The Preservation Hall Jazz Band made a rare visit to Cambridge last week, making their first appearance at the Sinclair in Harvard Square. For an extra treat, the show was mercifully inexpensive, a fraction of the ticket price of the other two times I’ve seen them in the Boston area: just $10 including all taxes and fees. Awesome! They had no trouble selling out the 500+ capacity venue at that price. The Sinclair’s standing-room-only setup is also a huge improvement on the other Boston shows I saw, which were both seated at extremely sedate venues which allowed no dancing whatsoever. There was no shortage of dancing at the Sinclair! It’s really becoming one of my favorite mid-size venues in the area.
The Sinclair’s habit of shining lights directly into the front rows of the audience made my camera pretty worthless for most of the show (“Enjoy this five minute video of BLINDING LENS FLARE!“) but I did manage to get one pretty cool shot of Clint Maedgen chilling out with his gorgeous white saxophone while listening to a piano solo.
PHJB always puts on a fun show, classic New Orleans jazz that makes you want to get up and dance every time. Highlights of this particular set for me included “St. James Infirmary,” which they did a sort of double take on, with two different sounding versions and two different vocalists (Mark Braud and Clint Maedgen, IIRC) wrapped up in one song. I guess there are so many nifty ways to do that song that they couldn’t pick just one – and I was really glad to see both! Another part we loved was when sousaphonist Ronell Johnson got a chance to come up front and do lead vocals. I can’t remember the name of the song he sang but it was one of the most energetic and danceable songs of the whole night, just one of those musical moments that makes the whole room happy. Really all of the pieces they did with vocals were great – I’m always amazed that they have been able to find so many musicians who are not only great instrumentalists, but fantastic singers to boot. They played for over an hour and a half and I think we would have been happy to stay a lot longer (but for $10, no one was complaining).
Here’s a great live concert video from Austin City Limits – it’s from 2011 and not the exact same band we saw, but it’s pretty close and it’s a really fun listen. If you only want to watch one song, check out the absolutely epic version of “St. James Infirmary” at the three-minute mark – but the whole thing is excellent.
Preservation Hall Jazz Band is touring extensively in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, so check out their tour page and see if you can make it to one of their shows!
Meta-blog note: Sorry I missed a couple of weeks of blog posts, I went to see about five shows that will probably never get reviewed because I didn’t have time/energy, and now I’m going away for Thanksgivukkah. The Taylor Ho Bynum Sextet was the best of those unblogged shows, and I hope I get to see them again soon. Also, I’m hoping that I will be able to see the John Zorn “Metempsychomagia” premiere st the Stone this weekend, so keep an eye out for that review next week!