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Preservation Hall Jazz Band heats up

Published: Monday, June 11 2012 5:03 p.m. MDT

Life can be measured by the things on your "bucket list" and the things you never knew were on there in the first place. They include those truly memorable nights in your life that when someone asks about them, or when something reminds you, you can't help but pause for a moment and smile.

One of those nights happened for me in New Orleans a year ago with my sisters. After a great meal on a balmy night, we sat down and heard some live jazz. It was real, New Orleans jazz — in the heart of the French Quarter.

The music, beats and improvisation were so infectious that the slapping of my hands on the tops of my thighs would later turn to bruises. I slapped with such gusto that I couldn't help myself.

I tried to be more careful Sunday night at Red Butte Garden as the Preservation Hall Jazz Band took the stage, but it was hard.

The large band, clad in attire that could pass for costumes from the movie "Men In Black," delicately wailed — if that's possible — from one classic to the next.

Kicking it off with "They Come to Play" and "On the Bayou," the band, featuring guitar, mandolin, banjo, fiddle, clarinet, piano and plenty of brass, talked little and played a lot and seemed to have a fantastic time doing so.

In a joint effort, much like the CD released in 2011, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band played with the Del McCoury band, creating a night of vintage New Orleans jazz, with a little bit of classic bluegrass sprinkled in.

Del McCoury leads the five-piece band and shares the stage with two of his sons, one the reigning Mandolin Player of the Year for eight years running, the other named fiddle player of the year three times. McCoury's ease with the audience made the evening feel more like an intimate gathering in a living room rather than a sprawling hillside. He even asked the crowd if there were any requests, which was met with hundreds of responses. The band settled on "Vincent Black Lightning," saying it gets requested "all the time."

By the second half, most of the crowd had donned sweatshirts, coats, gloves, earmuffs, fleece and anything else that could be used for warmth. It didn't seem to affect the musicians, even though they're used to playing in the heavy warm air of New Orleans.

The unseasonably cold temperatures left many in the audience unprepared; some left early.

Which is too bad because they missed the red-hot jazz of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, including "I'll Fly Away" and "Sugar Blues."

The band wrapped up the evening with "When the Saints Go Marching In," a sure-fire way to bring the audience to its feet, and it did just that. Back in New Orleans, it'll cost you $10 to get the band to play that perennial favorite (which often causes the crowd to march through the music hall). Sunday night at Red Butte, the crowd danced on blankets as the temperature dropped and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band delivered another memorable evening of all-American music.

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