[Dixielandjazz] Preservation Hall Band and Re-Inventing Yourself

Mike Woitowicz banjomusic at charter.net
Sat Jul 6 12:03:42 PDT 2013

The recent thread regarding the Preservation Hall band really gets to the crux of being successful in today's live music atmosphere.

Personally, I think the new PH CD is great -- it swings, has a fresh sound and some of the tunes will be covered by other bands (if they haven't been already).

Bob Ringwald's comments about the age of the Jazz Age with regard to OKOM is true. I have found the same situation with my banjo performances over the last few years. In the 1950's and '60's I played sing-a-longs at Shakeys Pizza. We were performing the tunes of the Gay 90's (1890's) and the 1920's. The tunes were 50 years old then, but still remembered by many customers. I started playing those same tunes to retirement home folks when I started doing solo shows 10 years ago, and only a few the customers were familiar with the tunes. For the most part their musical reference base started in a different time period.

I had to "re-invent" my solo performances to correspond to today's customer age profile and the musical reference base which they remember. Tunes from the 1950's and 1960's are now the "old time sing-a-longs". I get a great response to "Mr. Sandman, The Ballad of Jed Clampbett, Hello Dolly, Lara's Theme from Dr. Zhivago, Tom Dooley" and the like. People yawn at "Margie, My Blue Heaven" and similar tunes. There are a few very old timers who request them from time to time, but for the most part, they are "dead in the water" tunes. I feel this applies to the music style in general.

Likewise, it seems the Preservation Hall band is re-inventing itself with a new sound and a great swing feeling. This "swing" was missing in their past recordings and live performances I feel. I remember seeing and hearing them live in Preservation Hall 30 years ago, and wondered then how their funeral dirge sound allowed them to hold on to their customers. I don't know any of the politics of the changing of musicians or other aspects of this band, but I feel the new sound will get them a new generation of followers. 

The DJML is constantly bombarded with messages that OKOM music is not accepted like the "old" days. Well, I will go out on a limb and say that it may never be again. Unless the musicians performing the music re-invent their playlists and performances to correspond to today's customers, the musical work will disappear. Much of it already has. Of course, I am speaking from a banjo player's perspective, but I think the principle applies. 

I will stand back now with my flack jacket place!

Mike Woitowicz, Banjoist
Solo Banjo Music Shows
The Banjo Barons Ragtime Band 
The Dixie Barons Dixieland Band 

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