Josiah "Cie" Frasier - drums; Willie Humphrey - clarinet; Jim Robinson - trombone; Narvin Kimball - banjo; Chester Zardis - bass; Punch Miller - trumpet, vocals; Captain John Handy - alto saxophone; George Wein - piano
A lifelong fan of 'trad' jazz, Newport Jazz Festival impresario George Wein loved the Preservation Hall Jazz Band so much that he ended up playing piano with them at the inaugural 1970 New Orleans Jazz Festival. Performing at Municipal Auditorium, the PHJB and Wein whipped up high spirits and good feelings at the free concert. This was a rare opportunity for fans of early New Orleans, locals and tourists alike, to see such old school practitioners as bassist Chester Zardis (born in 1900), drummer Josiah "Cie" Frasier (born in 1904), clarinetist Willie Humphrey (born in 1900), banjoist Narvin Kimball (born in 1909), trumpeter Punch Miller (born in 1894), Jim Robinson (born in 1892) and saxophonist Captain John Handy (born in 1900), all of whom had performed with some of the pioneers who invented jazz, including Papa Celestin, Fate Marable, Jelly Roll Morton, King Oliver and the Tuxedo Brass Band.
The seasoned vets kick off their set with the toe-tapper "Muskrat Ramble," a Kid Ory composition that was first recorded in 1926 by Louis Armstrong and his Hot Five. Humphrey turns in an inspired clarinet solo while Robinson follows with some urgent tailgater statements on trombone. Trumpeter Miller, saxophonist Handy and banjoist Kimball turn in spirited solos and Wein gets off a potent piano solo before Zardis follows with a crowd-pleasing slap bass solo on the upright. The whole band drops out while drummer Frasier commands his kit with a whirlwind solo, and the group returns for a raucous conclusion, soloing simultaneously in early New Orleans jazz tradition. Next up is the Earl Hines romantic ballad "You Can Depend on Me," sung with Louis Armstrong-inspired flair by Miller, who also delivers a sterling trumpet solo here. The underrated, pungent-toned alto saxophonist Handy then testifies on the mournful "Blues in C," a longtime vehicle for him since his early days in the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Clarinetist Humphrey also digs deep into the fabric of this bluesy vehicle and wails with abandon. Trombonist Robinson then engages in some quicksilver call-and-response with pianist Wein before breaking into a swaggering solo of his own, and trumpeter Miller follows with an ebullient solo. And Wein ties up the piece nicely with a stellar two-handed piano solo that impresses the crowd.
They conclude their set with an unnamed toe-tapper which has everyone turning in inspired solos. Wein flashes a bit of bop influence on his own piano solo here. And they encore with "Capt's Boogie Woogie," which has Wein grooving mightily with his left hand on the keys as Handy wails nonchalantly over the top. Clarinetist Humphrey, trumpeter Miller and banjoist Kimball add exhilarating solos on this rockin' finale.
Founded in 1961, the New Orleans group continues to appear regularly at Preservation Hall, an intimate, historic and air condition-less building in the French Quartet at 726 St. Peter Street. A rotating cast of musicians have filled the cramped hall since its opening, and the group continues to tour internationally more than 150 days a year. Though Hurricane Katrina forced Preservation Hall to close its doors from the fall of 2005 through April of 2006, they are back performing under the leadership of tuba player Ben Jaffe, song of the group's founder, Allan Jaffe. In 2008, they released the acclaimed Made in New Orleans: The Hurricane Sessions, culled from early Preservation Hall Jazz Band master tapes salvaged from flood-damaged Seasaint Studios in New Orleans. They followed in 2009 with New Orleans Preservation, Vol. 1, live at Preservation Hall. In July 2011, the group performed live on the Late Show with David Letterman. They continue to make concert appearances around the world while holding down their regular Preservation Hall gig, whenever they happen to be in the Crescent City. (Bill Milkowski)