The “American Legacies” show delivered by the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and the Del McCoury Band at Red Butte Garden Sunday
night won’t go down as the most popular or talked-about show of the summer, but for those on hand for the night of jazz-meets-bluegrass, there’s no question it will go down as one of the best.---
The two groups, representing two distinctly American strains of roots-music, joined forces for an album in the spring of 2011, and the songs populating that American Legacies
collection filled the two-and-a-half-hour show Sunday
night. While the combination of Preservation Hall’s swinging New Orleans, horn-heavy jazz and the Del McCoury Band’s rapid-fire traditional bluegrass might not seem like a natural pairing, the melding of the two styles works remarkably well, and that’s even truer live in concert than it is on a recording.
Starting with opener “The Band’s in Town,” the combined forces did their best to heat up a crowd that enjoyed a stunning twilight to the evening before the temperature dropped with the sun
. A cover of Hank Williams’ “Jambalaya” immediately followed, with elder statesman McCoury delivering his high-lonesome croon that easily cut through the rumble of a chattering, picnicking crowd.
From that opening one-two punch, the two bands veered from joint performances to breakdowns with one or the other on stage, so fans of either group had to leave satisfied with the proceedings. Both Preservation Hall and Del and his boys delivered intricate instrumental workouts along the way, mixing in old favorites with the songs the bands recorded together to ultimately offer one of the more stirring nights of traditional American music that one could hope for.
Among the highlights during Sunday
’s show were the Del McCoury Band’s take on Richard Thompson’s “1952 Black Vincent Lightening,” delivered after an audience request, and the Lovin' Spoonful's “Nashville Cats.” Together, McCoury’s gang and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band absolutely killed takes on “You Don’t Have to be a Baby to Cry,” “The Sugar Blues” and “Mullensburg Joys.”
As the sun
fell, temperatures dropped and show neared an end, the two bands provided some extended instrumental workouts that were surely a joy to perform; that was the feeling from the audience as more and more people got to their feet to dan
ce along. This was one of only five shows the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and Del McCoury Band are playing together this year, and the joy each group showed at playing with the other was palpable inside the amphitheater.
The show ended with a stellar take on “I’ll Fly Away” and an encore of “When the Saints Go Marching In,” the crowd singing and dan
cing along to the joyful noise emanating from the stage.
There might be bigger and longer shows at Red Butte Garden this summer, but it will be hard to find a better gig or a more historically significant batch of musicians on the Red Butte stage.