Clip: Presevation Hall Jazz band
- The Preservation Hall Jazz Band plays the Byham Theater at 10:15 this
Music Preview: Bassist preserves band's tradition
Sunday, November 03, 2002
By Nate Guidry, Post-Gazette Staff Writer
Benjamin Jaffe might be the youngest member of the Preservation Hall Jazz
Band, but he's as steeped in the styles and tradition of New Orleans music
as any other member of the seven-piece touring ensemble.
What is that tradition? Marches, rags, blues and the joyful interplay of
trumpet, trombone and clarinet riffing on turn-of-last-century songs such
as "Basin Street," "Clarinet Marmalade," "St. James Infirmary" and "Little
Jaffe will be part of the touring Preservation Hall band when it performs
at 4 p.m. today at the Byham Theater. A student matinee is scheduled at
10:15 a.m. tomorrow.
"Playing music is something I've always done," said the 31-year-old bassist
and band manager. "It's really all I know how to do. I played in brass
bands on Jackson Square on the weekend. But then I went to study music at
Oberlin College, and after I graduated and came home I realized this was my
Jaffe grew up in the French Quarter, the son of Sandra and Allan Jaffe,
owners of the esteemed Preservation Hall, a musical museum and outreach
that was built in the 1750s.
"This is the music I grew up with," said Jaffe, whose father played tuba in
the band before his death in 1989. "Many of the musicians have been playing
in the band more that 30 years."
The band has more than 40 regular members that tour and perform nightly in
the French Quarter.
"I think in the 1960s, people began to realize that America had something
special with this music that no other country had," he said. "Not just
jazz, but a lot of other musical traditions, like church music, bluegrass
and the blues. People like [legendary musicologist] Alan Lomax began going
around and recording this tradition.
"It was around this time that Preservation Hall came about. People started
embracing the music."
The group's repertoire has remained the same over the years.
"The more things change, the more we stay the same," said Jaffe with a
chuckle. "People come back to the Hall after not being here for 20 or 30
years, and they say things are exactly as they were. I like that. I like
going back to the same restaurant and having the same good meal as before.
"I like going to stores and seeing familiar faces. I also like having new
experiences, but there's a place in our lives for the familiar.
"I can understand an artist evolving over a lifetime -- someone like Miles
Davis or John Coltrane. But in some ways, this is a different tradition,
because it's cultural tradition. This music is as much a part of the
culture of New Orleans and Louisiana as anything."
Just a few days ago, Jaffe performed in a parade with many of the musicians
he grew up with.
"We played the same music we were playing when we were younger," he said.
"It's still part of the culture, and when it was over, we had a barbecue
with red beans and rice. It's a beautiful thing to watch how these
traditions have been able to remain in their original forms."
Still, if you haven't been to New Orleans and, specifically, Preservation
Hall, it's hard to imagine what the music is like.
"At the heart of New Orleans music is the parade beats," he continued. "The
music exists because of the audience, and often they are participants. We
try to project the New Orleans spirit through the music, and when we
travel, people immediately feel a closeness in the music."
Nate Guidry can be reached at nguidry@... or 412-263-3865.