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by Seth Colter Walls

July 15, 2013

Preservation Hall Primer

by Seth Colter Walls  |  July 15, 2013

For over 50 years -- come hell or (literally) high water -- the Preservation Hall Jazz Band have been celebrating the legacy of New Orleans early jazz. The lineups change, soloists come and go, but in the best spirit of collective-improvisation playing, the sound and most of the songs all remain the same. You don't come to their show to hear cats trying to outdo each other, as you do with lots of other jazz gigs; you come for a community throw-down, set to tunes like "Tiger Rag" and "Down on the Farm." The band's always-rowdy, occasionally ragged early-years period is best captured on Volumes 1-4 of its New Orleans series of LPs on Columbia.

More recently, after Hurricane Katrina threatened the locals' archival space, some admirers from the pop world dropped in on the preservationists, the better to celebrate a tradition that has fed all sorts of careers in American music. The album St. Peter and 57th Street featured memorable vocal cameos from the likes of Merrill Garbus (also known as tUnE-yArDs) and Yasiin Bey (aka Mos Def). A 50th Anniversary Collection, issued in 2012, brought to light new collaborations with Richie Havens ("Trouble in Mind") and Tom Waits ("Tootie Ma Is a Big Fine Thing").

That's It!, the latest album from the latest Preservation Hall lineup, branches out into all-new songs for the first time. You can even hear a bit of Waits' influence, here and there. But it still sounds like New Orleans, too, no matter the decade. Check the appended playlist for all the new tracks and more. (You didn't think we'd leave off "When the Saints Go Marchin' In," did you?)

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