Friday, December 7, 2012


The Preservation Hall Jazz Band

At 8:00am sharp, the seven members of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band walked onto the stage at Orchestra Hall in mid-town Detroit wearing pallbearer black suits. The band was founded in New Orleans in 1961 and has since become a landmark. The last five plus years the PHJB has experienced a second wind, and the band has been busy touring the world. 

Thursday evening the PHJB stopped in Detroit to play the second concert of the Paradise Jazz Series. The band gave the near capacity house a hearty dish of swing New Orleans style. The members were trumpeter Mark Braud, clarinetist Charlie Gabriel, trombonist Freddie Lonzo, pianist Rickie Monie, saxophonist Clint Maedgen, drummer Joseph Lastie Jr., and tuba and bassist Ben Jaffe.

The PHJB played two sets full of brace-yourself-moments. The first set was full of well-known blues classic such as “St. Louis Blues,” and “Basin Street Blues”. Trombonist Freddie “the Voice” Lonzo stacked up the most unforgettable moments. Lonzo is a character and a monstrous trombonist, and he was comical at times. He’s lauded as the last of what's known as “tailgate trombonists”.

As expected clarinet Charlie Gabriel, the elder of the band at, 80, was the crowd favorite. Gabriel was born in New Orleans, but he spent the majority of his professional life in Detroit. Gabriel had a ball on stage ribbing his band-mates and singing and dancing.

Gabriel isn’t the greatest singer in the world, nor is the other members of the PHJB, who sang during the concert, but Gabriel is one of the finest clarinetists around. No circus tricks. He shoots straight from the hip with the accuracy of a sharpshooter.

Gabriel first played Orchestra Hall back in 1948 when it was the Paradise Theater. Four songs into the set the band had the audience’s full participation. New Orleans musicians are masterful at working a crowd. The second set was better than the first. 

This go around, the band had a chance to show their virtuosity, each hogging the spotlight for a moment. It was cheesy, but the audience ate it up. It seemed as if the band downed some swing juice concoction during the intermission. 

The band returned charged. The set began with a delicious solo from trumpeter Mark Braud, firing away like an avid big game hunter. Braud’s playing was a reminder that New Orleans has blessed the music world with some of the best trumpeters. 

For the third number everybody cleared the stage but pianist Rickie Monie. The concert was billed as a Christmas special; during the opening set the band only performed one Christmas number. Monie played a medley of Christmas songs. Gabriel and Ben Jaffe followed with a clarinet and a tuba duet. Then the other members rejoined the party. 

If nothing else, New Orleans’ jazz bands and musicians know how to put on a party. They had the audience worked up and sweaty.  By the end of the concert there wasn’t a dry armpit in the building. You would’ve thought, given the audience's condition, they had completed a 10k run.
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