Trey McIntyre Project
8 p.m. Friday
Mahalia Jackson Theater, 1419 Basin St., 287-0351 or 522-0996; www.nobadance.com
Ma Maison, the first collaborative piece created by choreographer Trey McIntyre with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, has drawn critical acclaim and become one of the company's most popular works since it debuted in New Orleans in 2008. A companion piece titled The Sweeter End premieres Friday, and it finds harmony in the way both the dance company and band manage to be simultaneously traditional and modern. The piece is set to hip-hop producer King Britt's remixed version of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band playing "St. James Infirmary."
"We took the remix and scored it so we could play it live," says Preservation Hall artistic director Ben Jaffe, laughing at the reversal of the composing process. "Trey liked the arrangement and the way it's old and modern at the same time."
The Trey McIntyre Project is in just its third year as a full-time touring company, but it has risen to the top of the field quickly and will be on tour nationally and internationally for 30 weeks this year. McIntyre is a prolific choreographer and is known for grounding his work in traditional ballet technique and using music as a central creative element. He's choreographed dance to everything from Beethoven to the Beatles, and some of his best-known pieces incorporate blues and rock.
Ma Maison was initiated as a commission from the New Orleans Ballet Association, which tasked him with working with New Orleans musicians. McIntyre came to the city and decided to partner with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Together, Jaffe and McIntyre listened to volumes of Preservation Hall recordings as well as other traditional jazz, particularly music by Jelly Roll Morton.
At its premiere at Dixon Hall on the Tulane University campus, the band played in the orchestra pit, but a subsequent performance at the Hollywood Bowl featured the band onstage, which was the original intent. (On tour, the company normally uses recorded music.) Now armed with two pieces, the two groups will do more live shows together, and six tour dates are planned. The premiere features both New Orleans-themed pieces and a set by the band. (On tour without the band, the company will add a piece set to Roy Orbison's "In Dreams.")
The Sweeter End begins with a slow, dirge-like version of "St. James Infirmary," sung by Mark Braud, and it makes the transition to the more up-tempo remix version, featuring the vocals of Clint Maedgen. The choreographed piece, of course, is not improvisational, and the band and dancers will spend the week working on the live piece. There are both advantages and challenges to the arrangement, says company dancer and assistant director Jason Hartley.
"It makes everything a lot easier with live music," Hartley says. "You don't have to produce as much energy yourself.
"Ideally there's some evolution. It's not going to be the same performance every time. With a live band, it encourages you to find the nuances."