Whether it’s playing a headlining set, acting as a backing band for special guests or hosting the SuperJam at Bonnaroo, Preservation Hall Jazz Band’s live performances tend to overshadow the original music that the New Orleans legends make. That’s definitely true with the group’s latest, So it is, which hasn’t received the attention it deserves.
Inspired by numerous collaborations as well as influences that span the jazz history of its hometown through the Afrobeat of Fela Kuti, jazz pioneers such as Pharoah Sanders and John Coltrane and a 2015 trip to Cuba, the seven tracks simmer, sizzle and melt away the miles that divide the origins of sound and rhythm.
Co-produced by Ben Jaffee of PHJB and David Andrew Sitek (TV on the Radio) and with songwriting contributions by longtime PHJB saxophone and clarinet player Charlie Gabriel, the tunes stand out for their exuberant energy and an atmosphere that makes it feel as if you’re standing inside the infamous Preservation Hall at 726 St Peter Street in New Orleans. Once inside, you find the band members playing with the discipline and intensity of a group of musicians determined to make a strong and lasting impression rather than well-respected veterans resting on decades of accolades.
The title track finds the septet flexing their musical muscles in a manner that’s inviting, engrossing and setting us up for the thrilling rush of sounds to come.
“Santiago” and “La Malanga” works like a powerful B12 shot of sound and rhythm, daring you not to move to its polyethnic rhythms and rush of horn flourishes, while “Convergence” acts like the soundtrack to a walk down Bourbon Street and “Mad” becomes the proper sendoff to an album that flashes gold from beginning to end.