Listen closely and youll hear the steady hum of Sacramentos jazz and improvisational music scene.
Vivian Lees long-running Sunday-night series at JBs Lounge has steadily mixed local, regional and national acts in a strongly programmed, broad-based series with a loyal following.
Similarly, Ross Hammonds Nebraska Mondays at Lunas has settled in with an audience seeking more edgy, experimental fare. The Shady Lady Saloon also regularly hosts solid mainstream players who perform with no cover charge.
Recently, Jeff Alkire added a monthly series at Beatnik Studios that features local bands. The larger venues are also doing their part, with the Mondavi Center and Harris Center both bringing strong national touring acts into the region.
This week, midtowns Crest Theatre swings back into musical action with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band bringing its new-world take on decidedly old-school jazz, and there are several other worthwhile shows on tap as well. Heres a look:
Preservation Hall Jazz Band
Ben Jaffe lives tradition in a way few people do. As creative director for the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Jaffe runs the group his parents created, which plays music passed down for generations. He takes his gig seriously.
Yeah I was literally born into it, but everybody in the band was born into the music, said Jaffe, 42.
The bands home is Preservation Hall an old art gallery converted into a music venue in New Orleans French Quarter, and its musicians are all from NOLA (New Orleans, La.), historically considered the birthplace of jazz.
Musicians such as Louis Armstrong, King Oliver and Jellyroll Morton grew up and began their careers in the Big Easy, creating the first American-born art form in the process. Many of the eight-man PHJB draw direct lines to family members who played with those jazz originators.
A lot of the repertoire we perform, we inherited, Jaffe said. Hes referencing tunes such as Tiger Rag, Careless Love, His Eye Is on the Sparrow and true New Orleans classics such as Basin Street Blues, St. James Infirmary and even When the Saints Go Marching In.
Theyre sort of heritage songs, Jaffe said, songs that have been a part of the New Orleans canon for 100 years, and what we do is interpret them in our own way.
The group, which plays Saramentos Crest Theatre on Wednesday, includes band leader and trumpeter Mark Braud, Charlie Gabriel on clarinet and saxophone, Ronell Johnson on tuba, Joseph Lastie Jr. on drums, Freddie Lonzo on trombone, Clint Maedgen on tenor saxophone and Rickie Monie on piano. Jaffe plays tuba just as his father, Allan, did.
Jaffes parents werent from NOLA; they were from Philadelphia. But they loved and appreciated New Orleans culture and acted to preserve it. The Jaffes were inspired by the folk music revival that was happening in coffeehouses around the country at the time. Sandra Jaffe used her journalism skills learned at Bryn Mawr to help promote and market the hall and its band. Allan Jaffe, who died in 1987 at 51, ran the group and is still widely credited for the international revival of traditional New Orleans jazz.
When my parents came here, they created something that didnt exist, Ben Jaffe said. Sometimes it takes outsiders to kick-start something thats progressive or to acknowledge how amazing your natural culture actually is.
In 1961, they turned an art gallery on St. Peter Street into Preservation Hall a rare move at that time creating an integrated music venue that hosted old-time musicians who had played the music since its early origins.
When this music was in its heyday, during the time of Louis Armstrong in the 20s, the venues were parties and restaurants and bars and brothels, houses of ill repute, Jaffe said. There were no jazz clubs or jazz venues, so its amazing that a thing like Preservation Hall was even considered or conceptualized.
In 1963, Allan Jaffe organized the first Preservation Hall Jazz Band that would tour to make sure the music stayed alive and vital by exposing it all around the country.
The bands personnel has turned over numerous times but Jaffe said its not hard to find people who can play with them.
The PHJB and New Orleans music is a cultural phenomenon, Jaffe said. There is a community of musicians and part of our responsibility and my responsibility is being informed about that community and participating in that community and nurturing and nourishing that community, he said.
Thats really what Preservation Hall is about, he continued. Its not just about our band and continuing our traditions, and making new traditions, but its also about nourishing not just the generation after us but three, four, five generations down the road.
When its time for me to lay my head down, I hope there will have been several generations of musicians that Ive hired.
7:30 p.m. Wednesday; Crest Theatre (1013 K St., Sacramento); $29-$49; www.tickets.com; (800) 225-2277.
Call The Bees Marcus Crowder, (916) 321-1120.