In late January, 1917, five musicians from New Orleans known as The Original Dixieland Jass Band made their New York City debut at Riesenweber's Cafe, causing quite a stir and, according to some popular historians, ushering in "The Jazz Age."
The flavor of that evening was re-created Thursday at the Roof Garden of the Variety Arts Center when clarinetist Dan Levinson presented "At the Jass Band Ball."
The 22-year-old Levinson assembled a quintet that played transcriptions of the ODJB's original Victor recordings, offering a zesty, bouncy music that had an authentic feel. Dressed in tails, white high hats (each affixed with a letter that, left to right, spelled "Dixie") and spats, the fellows looked, as well as played, the period.
The band--Levinson, Dick Miller, cornet; Keith Elliott, trombone; Larry Fisher, drums and Ian Whitcomb, piano--gave forth a lively, occasionally raucous sound as they dug into such classics as "Tiger Rag," "Clarinet Marmalade," "At The Jazz Band Ball" and "Jazz Me Blues." The musicians shined on the faster numbers, as Miller's attractively rough sound, Elliott's round and fat tone and Levinson's bordering-on-squeaky meanderings all melded nicely.