The 60-year-old New Orleans jazz group is set to perform Christmas and jazz classics in downtown Riverhead.
Just in time for the holiday season, a special Christmas spectacle will travel from New Orleans, up the Mississippi River, through several states to entertain an audience in Riverhead for one night only.
The New Orleans jazz ensemble Preservation Hall Jazz Band will perform its “A Creole Christmas” program at The Suffolk on Sunday, Nov. 26, at 7 p.m. The band will perform a mix of New Orleans jazz classics and popular Christmas tunes — a balancing act the band considers each year, according to Grammy-nominated trumpet player and bandleader Branden Lewis.
“There’s some Christmas curmudgeons out there … Then there are guys who are like, ‘We should do almost all Christmas songs,’ ” he explained of crafting this year’s program. “So I’m definitely in that [latter] camp, my birthday is in December and I’m a sucker for Christmas. I’m trying to put as much Christmas music as we can in there, and of course, there’ll be a couple of New Orleans classics in the mix as well. It’s going to be pretty heavy-handed on the holiday classics.”
Preservation Hall, established in 1961, is a famous jazz venue in New Orleans’ French Quarter. In 1963, several of the hall’s players, including its manager and tuba player Allan Jaffe, took New Orleans’ unique sound on the road. Sixty years later, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band is a collective of approximately 60 members.
Typically, a handful of older, legacy Preservation Hall Jazz Band members perform the Creole Christmas program throughout the season at the hall itself. This year, the younger touring players are taking the Creole Christmas program on the road, including a night at The Suffolk.
“To my knowledge, this is the first time that it will be done by the touring band … So this will be the youngest band to have done the Creole Christmas tour,” Mr. Lewis said. “We have gotten together, of course, with the legacy musicians to come up with repertoire, both new repertoire that we are not familiar with and obviously some more standard Christmas classics.”
Mr. Lewis has worked with Stevie Wonder, Foo Fighters, Chance the Rapper, Jon Batiste and many other well-known artists. He cites innovation as jazz’s secret to surviving more than a century in an ever-changing American culture and the thing that will propel it throughout the next century. That innovation, he said, also gives the Preservation Hall Jazz Band the versatility to invite both the older crowds they meet in theaters and younger listeners at outdoor festivals on a journey that leads back to New Orleans.
“We have to read the room … There’s very different set lists for festivals versus when we’re going to play a performing arts center, versus a tour like ‘A Creole Christmas,’ ” Mr. Lewis said. “We would like to be pleasing as many people as we can with the music. So it’s nice to have the ability to wear these different hats within the same genre.”
Tickets for the event, ranging from $69 to $95, plus applicable fees, are available online at thesuffolk.org.