Time has transformed the band, now made up of a new generation of players. Their last recording, Shake That Thing (2001), was a mishmash that included jazzified dabbling in genres from Cajun to gospel. Musical director Ben Jaffe, thirty-five, son of cofounders Allan and Sandra Jaffe, has even led the band to reinterpret rock songs. It performed a slowed-down, swinging version of U2's garage-rocky rave-up "Vertigo" with U2 guitarist The Edge at April's forty-fifth-anniversary, post-Katrina reopening of Preservation Hall.
Five of the band's seven core members lost their homes in the hurricane — but in concert, their music still chases the blues away. At the band's May performance with the Cincinnati Pops, a Cincinnati Enquirer reviewer was moved by the solos — a drum intro, a trumpet line that got the crowd clapping. Only the band staple "Just a Closer Walk with Thee" struck the reviewer as resonating with the plight of New Orleans. But then John Brunious — whose curly white hair, wit, and leading role as trumpeter make him a center of stage attention — urged the crowd to dance, and the band roused them with the ultimate New Orleans song, "When the Saints Go Marching In."
The Preservation Hall Jazz Band plays the Power Center as part of the Summer Festival Wednesday, June 21.
[Review published June 2006]