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Monday, Sept. 19, 2011

Preservation Hall Jazz Band

New Orleans Preservation Vol. 1 (Preservation Hall Recordings) / American Legacies (McCoury Music)

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Katrina closed Preservation Hall in 2005, but like the city of New Orleans, this treasured institution couldn't be stopped by the hurricane for long. The popular venue for traditional New Orleans jazz reopened in '06, with its house band back on the stage and in the recording studio.

Contrary to reputation, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band isn't entirely devoted to historical re-enactments of Crescent City music circa 1919. Recent CDs show them flirting confidently with the sound of 1940s nightclubs and playing at the edges of swing. On American Legacies, they enter a full-blown collaboration with the bluegrass-based Del McCoury Band, resulting in old-time string morphing into western swing.

But at its root, as heard on New Orleans Preservation Vol. 1, the band remains grounded in the blues, brass bands and Latin tinge that sparked the emergence of jazz in New Orleans at the turn of the 20th century. And that's a valuable tradition to uphold. Their lively performances are focused on the ensemble, not the individual, as in more recent jazz genres. Solos occur entirely within a group context, accenting the melody or elbowing the other players to give a little more. The Preservation Hall Jazz Band is one of the greatest faces New Orleans shows to the world. The music can't help but put a smile on any face.

Preservation Hall Jazz Band performs 7:30 p.m. Sept. 25 at the South Milwaukee Performing Arts Center, 901 15th Ave., South Milwaukee.


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