|Woody Allen and his New Orleans Jazz Band. Woody's the short, nebbishy guy with the glasses.|
I’ve been a fan of Woody Allen’s movies since I was teenager, so I was very excited to hear that he was coming to the Twin Cities to perform live with his jazz band. For many years, Allen has played the clarinet in a New Orleans jazz band in New York City. While Allen has performed in Europe several times with his band, he hasn’t toured much in the United States. I knew this was a rare opportunity to see one of my favorite directors live in person, and a chance to hear some great music as well.
The concert proceeded much like I thought it would: Woody said a few words after the second song, and also at the end of the concert. That was it, no stories about the many great movies he’s made, no jokes. But in between there was some very good music. Allen’s band is usually called the Eddy Davis New Orleans Jazz Band when Allen plays with the group in New York City. The band featured trombone, trumpet, piano, bass, and drums, with Allen on clarinet, and Eddy Davis on banjo. The music was very good, but it would have been more fun in a more intimate setting than the 2,000 seat State Theatre. (The concert could have been held in a smaller space: the balcony wasn’t even half full.)
The band’s repertoire is said to be more than 1,000 songs, and for this concert they played some songs I knew, like “Down by the Riverside,” Irving Berlin’s “Easter Parade,” and W.C. Handy’s “St. Louis Blues.” They also played many songs I didn’t know, but I enjoyed those as well. While Allen calls himself an “amateur” on the clarinet, it’s very clear from hearing him play that his love of this music runs deep. It’s fun to see someone doing something they love, and it’s obvious that Woody Allen loves New Orleans jazz. At the age of 79, Allen still has real passion for both music and movies, as Irrational Man, the 47th movie he’s directed, was just released two weeks ago. Even though Allen’s film work is uneven, as classics sit next to clunkers, I always admire artists who just keep going. Sure, his latest movie might not be as good as Annie Hall or Manhattan or Match Point, but why should that stop him from working? Allen has crafted some of the greatest comedies of the last 50 years, and it was a lot of fun to be able to spend some time with him tonight.