Newport Folk Festival: Preservation Hall Jazz Band

Lift your top hat and shake out your black cane; when the Preservation Hall Jazz Band take the stagem you’ll want your tap shoes to be shined and ready to dance. Armed with classic jazz instruments (but spruced with paint and spirit), the band took the main stage this Saturday afternoon to deliver Newport’s famous jazz hall sound to fans scattered on the lawn.

The Preservation Hall Jazz Band, a group whose name is taken from a New Orleans’ hall, travel the world hoping to spread the infectiousness and purity that is jazz. They don’t just stick to smokey bar-room tunes. Instead, they make sure to spark a love inside those old and young, showing jazz is most certainly not dead.

Even though its members are older than most band members today, they brought arguably more energy to the stage than the younger acts. Tao Seeger joined the band onstage as well as Del McCoury to bring extra flavor to their sound, including latin-inspired vocals. Paired with the on-tune chirp of the clarinet, the songs they joined in on were different enough to beg the audience to twist their hips just a little bit more.

With traditional jazz bass lines that quickly run the scale and instruments that are bright enough to see the whole world’s reflection behind you, the Preservation Jazz Hall Band is full of class and formality. That being said, there’s nothing holding them back from having fun – or the audience, for that matter.

One of my favorite moments was when they started out a song with just tuba, an instrument that could take the place of a bass guitar but is often found to be a little silly or confusing. The track got two girls on the side of the stage to grab one another’s hands and start doing a tango, showing off more dance skills than those around them were, I’m sure, were expecting. They danced their way through the whole song and laughed as they did so.

From photographers in the front line to grandparents in lawn chairs (and even us at our tent!), people were side stepping and swinging to the jazzy old time music that is impossible to dislike. When taking a break to catch their breath, they thanked the crowd only to get a loud shout back, “No – we love YOU!”


By Nina Corcoran

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