Preserving The Jazz Flame


St. Peter & 57th Street (Rounder) documents the January 2012 concert presented in sold-out Carnegie Hall to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Preservation Hall, the hallowed venue located in the fabled French Quarter, and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, both built to preserve the legacy of traditional New Orleans ("Dixieland") jazz.  Celebrating their shared legacy proved to be a historic event in every sense of the word.

"Traditional New Orleans jazz" may sound like one thing but it's actually a polyglot of different musical languages, and several special visitors to St. Peter & 57th illuminate various native tongues. Pianist/vocalist Allen Toussaint rolls out the bouncy, feel-good sound of New Orleans R&B with his tribute to the "Preservation Hall Jazz Band." Tao Seeger (Pete's eldest grandchild) highlights "the habanero influence" in his lively Latin two-step "El Manicero."

From more traditional quarters, this "Bourbon Street Parade" thunders from its window-rattling drum intro into a frenzy of horns in motion which simultaneously sounds like marching band and dancing band music. "St. James Infirmary" descends long and slow into a painful funeral blues, an acoustic reminder that music doesn't need to be loud -- or even electrified -- to be intense. You won't find a better way to close a (Dixieland jazz) revival meeting than the rousing country-gospel of "I'll Fly Away" -- what a joyful noise it makes!

You can also hear the PHJB tear up the Crescent City landmark "Basin Street Blues" on The Curious Case of Benjamin Button soundtrack.