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Blind Boys of Alabama at the Kennedy Center

 By Stephen Brookes • The Washington Post • September 29, 2008


t was a relief, frankly, to get away from the biting and clawing of the campaign season and head down to the Kennedy Center on Sunday night, where two of the country's most venerated groups -- the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and the Blind Boys of Alabama -- put on an evening of upbeat, optimistic and quintessentially American music.

  "You don't have to sit there and be polite," laughed trumpeter Mark Braud as the Preservation Hall players took the stage, and the packed concert hall clapped along through most of the classic, get-up-and-boogie New Orleans jazz that followed. Braud himself turned in a virtuosic performance -- his playful, free-form solo in "Sugar Blues" was a knockout -- while Charlie Gabriel took some sly and serpentine turns on the clarinet, and Clint Maedgen used his light tenor voice to channel jazz-era crooners in "Complicated Life" and the 1941 Ink Spots hit, "I Don't Want to Set the World on Fire." But things really got interesting when Walter Payton took a break from the bass and shimmied his substantial self through a baritone version of "Sister Kate" -- one of the most memorable performances of that song, ever.

The star singers of the evening, of course, were the redoubtable Blind Boys of Alabama. "We are going to make a joyful noise tonight," promised lead vocalist Jimmy Carter, as the Boys, decked out in zoot-suit-y outfits in Cheez Curl orange, launched into an hour of soul-stirring gospel. From the classic "People Get Ready" to the funkier "Free at Last," they sang with all the passionate joy that has won them multiple Grammys over the years. And as if that weren't enough, they teamed up with the Preservation Hall players for "I'll Fly Away," "Uncloudy Day" and the timeless "Down by the Riverside" -- high-energy performances that had the audience on its feet to the very end.


Posted on Tuesday, October 7, 2008 at 10:20AM by Registered CommenterStephen Brookes | CommentsPost a Comment

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