Thursday, February 2, 2012
The Preservation Hall Jazz Band is more than a group of seven world-class musicians. They’re an embodiment of New Orleans jazz dedicated to spreading their art form all over the world, including Carmel, where they perform Thursday at the Sunset Center.
“We really value the tradition of music in New Orleans,” says trumpeter and vocalist Mark Braud. “It’s not only music, it’s a way of life and it’s incorporated into everything from parties to funerals.”
For Braud, one of the youngest members of the group and nephew of two former PHJB leaders (Wendell and John Brunious Jr.), the music runs through his blood: As a fourth-generation New Orleans jazz musician, it was only natural that he became a permanent member of the seminal band.
“When I was growing up, there were always instruments around and every family gathering would turn into a jam session,” Braud says. “By the time I picked up an instrument, it was a vehicle for me to express myself because I already knew what it was supposed to sound like.”
PHJB’s New Orleans jazz style approximates a rich gumbo of Dixieland, marching band, big band and swing, with a heavy brass section that brings all the elements together like hot sauce on red beans and rice.
The outfit’s rendition of the Big Easy standard “Tailgate Ramble” brings all the sounds of Bourbon Street to life: the playful draw of Freddie Lonzo’s trombone, the deep bellow of Ben Jaffe’s tuba and the upbeat tempo of Braud’s trumpet. It whisks you away to Mardi Gras.
“The music is living and breathing and that’s the way it’s always been,” Braud says. “Since the beginning of this music, people have brought new life to it and it keeps evolving. We all bring our life experiences and musical influences to the table and try to exist as one unit.”
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The infectious and high-energy sound has been a source of inspiration for musicians of all walks of life. In fact, My Morning Jacket’s Jim James appeared on the band’s all-star benefit album, Preservation, and in 2010, his group joined PHJB at Preservation Hall for an epic concert during the New Orleans Jazz Festival. Footage of the monster performance was eventually used in the documentary film, Live At Preservation Hall: Louisiana Fairytale, which debuted at SXSW last year.
“There’s so many people in New Orleans willing to help young and upcoming musicians and that’s a special thing,” Braud says. “The musicians there always seem to want to nurture the younger generation, just like I do now.”
On Jan. 7, the PHJB celebrated its 50-year anniversary – with guests that included The Blind Boys of Alabama, Steve Earle and Mos Def – at Carnegie Hall. And that’s one of the reasons Braud and the rest of the band continue to mentor younger musicians: so the next generation of the PHJB will be ready to step in and keep the New Orleans jazz tradition alive for another 50 years.
PRESERVATION HALL JAZZ BAND performs at 8pm Thursday, Feb. 2, at Sunset Center, San Carlos at Ninth Ave., Carmel. $39; 49; $59. 620-2048.