Preservation Hall Jazz Band kicks off the
Civic Music Association's 2011-2012 season
with a concert on Friday, Sept. 23 at 7:30
p.m. at Drake University's Sheslow Auditorium.
Tickets are $15-$45 through Midwestix. A
reception to meet the band following the
concert will be held at the new Fred &
Patty Turner Jazz Center ($10 or free to
By Michael Swanger
Fifty years ago, Allan and Sandra Jaffe founded
Preservation Hall in the heart of New Orleans'
French Quarter in an attempt to preserve and
celebrate New Orleans jazz music and its musicians.
They intended to stay in the Big Easy during
the civil rights movement of the 1960s before
moving on, but fell in love with the city and
Fifty years later, their 40-year-old son and
tuba player, Ben Jaffe, serves as director of
the venerable musical institution and its touring
Preservation Hall Jazz Band (PHJB), which marches
into town Friday for a concert at Drake University.
Jaffe, a second generation New Orleanian, is
a prime example of how fully integrated music
is in the culture, communities and families
of New Orleans. In short, it's in his blood.
"Music in New Orleans isn't something separated;
it's part of our church services, funeral processions
and carnival celebrations. It's something you
either are or you are not," said Jaffe
over the telephone from his office at Preservation
Hall, which first opened its doors in 1961.
Jaffe, who joined the touring PHJB the day after
he graduated from Oberlin College in 1993, said
that, regardless of his parents' affiliation
with the New Orleans music scene, he would have
become a musician. Yet it is apparent that his
deep reverence and consciousness of PHJB's greatest
attributes is the result of his upbringing and
"That's the beauty of New Orleans. We're
very happy with who we are, and we don't try
to pretend to be anything else," he said.
Without question, Jaffe and his bandmates —
Mark Braud (trumpet, vocals), Charlie Gabriel
(clarinet, vocals), Clint Maedgen (sax, vocals),
Joe Lastie Jr. (drums), Freddie Lonzo (trombone,
vocals) and Rickie Monie (piano) — embody the
music of their hometown. For their current tour,
they have prepared a special show that commemorates
Preservation Hall's golden anniversary.
"This is an incredible moment in our history.
Our concerts are a chance for us to explore
the repertoire of the band and the musicians
that have been a part of the Preservation Hall
family," Jaffe said. "For me, that
means going back and paying homage to the early
New Orleans jazz greats, the people who literally
built the foundation that we're standing on
Though Jaffe maintains the importance of preserving
the music of Buddy Bolden, Jelly Roll Morton,
Louis Armstrong and Bunk Johnson, he also adds
that the goal of the PHJB is to perpetuate the
timeless spirit of New Orleans jazz music without
treating it like a museum piece.
"It's important for people to realize that
Preservation Hall is part of a continuum, an
unbroken musical tradition that's been going
on for a hundred years. That's an important
distinction to make between us and bands that
play period music. We're not recreating anything,
we're simply doing what our parents, grandparents
and great-grandparents did. It's one of those
beautiful and unique elements of New Orleans
and part of our bountiful culture that continues
today," he said.
At the end of the day, however, Jaffe says the
most important task Preservation Hall has to
fulfill is to make people happy.
"As important as our music is and as serious
as we take our music, when we're playing we're
not taking it seriously. We're up there having
a good time and playing music for the same reason
that people in New Orleans have been playing
music for a hundred years... to entertain ourselves
and to entertain audiences," he said. "That's
why our music has survived this many generations
because our music is still relevant and entertaining.
If people aren't dancing in the aisles, then
we're not doing what we're put on Earth to do."