Thursday night’s show at the House of Blues could have gone one of two ways, but somehow managed to find itself in the middle of both of those outcomes. It could have been a horrible train wreck or the most amazing musical experiment ever. It was neither. To a jazz purist, the novelty was fun and whimsical and to the novelist was intriguing and questioning. Combining two vastly different genera’s could have its problems if not interpreted correctly. Irvin Mayfield and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra stuck an intriguing balance between the classical jazz form and classic rock by reimagining tunes from Queen, Led Zeppelin, and Nirvana/Bowie.
To merge the gap between rock and jazz, New Orleans’ The Breton Sound had the daunting task of drawing the crowd in. Not an easy task to say the least, but by the end of their set, the band had managed to do just that. Keeping with the evening theme, they did their version of a jazz infused cover of Queen’s “Tie Your Mother Down.” The band also played several tracks off their forthcoming EPs Don't Be Afraid of Rock & Roll Vol. 1 coming out after Mardi Gras and the second in the Fall of 2015. They closed out their set with a rambunctious version of “Shout.”
Not so ironic after Mayfield and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra finished playing their first tune, an obscure Led Zeppelin track, “Royal Orleans” the crowd didn’t even know who’s it was. The rest of the evening would fare better as band and special gust Hailey Reinhart, of American Idol fame took the audience on a musically reinterpreted journey of the music of Nirvana, Led Zeppelin, Queen. At times one didn’t know exactly what cover was being covered, and then a glimpse of the original would seep through. That’s the magic and beauty of creative arrangements. Michael Watson did lead vocal work on three tracks and Reinhart took lead on five of them. They each had very unique interpretations of the material at hand. Watsons’ version of Zeppelin’s “Black Dog” was strong but “Bicycle Race” was a bit shaky. He redeemed himself as the evening closed with a bold version of “We Will Rock You.” Reinhart’s vocals were smooth and embodied those of a well-seasoned jazz singer. Her grasp of the material and mutual respect for Mayfield and company was evident throughout her performances. I will say it was a bit off hearing “Smells Like Teen Spirit” in such a different way, but it still fit the evening. You can see the full set here: http://www.setlist.fm/setlist/irvin-mayfield/2014/house-of-blues-new-orleans-la-33cc4cb9.html and a photo gallery here: http://jalbum.net/a/1566900.