New Orleans' French Quarter
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When it comes to jazz all roads lead to the Deep South — to New Orleans, to be precise. Musician Dan Hipgrave explores its love affair with music and discovers a city in full swing
Rebirth Brass Band and Revolution Social and Pleasure Club dance at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival
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Preservation Hall has been hailed as 'the Holy Grail' of jazz clubs in the city
It's Saturday evening in downtown New Orleans. I'm sitting with a friendly crowd on a well-worn bench in a room full of atmosphere. Others linger patiently at the back admiring faded paintings of legends long passed. Although time, humidity and smoke have eaten away at the walls, the room somehow looks stately, at once cosy and electrifying. From the street, the edifice shows little sign of what takes place inside, except the name written in brass letters on two battered instrument cases over a wrought-iron entrance gate: Preservation Hall. The legendary jazz club is situated on St Peter Street, three blocks from the Mississippi River and a stone's throw from the infamous Bourbon Street, where cocktails flow freely and exotic dancers entertain.
Since opening in 1961, Preservation Hall has been hailed as 'the Holy Grail' of jazz clubs in the city. More than two million people have passed through its doors, including presidents, prime ministers and rock and movie stars. Louis Armstrong described it as 'a place where you'll find all the greats'. The Paulin Brothers' Brass Band take to the stage. 'We're gonna play jazz the way daddy taught us,' announces charismatic band leader Dwayne Paulin before exploding into an hour-long onslaught of intoxicating traditional New Orleans jazz. Trumpets, trombones, saxophones and sousaphones intertwine their mercurial melodies to wondrous effect.