Preservation Hall Jazz Band
50th Anniversary Collection
Before Jazz became the intellectual atelier of post-war America, we had a much different take on the style. In the '20s it formed the soundtrack to the drinking, dancing, and whoring of our grandparents. It was their party music, and it was despised from the pulpits to the newspapers of William Randolph Hearst, even if the despisers went out to sample the favorite sin of prohibition. You know, just so they knew what they were talking about.
Dixieland Jazz hangs on at one of its theme parks in New Orleans, the Preservation Hall. Namesake Preservation Hall Jazz Band, led by Ben Jaffe (son of founders Allan and Sandra), has assembled an opus in its staggering four-CD collection of the best, and it ranges from the brooding "Freight Train Blues" to a rambunctious "Eh La Bah" to the sexy "Tootie Ma Is a Big Fine Thing" to gospel numbers like "Do Lord" and "Precious Lord." That's the great thing about Jazz -- you can sin and find salvation without ever having to leave the bar.
A few well know accompanists join in: Pete Seeger helps with the protest classic "We Shall Overcome," and Richie Havens, Andrew Bird, and a few other greats lurk in other tracks. The press release is a gem; we discover that "(True) You Don't Love Me" was made popular by "Little Miss Cornshucks." Google her, she's a slice of Americana you missed. These songs come from 20+ albums released in the past 50 years, and give a sweeping view of the roots of Jazz. There are even two completely distinct copies of "St. James Infirmary Blues" here, which might be the best Jazz Blues track ever written.
This music is warm, accessible, naughty, nice, and happy. Even the Blues can make you happy, as long as there's a trumpet and a sax blowing your way.