Preservation Hall Jazz Band builds new album from the roots up

Photo by SHANNON BRINKMAN -- The Preservation Hall Jazz Band
Photo by SHANNON BRINKMAN -- The Preservation Hall Jazz Band

Preservation Hall Jazz Band
THAT’S IT!

The Preservation Hall Jazz Band, a mainstay of traditional New Orleans jazz for some 52 years, released its first album of all-original new compositions this week.

Many of the songs and instrumentals on That’s It! were written or co-written by Ben Jaffe, creative director of Preservation Hall on St. Peter Street in the French Quarter. Jaffe’s the son of the hall’s founders, Sandra and the late Allan Jaffe, and a sousaphone-, bass- and banjo-playing member of the band.

Jim James, the principal of indie-pop-rock band My Morning and a Preservation Hall fan, and Jaffe co-produced That’s It! Recorded in the hall, the album has a warm, resonant sound. Newly composed or not, much of it wouldn’t be out of place next to anything you’d hear at Preservation Hall any night of the week.

That’s It! opens with its brass-powered title track instrumental. It’s a bold announcement that shouts, “Hey, we’re here! Check us out.” The piece’s extended trumpet solo is a great showcase for band member Mark Braud.

Clarinet and tenor saxophonist Charlie Gabriel sings “Come With Me,” a happy invitation to New Orleans. The band easily shifts from traditional New Orleans jazz to the brass-band sound of “Sugar Plum.”

“I Think I Love” moves from traditional New Orleans, too, sideways as it is, to a sound that recalls the classic New Orleans R&B recorded at Cosimo Matassa’s French Quarter studios. Rickie Monie’s Allen Toussaint-meets-Huey Smith piano is prominent in the song while Joe Lastie Jr.’s drums sound modeled upon the infectiously lively drumming style of Cosmo regular Charles “Hungry” Williams.

Saxophonist Clint Maedgen sings and gets sole writing credit for “August Nights,” a song with humid “St. James Infirmary”-meets-George Gershwin’s “Summertime” atmosphere.

Even if the Preservation Hall band members have some room to grow as songwriters and composers, That’s It! wisely builds from the roots up, mixing time-honored tradition based in the early 20th century with the early 21st-century perspective of the hall’s gifted, entertaining contemporary singers and musicians.