“At the Catfish Hotel,” to be seen at midnight tonight on the Bravo Channel, was presumably designed as a nostalgic glance at the formative years of jazz. Recorded at the Columns Hotel in New Orleans, it was produced and directed by Jim Gabour.
Although Curt Jerde, who plays tuba and was the musical director, is credited with historical research, there is almost nothing to be learned from the script. The story of the New Orleans funeral is told as if we hadn’t heard it a thousand times before. This sequence begins with “Just a Closer Walk With Thee,” ending with dancers galumphing around to the tune of “Oh Didn’t He Ramble.”
The band includes Wendell Brunious, a trumpeter who delivers a passable plunger-muted solo, and David Sager, a capable trombonist. For the rest, it’s musical twilight time, with a sadly out-of-tune clarinet, a primitive banjo solo and a generally lackluster program of performances in a noble early idiom that deserved better.
For the naive viewer, “At the Catfish Hotel” may come across as an authentic re-creation of a colorful era. For the informed, it will simply look and sound like a botched opportunity.