allen

(Woody Allen plays the clarinet at a concert in Aviles, Spain, March 25, 2011/Eloy Alonso)

What’s a nice Jewish boy from Brooklyn doing helping to raise money for a Catholic hospital owned by the Vatican in a city where until 1870 the papacy required Jews to live in a ghetto? If that nice Jewish boy is Woody Allen, the conundrum is resolved by a four-letter word: Jazz.

“Woody Allen and his New Orleans Jazz Band” charmed a packed house in Rome’s Conciliazione Auditorium three blocks from the Vatican and just across the Tiber River from Rome’s synagogue. The band, made up of Allen on clarinet and six other top-notch jazz musicians steeped in the New Orleans tradition, belted out more than a dozen tunes over nearly two hours at the benefit for the Bambino Gesu, Italy’s top children’s hospital.

“We love to play jazz music and we are always thrilled when anyone comes to hear us — thrilled and surprised, actually,” he told the audience in his trademark self-deprecating style.

That was it for one-liners, almost as if he wanted to step out of the shoes of Woody Allen the actor/director/comedian and into those of Woody Allen the musician.