Preservation Hall Jazz Band album review: ‘That’s It!’

Preservation Hall Jazz Band of New Orleans - Preservation Hall Jazz Band of New Orleans will perform in the Washington, D.C. area. Image provided by The Kennedy Center.


“That’s It!”

Kindred spirits: Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Olympia Brass Band, Dr. Michael White

Shows: Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. at Baltimore’s Meyerhoff Symphony Hall. 410-783-8000. $35-$70.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, which was formed in 1963 as the touring version of the New Orleans nightclub, which opened in 1961.

The original organizer, Alan Jaffe, stocked the band with veterans of the local scene. But the personnel has turned over many times since, and the band is now led by Alan’s son Ben. The younger Jaffe has revitalized the group by creating partnerships with outsiders such as My Morning Jacket’s Jim James, who co-produced the new album, “That’s It!

A giant crane (L) that will lift up the sunken 'Sewol' ferry is silhouetted against the sunset in Jindo on April 24, 2014. Furious relatives of missing victims from South Korea's ferry disaster attacked a top coastguard official accusing him of lying about efforts to retrieve bodies still trapped in the submerged vessel. AFP PHOTO / Nicolas ASFOURINICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images

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This is the first album in the band’s long history devoted entirely to original material. Clarinetist Charlie Gabriel, saxophonist Clint Maedgen, pianist Rickie Monie and tuba player Jaffe wrote all of the tunes, sometimes with help from such guests as the SteelDrivers’ Chris Stapleton and Semisonic’s Dan Wilson. The album begins with rumbling drums and tuba on the title track, and that emphasis on a muscular bottom both powers and unifies the seven vocal numbers and four instrumentals.

On “Rattlin’ Bones,” Freddie Lonzo sings of how the dead rise up from New Orleans’s cemeteries on St. Joseph’s Day, and then uses his plunging trombone to suggest the sinking stomach and wobbly knees of the living when they encounter the skeletons. Gabriel’s vocal and Monie’s piano triplets turn “The Darker It Gets” into a sauntering blues number that could get anyone’s skeleton moving.

— Geoffrey Himes

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