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November 29, 2012 - Image 72

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2012-11-29

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arts & entertainment

A Legacy
Of Jazz

Ben Jaffe, son of the founder of New
Orlean's legendary Preservation Hall
Jazz Band, reflects on the venue's past
and present.

Matt Robinson
I JNS.org

ends like the Humphrey Brothers, Walter
Payton (father of Nicholas) and others. "If
I wasn't at home, I was at Preservation Hall
rowing up in New Orleans as the
two blocks away"
son of the couple who turned
When asked if he has any particular
a French Quarter art gallery
memories of his days in the hall, Jaffe
into one of the longest-running and most
smiles and says, "Memories? My whole
successful music venues in the world —
childhood is one big fairytale memory!"
Preservation Hall — Jewish tuba player/
In addition to collaborating with mem-
bass player Ben Jaffe had jazz running
bers of his own band and their musical
through his veins from a very early age.
predecessors, Jaffe was privileged to go on
Jaffe recalls in an interview with JNS.org
gigs and tours with some of New Orleans'
that spending time during his childhood
(and the world's) greatest creative powers.
with the legendary likes of Allen Toussaint,
"I was blessed to grow up around an incred-
Pete Seeger and the Creole duo of Billie and
ible community of musicians and artists,"
De De Pierce was like "going to your grand-
he says.
parents' house and hearing them speak
In addition to having the sound of
Yiddish — the mamaloshen — in his
Despite his father Allan's passing in 1987
ear, Ben grew up at the knee of his tuba-
(his mother Sandra is retired and now lives
playing father.
in Florida) and the near destruction of his
"I had the sound of bass in my [head]
home and his state-
long before I started
of-the-art record-
playing music:'
ing studio during
explains the tuba
Hurricane Katrina in
and bass player who
2005, Jaffe continues
began playing at age
to manage the hall
6 and performed
and perform and pro-
in his first Mardi
mote his beloved jazz
Gras parade with his
in New Orleans and
father at age 9.
around the world.
When asked what
This September,
else might have led
the band celebrated
him to his musical
the release on the
choices, Jaffe explains
that he believes
label of its box set,
people "gravitate to
The 50th Anniversary
instruments that
Collection, as well
reflect their person-
as its live album
from an acclaimed
Perhaps this is
Carnegie Hall per-
why Jaffe has been
formance, St. Peter & Preservation Hall in New Orleans
able to remain so
57th Street.
grounded despite
As he prepares to perform with the
the highs of fame and the lows of sadness
Preservation Hall Jazz Band in a Detroit
that have befallen his family, his city and
Symphony Orchestra Paradise Jazz Series
his genre in recent years.
concert at 8 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 6, at
In addition to mourning his father and
Orchestra Hall, Jaffe found a few moments
his studio (which housed many of the hall's
to reflect on his musical life thus far.
archives, some of which were thankfully
"I grew up around Preservation Hall,"
saved and preserved on the new box set),
Jaffe explains, reminiscing about days and
Jaffe lost many friends in Katrina and has
nights spent with his father and local leg-
also seen how jazz as a whole has been



November 29 • 2012

The Preservation Hall Jazz Band at JazzFest 2008, featuring Carl LeBlanc on
banjo and Ben Jaffe on upright bass


he members of Preservation
Hall Jazz Band are no strangers
to the disastrous aftermath of
a hurricane, having endured Hurricane
Katrina in 2005. Following Katrina, they
launched Renew Orleans, along with
partners Ropeadope and Okayplayer.
The project raised more than $80,000
for local musicians. In addition to the
financial support, the shirts captured the
pride and determination of the people of
New Orleans.
In the wake of Hurricane Sandy,
which put millions of people in dan-
ger and hurt the lives and livelihood
of thousands of artists and musicians,

slowly dying as clubs continue to close and
radio stations continue to cut their jazz
That is why he continues to work so
hard to maintain and preserve not only
the legacy of the hall (which, as its name
attests, was created as a means of preserv-
ing the original sound of New Orleans jazz)
but also of the city.
While Katrina devastated much of his
physical home, Jaffe is almost thankful for
the hurricane that revealed the true heart
and soul of the Crescent City.
"I never knew how strong of a communi-
ty we have in New Orleans until Hurricane
Katrina," he says, noting that, as the hall
has gone, so too has the city. "Preservation
Hall is a reflection of New Orleans," he
Jaffe sees the traditions of the hall and
the city not only as a matter of pride but
as one of "responsibility" to care for and
nourish his traditions and those of the
music on which he and his family (imme-
diate and far extended) were raised.
That is why, 50 years on, Jaffe gives the

Preservation Hall Jazz Band has part-
nered up with Ropeadope, Okayplayer,
the Jazz Foundation of America and the
NYC Food Truck Association to form
Renew York and aid those affected by the
T-shirts are on sale to raise money
needed for artists and musicians who
were affected. Shirts are being sold
online and at select outlets, with 40 per-
cent of the gross sale going directly to
organizations providing relief for those
affected by the storm.
Buy tees at: http://store.ropeadope.

— Gail Zimmerman

same heart and soul to the hall and to the
music that his father and his many musi-
cal friends shared.
"I want to pass on the tradition the
generations before me passed to me:' Jaffe
says. "It's important to me to pass on the
musical traditions that I inherited. That's
the greatest gift in the world:'
Jaffe remains astonished by what the
hall and its legendary "house band" have
meant to his city and the world.
"It's amazing how much joy the band
has brought into the world:' he observes.
"We are better people because of
Preservation Hall:'

The Preservation Hall Jazz Band
swings in the holiday season New
Orleans-style, with favorites like
"Blue Christmas, "Swinging in
a Winter Wonderland" and "The
Dreidel Song" at 8 p.m. Thursday,
Dec. 6, at Detroit's Orchestra Hall.
Tickets: $18 and up. (313) 576-5111.
www.dso.org .

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