Preservation Hall Jazz Band of New Orleans, LA; Volume II.

Preservation Hall Jazz Band of New Orleans, LA; Volume III

Linda Ronstadt and the Nelson Riddle Orchestra; What’s New; Electra/Asylum Records.

On the back cover of Volume Ill, the entire Preservation Hall crew is grouped around a table on which is mounted a feast of classic Creole New Orleans food. For an insider of this kind of festivities, one glimpse at the jambalaya, sausage, rice, and bread suffices to know that the nourishment comes from Buster’s, the fumed musician’s hangout and eatery at the corner of Burgundy and Orleans. Thus, instantly, just by looking at the picture, we land in the center of one of art’s most powerful ingredients: authenticity. In the 1950’s, a youthful jazz aficionado from Philadelphia by the name of Allan Jaffe came to New Orleans and never left. He immersed himself in the slowly evaporating sources of the music which defined the American 20th century culture to a degree not yet fully researched and decided that authenticity must be rescued, preserved, and twilight years, the supreme bliss of being creative and admired artists.

Can a tough pop-rock singer find happiness in slow ballads in which the meditative blends with both impulse and sentiment? Once upon a time, such ballads denoted emotionality and sophistication in American popular music, two elements thoroughly rav aged by the merciless cult of amplification that reigned during the I960’s. Yet Linda Ronstadt, a veteran storm trooper of the California rock scene, proves that a reconciliation is possible. She sails smoothly through What’s New, support ing the quasi-philosophical bemusement of the title in an act of easy symbolism, injects some rock inflections into Sinatra’s “I’ve got a crush on you,” stumbles a little on Billie Holiday’s standards, and makes the final point on the album’s cover in a tulle and satin dress. In it, she may attract quite a new constituency for herself and for anyone she would choose to campaign for in his quest for office.