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Review Sat Apr 14 2012

Review: Preservation Hall Jazz Band @ S.P.A.C.E. 4/10

phjb11-lores.jpg

Preservation Hall Jazz Band © Shannon Brinkman

Anyone who's considered the option of aging gracefully needs to spend an evening in close proximity to Charlie Gabriel, the 79 year-old clarinetist and saxophonist who plays with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, and has a penchant for shaking his booty onstage. Gabriel's family has been playing music since the 1850's, and Gabriel himself has played with jazz luminary Lionel Hampton, among others.

Tuesday's lineup of PHJB musicians read like a who's-who of New Orleans Jazz: trumpeter Mark Braud; the aforementioned Charlie Gabriel; trombonist Freddie Lonzo (who's bio omits his birth-date, stating simply that he was "Born in New Orleans, Louisiana;") pianist Rickie Monie; clarinetist and vocalist Clint Maedgen; drummer Joe "Little Joe" Lastie, Jr.; and tuba player Ron Johnson. The group, whose members number at least in the teens, appeared at S.P.A.C.E. in Evanston as part of their 50-year celebration tour. They will continue to tour through mid-August, playing in venues from coast to coast, and internationally in Canada, Brazil, and Argentina.

The first and only other time I saw the PHJB was in New Orleans when I was a teenager, and it was love at first sight. Seeing them again after all these years only reinforced those feelings. From my seat I had an unobstructed view of Ricky Moody's dark eyebrows perched above the white rims of his hip eyeglasses, his face doubled in the reflection on the piano surface like an optical illusion. Clint Maedgen's pencil-thin mustache and slicked back hair were as evocative of John Waters as Cab Calloway. The tuba is a mighty thing, and Ron Johnson's physique neatly matched the over-sized ampersand of an instrument that snaked its way around his neck and high above his head like a carillon. And Freddie Lonzo? Freddie played tailgate style trombone from his seat, the slide reaching clear off the stage and into the audience. On what seemed to be a dare he held a note for at least five minutes, using the magic of circular breathing as he ambled around the circumference of the room, picked up a couple beers from the bar, and ended his marathon note only to get in front of the mic and sing the vocals of the next number. As much comedian as he is musician, he add libbed: "I love to love you on my eucalyptus machine," as he mimed working out on an elliptical.

There is something magical about brass instruments -- how on earth does anyone know where to put their fingers to make those notes happen? And there's something magical about New Orleans Jazz. You won't have another chance to see the PHJB live unless you go to them, but you can always listen to their music at home, or visit them at Preservation Hall.

 
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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

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