Preservation Hall Jazz Band has held the torch of New Orleans music aloft for more than 50 years, all the while carrying it enthusiastically forward as a reminder that the history they were founded to preserve is a vibrantly living history.
PHJB marches that tradition forward once again on So It Is, the septet’s second release featuring all-new original music. The album redefines what New Orleans music means today by tapping into a sonic continuum that stretches back to the city’s Afro-Cuban roots, through its common ancestry with the Afrobeat of Fela Kuti and the Fire Music of Pharoah Sanders and John Coltrane, and forward to cutting-edge artists with whom the PHJB have shared festival stages from Coachella to Newport, including legends like Stevie Wonder, Elvis Costello and the Grateful Dead, and modern giants like My Morning Jacket, Arcade Fire and the Black Keys.
“When we play music, the barometer for us as a band is whether the locals are reacting,” bandleader/composer/bassist Ben Jaffeexplains. “In New Orleans we play music for dances and parades, funerals and church. It’s important to us to make music people connect to, that people dance to, that people really feel, emotionally and physically. That’s the tradition we grew up with, that’s what we know.”