"American Legacies,” a collaboration between the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and the Del McCoury Band, occupies the space where jazz and bluegrass meet back on the other side.
The bands will bring their collaboration to Eisenhower Auditorium on Sept. 28 in the opening performance of the 2012-2013 Center for the Performing Arts season.
Ben Jaffe, Preservation Hall’s tuba player and creative director, said they first met McCoury while recording tracks for a benefit album released in 2010. The similarities between the two groups came out pretty quickly into those sessions, he said.
“On the surface, New Orleans style jazz and traditional bluegrass don’t appear to have anything in common, but they’re actually extremely similar,” he said. “As we began to play together and spend more time together, we realized how much bluegrass draws from New Orleans draws and how much they both draw from religious music.”
Those recording sessions eventually turned into “American Legacies,” released last spring, and a series of tour dates around the country. Jaffe said the live shows give the bands an opportunity to continue pushing the boundaries between their respective genres into a new sound they’ve come to call “Mardi Grass.”
“We were able to create an entirely new sound that nobody’s really explored or performed before,” he said. “That’s really something that’s amazing to me … that out of something so traditional came something brand new.”
Jaffe and McCoury have something else in common — both have Pennsylvania roots. McCoury grew up in York County and Jaffe spent time in Pottsville, his father’s birthplace and the town where his grandfather still resides.
Following the success of “American Legacies,” Jaffe said the bands are eager to record together again. Preservation Hall released a 50th anniversary box set Sept. 25 and is set to begin recording a collaboration with another artist later this fall.
After the band’s recent success, Jaffe is ready to take on just about anything that comes his way.
“I feel like if someone told me that we were going to play on the moon, I’d say that’s fine and to make sure I have a vegetarian meal,” Jaffe said with a laugh. “We’ve done things beyond our expectations and dreams. Every morning I wake up and think how lucky we are to have the world as our oyster.”