That's It!

That's It! (Sony Legacy) is a hell of a fun album: the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, the treasure of New Orleans music, wailing with cylinders wide open.

Purists might protest. All the songs on this record are new (a first for the PHJB), and the solos tend more toward R&B riffs than trad-jazz polyphony. In short, the vibe seems to pulse more from the rowdy late-night clubs up on Frenchman Street than the band's usual stately sanctuary in the heart of the French Quarter.

Not that there's anything wrong with that, and there's very little wrong with That's It! The octet—a trumpet, two reeds, a trombone, piano, drums, and two tubas (with some occasional switching to bass or banjo, and by the way they all double as singers)—are top-notch musicians in the idiom, and they're in terrific form here.

This is a very good sounding album too: brash brass, reedy saxophones, eye-blinking drums, and deep-down, air-pumping bass tones. I have one objection (and this is why I wrote that there's "very little wrong," instead of "nothing wrong," with the album): there's too much reverb. Preservation Hall, where the album was recorded, is very small (as I discovered to my surprise when I first went to a concert there a few years ago), more like a pub or a country church, complete with wooden benches, than a concert hall. But the producers, Jim James and Ben Jaffe, or the engineer, Kevin Ratterman—who do an otherwise superb job—decided to make it sound like a large-ish hall. They lose some intimacy in the process and shmear a little smear on the detail.

Again, this is a minor matter, and maybe less than that to a listener who doesn't know what the hall looks and sounds like. Don't let it keep you from the good time this disc offers. It's available in CD and vinyl, both formats mastered by Bob Ludwig. The LP is taken from 24/96 files, so, as you might expect, it sounds a little better—the bass more articulate, the vocals more 3D—but the CD sounds fine too.

Devil Doc's picture

"The hall isn't large. The space drawn by the recording is. I connected via email with mixer Michael Brauer who confirmed that the space is a combination of room sound and plate, not digital reverb."

I have no idea what plate is.

I do love this LP. I think it has some of the best recorded tuba, ever.


John Atkinson's picture

Devil Doc wrote:
I have no idea what plate is.

An echo plate is literally that: a plate of metal with a mechanical exciter at one end and a pickup at the other. It generates remarkably smooth-sounding reverb that, while not really like any the reverb of any real space, can sound very appealing.

John Atkinson

Editor, Stereophile