Muscat: When Mark Braud, the trumpeter from the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, asked the audience at the Royal Opera House Muscat (ROHM) to dance, they didn't need a second invitation. In fact, they had been waiting to dance from the first notes the band played.
The Preservation Hall Jazz Band came all the way from New Orleans, where they have been a fixture in the city's jazzy French Quarter since 1961 (the musicians have changed over the years but the great music remains the same), and played a sold-out show at the ROHM on Wednesday evening.
Their music is classic bluesy jazz, full of sizzle, sparkle and fun. Full of ragtime swing, it leaves a constant smile on listeners' faces, and simply inspires them to get up and dance. The band has seven musicians, all on different instruments – trumpet, piano, clarinet, saxophone, sousaphone (a huge brass instrument that wraps around the player's upper body), drums and trombone.
One of the joys of their music is that each of the artists has moments in the spotlights. Whether it was the dancing teddy bear Ronell Johnson with his sousaphone, Freddie Lonzo playing his trombone on while lying on his back, or charming old Joe Lastie Jr on the drums, the audience got to appreciate each musician's talents.
A couple of times they slowed down the pace a little bit, first for Petit Fleur, a jazz standard featuring the exquisite sounds of Louis Ford on clarinet, and then Just a Closer Walk With Three, a duet with the trumpet and piano, which was absolutely heart wrenchingly beautiful.
A couple of songs featured vocals, too, thanks to Mark Braud and saxophonist Clint Maedgen. While Clint only sang one song, he was most impressive! His growly, raspy voice verges on rock-n-roll, and the way he danced around the microphone showed the music coursing through his veins. It would have been great to hear more from him.
About half-way through the second half of the concert, the audience was finally encouraged to dance, and within seconds almost everyone was on their feet, clapping and swaying along to the tunes. A few couples even found space to jive and spin. That kind of interaction with the band was fantastic, and made the night much more memorable.
The roots of jazz and blues may lie in the oppression, struggle and hardship faced by African-Americans, but Preservation Hall Jazz Band has turned the music into a true celebration of life!