by Brian Weidy
(Photo: New York Times)
On this unseasonably warm January Saturday, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band came into New York to celebrate their 50th anniversary in grand style. The performance took place at the bucolic Stern Auditorium at Carnegie Hall, with the most incredible acoustics and pristine sound in the city.
The band, comprised of seven of the most talented and well respected musicians in New Orleans, began the first set with a song in a very traditional Dixieland sound, the enthusiastic crowd clapping along with the band. As the band began their next song, wide smiles broke across their faces, and as the crowd began to recognize the familiar melodies of "When The Saints Go Marching In," loud cheers and applause began raining down from the rafters.
The rest of the evening was filled with a parade of guest musicians, starting with one of the latest buzz bands out of Louisiana, GIVERS. They were followed by the Del McCoury Band, adding a distinctive bluegrass flavor to the proceedings.
The band began their second set with "Tootie Ma is a Big Fine Thing": it would be the last time they'd be on stage by themselves. While guests came and went throughout the evening, one certain highlight was when Allen Toussaint strolled out onto the stage, who was then followed by Trombone Shorty and Yasiin Bey (F.K.A. Mos Def), creating some of the most thunderous applause of the evening.
As Yasiin and Allen Toussaint left the stage, Jim James arrived to sing two songs, including a soulful take on "St. James Infirmary" with a full troupe of dancers on stage. James' bandmates in My Morning Jacket then came out to play a soulful rendition of "Wonderful (The Way I Feel)" off the band's latest release, Circuital, with James displaying his impressive vocal range. My Morning Jacket finished their stint on stage with a lively run through Al Johnson's "Carnival Time."
After Tao Seeger sang a quick song, the band finished with two songs performed with Steve Earle, including a powerful rendition of Earle's "This City," written about New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
For their encore, every guest that had played throughout the evening (along with a few new ones) came out for a "Last Waltz" rendition of the hymn-turned-song "I'll Fly Away." As the dozens of guests were filtering off of the stage, only the band and the kids from the Preservation Hall Jazz Band Foundation remained on stage for a reprise of "When The Saints Go Marching In," which got the whole audience off of their feet, some even dancing to the lively rendition.