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The Preservation Hall Jazz Band at Miner Auditorium

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The Preservation Hall Jazz Band
Livestreamed from SF JAZZ Miner Auditorium
San Francisco, CA
August 18, 2023

The dichotomy or, in more blunt terms, the extreme differences of opinion over the current course charted out by creative director and heir to the Hall, Ben Jaffe, seemingly has been fully addressed with the song selection and current configuration of the band on this most recent concert tour.

Featuring their recently named musical director, Wendell Brunious (trumpet) joined up with the touring band, teaming up with one of the younger players, Brandon Lewis, as Revon Andrews (of the renowned Andrews family and Trombone Shorty fame) wielded (what else?) a trombone. The show began with a couple jazz standards. The ever-stylish Charlie Gabriel at 91 now, still has it. Elegantly attired in a white suit, he shared the spotlight with Brunious seated beside him. An unrepentant, classic crooner, he serenaded what appeared to be the younger audience in San Francisco with 'Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans' (Eddie Delange, 1947) as Brunious masterfully accompanied the soulful vocal on trumpet. The band featured not only Brunious but also Shannon Powell, an avowed trad jazz music advocate, on drums who clearly enjoyed the opening selections, smiling throughout.

Before Gabriel departed early for the evening, Clint Maedgen and Lewis emerged for all to engage on what has virtually become an anthem of the modern Preservation Hall Jazz Band, "Hold Your Head Up:," composed during the band's historic journey to Cuba in 2015. Swinging with a Latin feel and rocking vibe, Maedgen drove the show forward, leading the band with vocals, and traded vibrant saxophone solos with the venerable Gabriel.

It is no wonder that Jaffe, nearly 20 years ago, plucked him from the edgy entertainment venue of The Bingo Show—an alternative multi-media experience geared, primarily, for his New Orleans fan base -placing him directly in the spotlight (and the crosshairs of his detractors) up front and center at Preservation Hall; he unquestionably brought a contemporary energy to what a younger audience might have occasionally regarded as a sound verging on staid traditionalism.

Other highlights included Lewis and Brunious trading complementary riffs on trumpet, an exhilarating display of musical ability and technical dexterity, as if to show all that the passing of the torch will happen in time while presently, they appeared to drive one another to even greater heights.

Throughout, keyboardist Kyle Roussel made his presence felt and heard, though he hardly received the spotlight he might achieve playing elsewhere. With an exceptionally quiet demeanor his apparently effortless delivery was truly understated but hardly unappreciated either.

As perhaps a means to feature a more contemporary sound, The Preservation Hall Jazz Band invited Tarriona Ball and Norman Spence II (of Tank and the Bangas) to join in the action. Maybe to the surprise of some, she began with a very personal interpretation of the classic George Gershwin composition, "Summertime," leaving some breathless as she worked her way through the song, hitting all the expected notes and more. Soon followed by what appeared to be the resounding finale to a significant show, the band members shared the stage—singing, playing and dancing as Shannon Powell, too, abandoned the drums, joining the celebratory revelry on tambourine.

Not unexpectedly, an encore ensued as Powell resumed his duties with drumsticks in hand, leading the band in another jazz classic from New Orleans, "Lil Liza Jane," a favorite of his and anyone familiar with the southern sounds from the mouth of the Mississippi. A fitting and welcome way to end a show featuring a pleasing blend of old and new, possibly placating the addled minds of those still harboring doubts about the future of traditional jazz in New Orleans. With a shout of "We Love You, San Francisco!," more often heard at rock concerts than an intimate jazz venue, the band finally disappeared to warm cheers and a long ovation.

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