Jazz Meets Bluegrass at Eisenhower Auditorium
The Center for the Performing Arts kicked off its 2012-13 season on Friday with a collaborative performance that showcased diverse types of music coming together as one. Sharing the stage was the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, hailing from New Orleans, and The Del McCoury Band, from Nashville. Both groups have been touring for more than 50 years, and the combined talent lit up the stage at Eisenhower Auditorium.
I’ve never seen two bands work together so skillfully, and in addition, the show was a lot of fun. Genres included jazz, bluegrass, Dixieland, blues, Cajun ballads, folk songs, and more. When you hear the full range of brass and string instruments together, the shared roots between styles is clearer than ever.
In one great moment, Jason Carter, the fiddle player, ended a solo, and Charlie Gabriel, the clarinetist, crossed over the stage smiling, inspired to trade a round of solos with him. In another song, saxophonist Clint Maedgen played the main melody of the song, but as he heard pianist Rickie Monie improv, just dropped out, listened, and smiled, letting Monie take it away.
Both bands knew how to please the crowd, whether it was sousaphone player Ronell Johnson dancing around and whipping out some crazy bass notes, or a funny song about the hundreds of guitar pickers in Nashville. At one point, Joe Lastie, the drummer, started a slowly escalating drum roll, and everyone on stage backed away from him until he exploded into an awesome solo. Though all of the musicians were extremely talented, I have to single out Ronnie McCoury, who led the Del McCoury band on some of his original songs featuring the mandolin. You can hear a sample of his fast-picking, energetic style here, but it can only really be done justice in person.
The concert was a great way to kick off the Center for the Performing Art’s 2012-13 season — talented artists having fun making incredible music together. In the program, the notes explain that Preservation Hall’s mission is to welcome people “interested in one of the last pure music experiences left on Earth,” and Friday’s lively show did just that.