Friday, December 13, 2013
Concert review: Meyerson transformed into Bourbon Street with Preservation Hall Band’s Christmas show
The long-running New Orleans band took a freewheeling approach to jazz, soul and more.
DALLAS Its very name suggests the Preservation Hall Jazz Band wants to uphold, protect and safeguard jazz. But there was nothing remotely cautious about the band Thursday night at the Meyerson Symphony Center.
Performing a freewheeling and often raucous “Creole Christmas” concert, the eight-man New Orleans group reminded the audience that New Orleans jazz is a jumbo-size umbrella with room underneath for everything from Dixieland swing to Afro-Latin funk. As dozens of styles coalesced into one, the show was a lot like New Orleans’ annual spring Jazzfest, but with fewer drunks passed out nearby.
Formed 52 years ago as the house band for the tiny Preservation Hall club in the French Quarter, the group is now led by bassist/tuba player Ben Jaffe, son of PH co-founders Allan and Sandra Jaffe. But Jaffe spent most of the time in the background and let the other Hall-men shine.
Eighty-one-year-old Charlie Gabriel emerged as the fan favorite with his soaring clarinet and Louis Armstrong-singing. Sax player Clint Maedgen, who also leads the cabaret act The New Orleans Bingo! Show, provided the concert’s most soulful singing and growling.
And Ronell Johnson was the most fun to watch as he strutted and danced non-stop, his tuba aglow all the way up to the grand tier. Freddie Lonzo went a bit overboard with his silly singing and gassy trombone solos, but with so many high-caliber musicians onstage, his comic outbursts never degraded the music.
The group started the show with a lovely stroll through Charlie Brown’s “Christmas Time Is Here” and pianist Rickie Monie later played a medley of yuletide classics. But thankfully, holiday tunes were few and far between in a set filled with more interesting fare, from the classic “Basin Street Blues” to Preservation Hall’s joyous new original “Rattlin’ Bones.”
The crowd didn’t seem to mind that “Creole Christmas” wasn’t all that Christmassy, either. Clapping to the beat and giving the band multiple standing ovations, the audience helped give the solemn old Meyerson the feel of a hot Saturday night on Bourbon Street.
Thor Christensen is a Dallas writer and critic.
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