the latter would feature “my mother’s favorite vocalist’’ filling in for Andrew Bird.

But the show primarily featured the two distinct dialects of indigenous American instrumental music genially feeling each other out on jazz, country, and gospel chestnuts. Some highlights: Maedgen adding his tenor to the McCoury band’s version of Ernest Tubb’s “You Don’t Have to Be a Baby to Cry,’’ Braud’s muted trumpet and vocals on “The Sugar Blues,’’ Charlie Gabriel’s clarinet and gravely vocals on “A Good Gal,’’ and Joe Lastie’s crowd-pleasing drum solo on the ostensible closer, “Just a Closer Walk With Thee.’’ And “Mullensburg Joys’’ effectively displayed its shared pedigree (Bill Monroe himself recorded the Jelly Roll Morton jazz standard as “Milenberg Joy’’) in a series of solos building to Gabriel trading licks with fiddler Jason Carter.

Maedgen sang a spirited “I’ll Fly Away’’ with Del McCoury as a first encore, then everyone trooped out one last time, the audience dancing along to a rousing “When the Saints Go Marching In.’’ American legacies, indeed.

Bill Beuttler can be reached at

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