Published Jul 18, 2016With the exception of a half hour rain-and-lightning assault that interrupted Lauryn Hill's set Tuesday night (July 12), the Halifax Jazz Festival was blessed with excellent weather this year — that is, until Sunday night (July 17), when the skies opened up ahead of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band's festival-closing set.
While the rain had stopped by the time the world-famous New Orleans ensemble took to the stage, it understandably took a bit of time for the crowd to shake off the dampness and warm up. But the band — performing as a six piece, and opening with "Bourbon Street Parade" — didn't seem to mind the weather one bit.
"We'll come up here for the summer, and y'all can come to New Orleans for winter," joked creative director Ben Jaffe. "This is beautiful to us!"
Later, during a Cuban number, the band asked everyone in the crowd to pull out their umbrellas and dance, with the goal of making a great photo-op for the local newspaper. Trying to identify the name of said paper by trial-and-error, someone prompted them to say the "Xpress" — the outlet formed by striking journalists from the province's dominant paper.
That was an unintentionally political comment; the band were more intentioned (albeit with humour) when suggesting they were thinking of collectively running for president, calling the idea "one of the best things that could happen to the world right now." Putting aside the political viability — let alone the constitutionality — of such a concept, it spoke to the band's vision: the triumph of music over all, a victory propelled by copious solos and Bourbon Street swagger.
As they worked their way through songs like "Corrine, Corrina," "Shallow Water, Oh Mama" and "Go to the Mardi Gras," the band presented a transplanted-to-Halifax take on New Orleans music culture, easily accessible and open to everyone in attendance. Even when they traded jazz and blues for pop — a fusion of the Jackson 5's "I Want You Back" and Stevie Wonder's "Sir Duke" kicked off the encore — it only welcomed more people under their party's umbrella. It all made for a fittingly fun end to the Halifax Jazz Festival.