Thursday, February 18, 2010

"PRESERVATION" In American Songwriter

Preservation Hall Tribute Album Boasts All-Star Cast

By Matt Popkin on February 18th, 2010

1500 grammar school kids are up in the aisles dancing and stomping their feet. When the music stops, they beg and plead for one more song, just one more song, please! The type of music that’s got them so worked up? Not hip-hop. Not rock. Why, it’s not even a little bit Top 40.


If you’re surprised by the kids’ response to music that’s older than their grandparents, maybe you shouldn’t be. Ben Jaffe sure isn’t.

“That’s what I think is so great about New Orleans music. Over all these decades, it’s still entertaining.”

Not only is Jaffe the owner of Preservation Hall, the famed jazz club, but he’s also the tuba player in the legendary house band, which has played such notable venues—grammar schools excluded—as Saturday Night Live and Carnegie Hall. Oh, and Jaffe grew up hanging around the historic venue, which isn’t surprising considering his father and mother were the ones who founded it.

So when he says that the new Preservation Hall benefit album is “spectacular,” you can probably take him at his word. “I don’t think we could’ve made a better album,” said Jaffe. “It was that way because everyone did the album for the right reasons.”

“Everyone” includes artists such as Tom Waits, Steve Earle, Louis Armstrong and Merle Haggard, who all contributed to the nineteen-track album full of jazz staples that’s being released February 16th. All the songs were recorded with the house band and at Preservation Hall, which is located right off Bourbon Street in the French Quarter. The jazz club takes a no-frills approach—there’s no dance floor or food or drink served inside—and puts the focus squarely on the music, drawing standing-room only crowds most of the nights it’s open.

However, just a few years ago, there was some doubt as to if the crowds would ever return. When Hurricane Katrina hit in August of 2005, Preservation Hall was severely damaged and stayed closed for months before its triumphant reopening on its 45th anniversary in April of 2006. When asked about what New Orleans was like post-hurricane, Jaffe says, “I had this fear of the scene coming back differently and not having the people there who gave it its color...”

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