Ben Schenk and the Panorama Jazz Band

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A phase of evolution

The New Orleans style – the seminal idiom, traditional jazz, if you will – is undergoing an accelerated change that seems to redefine “tradition”; the idea of ​​stability, continuity, music that doesn’t change.

“I always thought of New Orleans jazz as an evolutionary phase that was over,” said clarinetist Ben Schenck, leader of the Panorama Jazz Band, which is also a marching band with an expanded staff for prep. of Mardi Gras, and otherwise called.

“Pops and Jelly and Sidney Bechet had their day, it seems. When I moved here in 1985 I realized it was a strong regional style. Some people treat it like a museum specimen. But it’s not like we have to play “Muskrat Ramble” to be a jazz band from New Orleans. People like Michael White, Evan Christopher and Tim Laughlin see it as a starting point for their compositions, a culture of possibilities.

To this list we must add Tom McDermott and Aurora Nealand as stellar instrumentalists, adapters and composers who use the New Orleans style to step back in time, as McDermott does in his “Bamboula” tribute to Louis Moreau. Gottschalk, or Nealand’s inspired tribute to Sidney Bechet. on “The Royal Roses”.

The range of these musicians gives the jazz tradition an adrenaline pump, proving that a mastery of the standards can be the prelude to broadening the canon with new compositions that echo the sound of the root.

Schenck moved to New Orleans from the Washington, D.C. area after meeting White, who was on tour, and Dejan’s Olympia Brass Band. With Panorama, he dug his own musical ground, a sound that draws on klezmer and Eastern European music, played by brass bands. “In my mind, it all comes back to the instruments.”

Panorama Jazz Band has six tracks, plus Ben on clarinet. the Aurora Nealand alto saxophone; Charlie Halloran, trombone; Michael Ward-Bergemon, accordion; Patrick Mackey, tenor banjo; Matt Perrine on tuba; Doug Garrison on drums. All play with other bands and pursue other projects.

Panorama’s new CD, The Next One, is a mix of songs from Venezuela, Martinique and Colombia, intertwined with the band’s signature Klezmer sound and Balkan gypsy stylizations. One notable cut, “Tolú”, is an adaptation by Schenk and Dr. Michael White of the song by “Lucho Bermúdez, a Colombian clarinetist, saxophonist and big band leader who brought country-sounding Cúmbia to town”. Schenk added three saxophonists, two trumpeters and a flugelhorn player for the meandering rhythm of the Latin dance.

It was the dreaded Matt Knowles of the Domino Sound record store on Bayou Road who handed Schenck a mixed tape of Lucho Bermúdez’s music and said, “You gotta play that.” Schenck obeys. Here we are.

Panorama funds studio time and disc unit costs with monthly recording to your computer for a fee of your choice. “I discovered Bandcamp, a platform that facilitates subscription fees. You go to our website (Panoramajazzband.com) and follow the link to the song of the month. It takes you to Bandcamp, you enter at whatever fare you want. We have people at different levels and gifts.

Panorama plays weddings, crawfish mush and parties in addition to clubbing dates at home and on the road. Bandcamp’s monthly email can be accessed through the i-phone app. All in the culture of possibilities.


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Henry R. Wright