Music News & Reviews

Worth a parade to Cincinnati: Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Del McCoury join forces

The Preservation Hall Jazz Band collaborated with bluegrass great Del McCoury and members of his band on two albums. Now they're joining forces onstage at the Aronoff Center in Cincinnati.
The Preservation Hall Jazz Band collaborated with bluegrass great Del McCoury and members of his band on two albums. Now they're joining forces onstage at the Aronoff Center in Cincinnati.

Preservation Hall Jazz Band and the Del McCoury Band

8 p.m. May 20 at Aronoff Center for the Arts, 650 Walnut St. in Cincinnati. $22.50-$52.50. (513) 621-2787.

Scattered among the all-star support team on the Preservation Hall Jazz Band's outstanding 2010 benefit album, Preservation, was Del McCoury. It seemed, on the surface, a curious choice. How could one of the most established ensembles in traditional New Orleans jazz find common ground with a bluegrass great like McCoury — or his elegant and immensely spirited mountain tenor?

But the union was among the more delightful surprises on Preservation. McCoury quietly glowed alongside PHJB pianist Rickie Monie's patient strolls and clarinetist Charlie Gabriel's breezy solos on After You've Gone and Careless Love.

The artists must have gotten a charge out of the summit, as well. In April, audiences were presented with American Legacies, a full collaborative album between the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and the Del McCoury Band. Now we have the ultra-rare opportunity to hear both ensembles joining forces onstage. It will require a road trip, though, to Cincinnati's Aronoff Center for the Arts. But judging by the jubilation summoned on American Legacies, the journey should be more than worthwhile.

American Legacies is limber in mood and execution, placing the PHJB's light, summery strides ahead of the McCoury Band's regal bluegrass sound. But the sense of collaboration is strong. Co-produced by Ronnie McCoury, Del's son and longtime mandolinist, and Preservation Hall chieftain Ben Jaffe, American Legacies lets much of the McCoury Band's string music mesh with PHJB's percussive banjo rhythms. That, in turns, propels the music's summery brass and piano orchestration.

That's the formula at work on the album-opening The Band's in Town, a celebratory boast by both groups of the union at hand. The same holds true for the New Orleans staple Milenberg Joys, which is joyous indeed.

But on the Del McCoury instrumental Banjo Frisco, a genuine level of bluegrass drama unfolds. There, the brass follows in the steps of Rob McCoury and PHJB string man Carl Leblanc like a street parade. Preservation Hall trumpeter Mark Braud, McCoury fiddler Jason Carter and another warp speed blast on mandolin from Ronnie McCoury further fuel the fun.

The album hits its peak with the PHJB original One More 'Fore I Die, a light, Leadbelly-style party piece in the vein of Goodnight Irene with the dancing-on-air tone of Del McCoury's high lonesome tenor leading the festivities.

The PHJB and McCoury Band will each perform abbreviated sets Friday night. The real fun will come when these multigenerational, multicultural units perform as one mammoth Americana collective.

The Gong show

Japanese drummer Tatsuya Nakatani has made many friends during his three Lexington performances in recent years — the most prominent being local music mainstay Dave Farris, who collaborated with Nakatani on each of those dates.

For his return Saturday, Nakatani will expand on that idea. He will be joined by the Nakatani Gong Orchestra, which isn't so much a backing band as a rotating collective of players drawn from the cities he plays in. The lineup for his concert Saturday at Collexion, 111 East Loudon Avenue, will feature three members of Everyone Lives Everyone Wins (Matt Gibson, Jonathan Hampton and Michael Lunsford) along with Nicholas Larkey and Mike "The Geek" Bay. (8 p.m. $5.)

The Boys are back in town

The Blind Boys of Alabama, the extraordinary and stylistically daring Americana gospel brigade, returns to Lexington as the lone guest of WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour on Monday. (6:45 p.m. $20. For reservations, call (859) 252-8888.

The group's longstanding vocalist, Jimmy Carter, talks with us in Sunday's Life + Arts about the group's new country-infused work, Take the High Road.