On Monday, April 14, in the Capitol Theatre at 7:30 p.m., the historical sound of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band will perform its magic.
The sound of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band is as diverse and flavorful as the food of New Orleans.
Creative director and tuba player Ben Jaffe has roots to the band, after recently taken over a management position from his parents and co-founders, Allan and Sandra Jaffe. Educated at Oberlin College in music, Jaffe has been a student of the eclectic sounds of the French Quarter’s great musicians.
Gordon Hanks, founder of Jazz SLC, has a sweet spot for the history of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and Ben Jaffe: “Since the early '60s the Jaffe family has almost single-handedly kept the band and Preservation Hall alive. After Hurricane Katrina destroyed much of the city, Ben organized the New Orleans Musicians Hurricane Relief Fund to help stabilize and support the music scene in one of the most important jazz cities in the country.”
“Seeing our city ripped apart after Katrina was devastating," Ben Jaffe said. It felt like I had been stabbed in my heart with a dagger. We all felt that way. Many people lost their homes, and too many people were permanently relocated. We lost some really great musicians."
Jaffe noted that the music scene is not just about the musicians. “It’s just as much about the individuals that support the music itself. The small record store owners, the bartenders, the restaurants, the diverse foods, the jazz clubs, the music. All of it makes up the scene. They all contribute to a healthy and complete community. So one of the first things we had to do was to get back to the music.”
Joining Jaffe on stage will be Mark Braud (vocals and trumpet), Charlie Gabriel (vocals and clarinet), Joe Lastie, Jr. (drums), Freddie Lonzo (trombone and vocals), Clint Maedgen (saxophone and vocals), Ronell Johnson (tuba and vocals) and Rickie Monie (piano).
The Preservation Hall Jazz Band sound is a mixture of traditional jazz, infused with a sprinkling of R&B, street music and a spirituality that defies easy definition. Concertgoers should expect to hear the influences from some of the original pioneers, such as Jelly Roll Morton, Bunk Johnson, Buddy Bolden and the ambassador of jazz, Louis Armstrong.
“Beside touring, the Jaffe family kept the doors open to Preservation Hall when it wasn’t easy,” said Hanks. “Young musicians can show up any night at the hall and get a chance to sit in and jam with these seasoned veterans. Imagine how that must feel as a young player?”
Jaffe, like his parents before him, understands the importance of Preservation Hall. “When people come to see (the group) for the first time, they’re surprised how small it is. But above and beyond the size, they soon understand what it represents. New Orleans music is a philosophy of life and my parents were blessed to be able to understand that and could help carry the music forward. Mardi Gras, funeral processions and the coming together at any function — they all carry our music. It’s in our DNA. And the world is a better place with music, isn’t it?”
If you go ...
When: Monday, April 14, 7:30 p.m.
Where: The Capitol Theatre, 50 W. 200 South
How much: $33.50 and $10 students, with activity card
Tickets: ArtTix at 801-355-ARTS
Jeff Metcalf is a professor of English at the University of Utah and an avid jazz fan.