There is no happier feeling in this world than walking down Bourbon Street in the evening, the main drag running through the infamous French Quarter of New Orleans. The party atmosphere is always alive and well after dark in the Quarter, Mardi Gras or not, with seemingly endless amounts of lively New Orleans style jazz music pouring out from the bars, along with the sounds of furious partying, roaring laughter and tons of glasses clinking. And don't underestimate the partying happening on the balconies above the fabulous streets of the Quarter. It's simply a happy place to be, with the finest foods, jazziest music and a variety of adult beverages that would make any barkeep proud. If only we could bottle and sell this feeling, Prozac would most definitely be run out of business.
But what to do? .... that would be a considerably lengthy segue to my New Orleans style adventure at the lovely Schermerhorn Center last night. The reason? I wanted you to get an idea of the lush and lively feeling of walking down Bourbon Street, and imagine that feeling coming at you from the stage of the aristocratic Symphony Center. A little like salt and pepper, day and night, sweet and sour, black and white, isn't it? Perhaps it seems that way, but this is the very fact that I try to stress to you in almost every article I write about this Center. It ain't just classical (what some would call stuffy) music anymore.
Far from stuffy, the atmosphere at the Center last night was young, hip and most impressively on the party end of the entertainment spectrum, and how could it not be, with the legendary Preservation Hall Jazz Band giving us a full repertoire of New Orleans inspired jazz music, oldies and originals, ranging from low and slow to happy, sappy and an overload of snappy tunes to fill our hearts and ears with the sound of the French Quarter.
What a fantastic time it was, the sold-out symphony house obviously full of Preservation Hall fans, ranging from very young to very old, dressed up and dressed down, clapping hands, stomping feet and singing along. You might wonder how a band, started in the 60s, brings in a not only a full house, but a house at least half-full of people 35 and under, of all ethnicities, personalities ranging from hip to hippie, geek to preppy and conservative to liberal, sitting side by side, jamming to the same music. I think the simple answer might be right there in that statement. The Preservation Hall Jazz Band, and New Orleans style jazz in general, seems to appeal to a vast inclusion of every age, style, disposition and income level of the population.
The New Orleans based band is the namesake of a famous French Quarter jazz venue, Preservation Hall, which was birthed in 1961 from a desire to bring back previously waning in popularity New Orleans style jazz. In a time of segregation and turmoil, this was one of the few venues in New Orleans or the South, for that matter, that welcomed both Caucasian and African-American musicians. In other words, the band, birthed about the same time as a venue which welcomed everyone at a time when most didn't, has continued the tradition of appealing to all, no matter the color, beliefs, persuasion or preference of music.
And what a cool band it is (yea, man!), with members whose entire families are musicians and even one who is the son of the original group founders; sousaphone and bass player, Ben Jaffe, also the Creative Director of the current generation of the band. It's New Orleans, Mardi Gras, history and plain all-American joy all mixed into one night of nothing but good, old-and-new-fashioned New Orleans style jazz music, with a slight tinge of the blues, played with the spirit of the city, the style of some of the greatest jazz musicians ever and the pride of those who love what they do. I'm not sure when the band will be back at Schermerhorn, but check out Preservation Hall Jazz Band's schedule and make sure not to miss the next performance you can experience yourself.
Not going to be playing in your area? Never fear, Schermerhorn has you covered with more entertainment than you can shake a stick at, including 60s music from The Jersey Boys as The Midtown Men make their way to Nashville's best music venue on April 3 - 5, and the seriously legendary B.B. King on April 7 - talk about one you simply cannot miss. Then, on April 11, is my personal favorite "star" of all time, Whoopi Goldberg, which is guaranteed to be an incomparable night of irreverent fun. And don't forget the Schermerhorn's new Coffee & Classics series, on select Friday mornings at 10:30, complete with free parking, free coffee and free delectable pastries, oh... and a lovely classical concert, which happens to be Mozart Masterpieces on April 25, surely an event you can't dare miss.
For tickets and more information, check out nashvillesymphony.org.