Thoughts of shovels and sniffles quickly faded once the Preservation Hall Jazz Band took the stage at Merrill Auditorium on Wednesday. Their New Orleans-rooted music brought the liberating spirit of Mardi Gras to the Ovations event, and the large crowd let classic jazz take them away during the 90-minute performance.

The Crescent City figured prominently in many of the lyrics sung by various members of the octet. Eighty-two-year-old Charlie Gabriel took the vocal lead on “Come With Me” from the band’s latest disc, their first with all original compositions. Smooth and soulful, the eldest member of the multi-generational band was a standout at conveying the lure of the old city.

Though listed as a clarinetist, Gabriel kept to his tenor sax, playing in tandem with Clint Maedgen. They often musically squared off against the three brass players: Mark Braud on trumpet, Freddie Lonzo on trombone and Ronell Johnson on sousaphone. Each musician was given vocal or instrumental moments in the spotlight.

Braud offered a blues-drenched “St. James Infirmary,” spicing his vocals with muted trumpet work before allowing Gabriel to dig deep for a mournful sax solo. An up-tempo reprise of the tune gave a peek at the group’s range.

Maedgen and Johnson often bookended the band on stage. Maedgen’s sax sound featured a soulful burr, while his vocals highlighted the playfulness and humor that imbues so much of the band’s work. Johnson pranced and marched about, adding the occasional raucous blat as well as resonant bottom lines in conjunction with upright bassist Ben Jaffe and drummer Joe Lastie Jr. Jaffe, whose parents founded the Preservation Hall venue in New Orleans, introduced the band members, tying many of them to a lineage in traditional music.

Pianist Rickie Monie’s solo interlude was full of studied style before he found the groove upon which the band could reenter. And when they did, things got hot. In fact, it was the collective passages, spread throughout the performance, that proved most impressive.

“That’s A Plenty” was an early favorite with the horns rising to create tipping points. As good as the individual moments were, it was the full band in full swing that most suggested to a winter-weary crowd there are better days to come.

Steve Feeney is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.