March 31st, 2016 wasn’t the first time saw the Preservation Hall Jazz Band play their home venue in the heart of New Orleans’ French Quarter, and I sure hope it won’t be my last.
In so many ways, the Preservation Hall band just screams “New Orleans!” and it screams it loud. When you walk into the small, square room you’d swear that jazz had been living there forever, but much like the utterly familiar music that is played inside those four walls it is a lot more recent than many people might think. Though the walls of the Preservation Hall are bled dark with sonic history the place has been hosting live music for not much more than a relatively short fifty years. And while the music that made the place famous sounds like it has been around since the twelve tone system was created, jazz (and blues, and rock & roll, and basically all popular music) was birthed only a quick century earlier – and just a short stroll away – in Congo Square.
And when you stand there watching the show you’re packed in shoulder-to-shoulder with a pile of other music-loving tourists – just like Bourbon Street – although unlike on the world’s most famous party street everyone in the Preservation Hall is empty-handed (except veterans like yours truly who knows the place serves no drinks and brings in their own – legally and openly). And what are you watching in the storied old place? From the young up-and-comers to the grizzled, greying lifers the Hall presents a collection of the finest jazz players that the Big Easy has to offer, assembled in an impromptu grouping that draws upon a pool of dozens upon dozens of great players, which could aptly describe any of the bands you find on virtually every street corner of the French Quarter at anytime of the day or night.
And finally, just like every vacation I’ve had in the great Crescent City, the show is over before you know it and long before you’re ready to leave. And when you do step out the door you promise to come back again and again, just like you always swear you’ll be back to NOLA as soon as possible just as your plane alights from the tarmac of the Louis Armstrong Airport.
I’ll be back to the Preservation Hall, that I can promise you.