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Preservation Hall celebrates 50 years

Preservation Hall Jazz Band

Preservation Hall Jazz Band Credit: Preservation Hall Jazz Band

For five decades, The Preservation Hall Jazz Band has served as a keeper of and ambassador for the New Orleans jazz tradition.

Named after the French Quarter music venue Preservation Hall, the group has performed alongside artists ranging from Louis Armstrong to Robert Plant.
This week, fans and collaborators including rockers My Morning Jacket, folk singer Steve Earle, rapper Mos Def and bluegrass legend Del McCoury will join the band at a 50th anniversary concert at Carnegie Hall.

amNewYork spoke with creative director and tuba player Ben Jaffee, whose parents founded Preservation Hall.

Is it challenging to carry on the legacy of Preservation Hall? It is. You spend a lot of time thinking about your decisions and the way they impact the musicians who play here and your audience. Then you have bigger responsibilities, because Preservation Hall has become a symbol of New Orleans' rich cultural history.

What do you wish more people knew about New Orleans jazz? One big misconception is that New Orleans jazz is old-time music or about re-creating something from the past. I liken our music tradition to our cuisine: The recipes for red beans and rice or gumbo haven't really changed, but you have people who bring new influences to them. To me, that's the ultimate statement, when you can take a tradition and breathe new life into it.

Why do you think the music of New Orleans has gotten so much attention the past few years? I believe it's almost singlehandedly a result of Katrina and what we went through. They saw people fighting for our lives and things that mattered to us and realized exactly how important New Orleans is. Also, our music kicks ass - none of this would survive if it wasn't great music.

Do you think Preservation Hall will be around in another 50 years? This is not only a celebration of the past 50 years, but about our future and where we are today. I can attest from playing all over the world that Preservation Hall makes people smile and have a good time. I feel like we could get everything figured out real quick if we could get everyone to a Preservation Hall concert.

If you go: Preservation Hall Jazz Band is performing on Saturday at 8 p.m. at Carnegie Hall, 881 Seventh Ave., 212-247-7800, $30-$95.

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