Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Music: Woody Allen & His New Orleans Jazz Band

It’s not like I didn’t know what I was getting into. The posters for the concert trumpeted Woody Allen & His New Orleans Jazz Band in the same font used on the titles of his films. The band’s standing Monday night gig in New York – and Woody missing out on accepting his Annie Hall Oscar to keep the date – is the stuff of legend. Still, I was astonished at the unabashed thrill I felt seeing Woody walk out onto the stage at the Paramount Theater last night. The scandal, the inconsistent movies of recent years, none of that mattered. That was Woody Allen, in person, and I was happy to be in the room.

The band plays what Woody described in one of his few comments to the crowd as “New Orleans music ... whorehouse music.” There’s no set list; bandleader Eddy Davis on the banjo calls out a song and the group launches into it. Monday’s repertoire included “Oh, You Beautiful Doll,” a melancholy “Once in a While” and “Girl of My Dreams,” which I always think of as the tune Johnny Favorite took to the top of the charts in Angel Heart. The lack of chatter and the band’s practice of playing straight through applause gives the show the feel of a rehearsal that’s open to the public. Clarinetist Woody is easily the least of the capable crew, which includes Conal Fowkes on piano and Jerry Zigmont on trombone, but he makes up for it in enthusiasm. His joy in performing a school of music that he clearly loves comes across. He didn’t want to leave the stage; after two hours and multiple encores he said, in his only line of the night, “I have to get eight hours of sleep or I start to look my age.” Woody and the boys will be playing in Portland tonight.