Seattle Times: New Orleans Jazz Orchestra Captures Heartbeat of the City


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from The Seattle Times:

The stage in Benaroya Hall was an ocean, vast and endless, the 16-piece New Orleans Jazz Orchestra an island. To encourage intimacy and interaction among the musicians, the men faced one another in a shape that resembled a horseshoe, the way a choir might arrange itself.

Early in Thursday night’s performance, the first of five through Sunday afternoon at Benaroya, trumpeter and bandleader Irvin Mayfield announced they were going to turn the symphony hall into their own little jazz club.

“The first thing we’re going to do is put two bars on stage,” he joked.

The booze never materialized, but the effect he promised did. It was no easy feat in the cavernous hall. But the group overcame the room’s scale by playing with oversized emotion, one that shifted frequently from joy to anguish and all the subtle attitudes in between — sarcasm, surprise, solemnity and wistfulness.

The NOJO is a real, New Orleans band, with real New Orleans musicians and all that comes with that musical breeding: an innate connection to the blues and to the Christian church; a love of the beat; engagement of the audience; and true respect for the notion that the music is just an extension for how you live. You cry, you laugh, you dance, you mourn. That is life and that is the music.

Without taking an intermission, the band moved through seven songs, all of them fiercely traditional, in that they were firmly rooted in the blues, or gospel, or Cuban son. Strong, disciplined arrangements allowed individual musicians to solo, seemingly without tether. It made for moments of beautiful chaos, which also helped to transport the audience a bit from the austere setting of the symphony hall.

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This story appears courtesy of Seattle Jazz Scene.
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