I joined the devout and the curious at the doors of the Preservation Hall. We were young and not so young, waiting for the invitation to come in. And together, brothers and sisters, we gathered for an hour of sweet heavenly bliss, New Orleans Jazz. Bass and clarinet, a trumpet so fine, drums and a piano that sang to us even if it looked like it had seen better days.
And it was almost like church. Maybe more of a chapel. It’s a small venue, only a few benches — reserved for “big shot” ticket holders, plenty of standing room in the back and a couple of rows of seat cushions on the floor in front for those flexible fans.
The walls are a streaked, gray blue, the windows have been painted dark. Get a drink from someplace else if you think you might get thirsty. Find a restroom someplace else, too. Bring a fan because, brothers and sisters, it’s gonna get hot in here tonight. This is New Orleans, after all. And bring a little something to put in the collection. See what I mean? Like church.
Make friends with the person sitting next to you. You’re going to be sharing this religious experience.
For an hour, give in to the music. No photos or phones, please. (They insist.) Tap your foot, nod you head in time with the tempo. Sing the refrain if you so choose. It’s going to be sweet as those familiar and not-so-familiar tunes reach into your soul.
Then before you stumble back onto St. Peter Street, shake hands with your ministers for the evening, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Have you been changed for the better? Maybe yes, maybe no. But wasn’t it sweet?
And can we come again, next Saturday night?
ⓒ Text and photos Mary K. Tilghman