Preservation Hall Jazz Band & Del McCoury Band – American Legacies – McCoury Music and Preservation Hall Recordings, 47:12 *****:
(Alan Bartram – bass; Mark Braud – trumpet, vocals; Jason Carter – fiddle; Frank Demond – trombone; Charlie Gabriel – clarinet, vocals; Ben Jaffe – drums, co-producer, tuba; Joe Lastie Jr. – drums; Carl LeBlanc – banjo, trombone; Freddie Lonzo – trombone; Clint Maedgen – saxophone, vocals; Del McCoury – executive producer, guitar, vocals; Rob McCoury – banjo; Ronnie McCoury – mandolin, co-producer, vocals; Rickie Monie – piano; David Silverman – tuba)
The 47-minute American Legacies album – starring the Preservation Hall Jazz Band & the Del McCoury Band – is collaboration in the truest essence of the word and a confluence of two of America’s greatest musical inventions, bluegrass and jazz. Some might believe bluegrass and jazz are miles apart but they share numerous similarities and the two genres have come together in quite a few ways over many decades. First, both styles require dazzling virtuosity, respect for the past and devotion to well-defined creative forms. Secondly, jazz and bluegrass (and thus country) have had extensive, continuing connections. Certain songs have become standards in both musical circles, while several artists have combined country/bluegrass shadings with jazzy swing, from Bob Wills to Louis Armstrong and from Chet Atkins to Herb Ellis.
American Legacies mines tradition and listeners could not ask for better interpreters than the Preservation Hall Jazz Band & the Del McCoury Band. McCoury apprenticed with Bill Monroe before starting his own band more than four decades ago and has sustained a time-honored bent ever since. The Preservation Hall Jazz Band was founded a few years after McCoury began his group and has carried forward a New Orleans-inclined heritage.
This recording is democratic in every sense, with trombone alongside banjo, guitar linked with clarinet and vocal contributions from both ensembles. The album opens with the apropos “The Band’s in Town,” an upbeat song composed by Preservation Hall Jazz Band drummer Ben Jaffe and sung by Del McCoury. The piece sets a buoyant tone which is heard throughout the dozen tracks. Jaffe’s arrangement appropriately borrows from the jazz and country staple “Mama Don’t ‘Low,” and in just five minutes everyone shows off their chops, with horns and stringed instruments going toe to toe and head to head.
Another highlight is a sweet rendition of “One Has My Name (The Other Has My Heart),” a country-pop hit penned by former cowboy movie star Eddie Dean. Jason Carter’s high fiddle and Mark Braud’s muted trumpet provide emphasis to the tale of two women in one man’s life. Carter and Braud are also heard to fine effect during the lilting “The Sugar Blues,” a well-worn standard about love gone sour, previously done by Kid Ory, Count Basie, Doc Boggs and scores of others. Probably the best known number is “Mullensburg Joys,” which has been around – with several title variations – for at least a century and has been covered by McCoury’s prior employer, Bill Monroe, as well as Sidney Bechet, Roy Rogers and countless others. This is an instrumental tour de force, with the horn and rhythm sections, pianist Rickie Monie, the banjoists and others furnishing a metrical vigor which showcases the richness of both bluegrass and jazz, with the accent here on the jazz side.
The original material is on par with the older cuts. McCoury’s vital instrumental, “Banjo Frisco,” has banjo, guitar and the horns all spinning through the melodic lines. McCoury also does a new translation of “50/50 Chance,” his song about a money-grubbing woman. Here the cut is given a stiff dose of Crescent City rhythmic flair. Another vibrant original bluegrass/jazz hybrid is “One More ‘Fore I Die,” a sparkling track sung by McCoury, which has a hint of gospel in lyrics about getting just one more (a drink?) before meeting the end with a smile.
1. The Band’s in Town
2. One Has My Name (The Other Has My Heart)
3. Shoeshine Blues
4. Banjo Frisco
5. A Good Gal (Is Hard to Find)
7. I’ll Fly Away
8. You Don’t Have to Be a Baby to Cry
9. The Sugar Blues
10. Mullensburg Joys
11. 50/50 Chance
12. One More ‘Fore I Die
— Doug Simpson