For the last decade plus, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band has been on a mission to expand its horizons and bring traditional music into places you wouldn’t normally see it. They’re Coachella regulars now, and given their natural ability to get a group of people on their feet, I can see why.
The forward movement under bandleader/ bassist Ben Jaffee’s direction has resulted in their new album So It Is, heavily flavored by the sounds of Cuba, which the band visited in 2015. There are three new players since the last time I saw them, young guys who play with great authority. Keyboardist Kyle Roussel was a standout, a virtuoso player with the ability to solo fearlessly over any kind of music they wanted to play – in this case, a lot of the Cuban-infused new stuff. It was not the precise trip down memory lane folks may have been expecting, but a trip nonetheless, one that requires evolution as well as preservation.
When they started whispering to each other before hollering, “Hey man, come on out here and sing this one,” during the old-timey love letter to New Orleans, “Come With Me,” for some reason it flashed in my mind that the guy about to walk out there was Dave Grohl. I was right.
For once, Grohl looked surprised to be invited, but sheepishly took the mic, waved, looked to saxophonist Charlie Gabriel for the words, and made it through like a good sport. Then he and Jaffee said nice things to each other about their time together on Dave’s “Sonic Highways” TV show, which I realized is what had made me think of him in the first place.
And then, the show went on. No brass band version of “Best Of You,” at least this time around.