What started as rehearsal sessions in a small art gallery in New Orleans' French Quarter has since morphed into 50+ years dedicated to honoring one of America's truest art forms - Traditional New Orleans Jazz music. In the early 1960s a young couple from Pennsylvania named Allan and Sandra Jaffe were honeymooning in New Orleans when they met a few jazz musicians on their way to "Mr. Larry's Gallery". As avid music fans they decided to follow along and were introduced to Larry Borenstein as well as a number of living jazz greats that had gathered that evening for a jam session. This coincidental moment is how all magic began.
Jam sessions in Mr. Larry’s Gallery became so frequent that Borenstein was forced to move his art gallery to the building next door and eventually asked the Jaffe’s to take reigns running and operating the newly born Preservation Hall. Performances were held nightly and featured pure, traditional New Orleans Jazz unaffected by the swaying of popular music. As time went on Allan Jaffe felt that both the success of Preservation Hall and its mission to preserve traditional New Orleans Jazz music would require these house musicians to take their sound on the road. As a result, in 1963 the Preservation Hall Jazz Band was formed to carry out this vision.
Over a half century later PHJB is still touring under the creative direction of Ben Jaffe, bass /tuba player and son of Allan and Sandra. The town of Telluride is excited to welcome the band back to our box canyon on June 9th at the Sheridan Opera House. Whether you are a Jazz fanatic or just a fan of live music in general...you need to be at this show!
We caught up PHJB visionary Ben Jaffe for a brief Q and A before they take the stage in Telluride at the Sheridan Opera House on June 9th 2015.
Q - Who are some of your biggest musical influences? Why?
A - Looking back on my life, my biggest influences were the ladies and gentlemen who performed at Preservation Hall when I was growing up in the 1970's and 80's: Sweet Emma Barrett, Jeannette Kimball, Percy Humphrey, my godfather Harold "Duke" Dejan, Willie Humphrey, Sing Miller, Cie Frazier, Tuba Fats, Narvin Kimball, Kid Shiek, Chester Zardis, Frank Fields, Dave Bartholomew, Dave Williams and so many others. There's a little bit of everyone of them in me...
Q - Did playing an instrument come naturally to you or did you have to work at it?
A - Rhythm has always come naturally to me but I've always had to work extra hard to learn how to play an instrument!! I've met children who can sing amazingly! I'd bet most of them have perfect pitch and don't know it. I don't have perfect pitch. I've had to work to develop my musical hearing. I taught myself piano so I could hear the different colors and emotions chords create.
Q - What are some of the first tunes you learned to play?
A - I learned to play marching next my dad at parades and funerals. The first songs I learned were all spirituals like "What a Friend We Have in Jesus", "Down by the Riverside", "Closer Walk With Thee".....that's where I started....
Q - What is your favorite album of all time? OR…if you are like me and would have a really hard time with that question…name a few of your favorite albums.
A - This question is not fair! There is no way to pick one album. So many different recordings have touched me and left fingerprints...it would be impossible for me to choose my top 100!!!! Here's a short list of randomness...In no particular order:
John Coltrane "A Love Supreme", Charles Mingus "Mingus Mingus Mingus", anything by Aretha Franklin or Mahalia Jackson, all of Donny Hatthaway's recordings, Bruce Springsteen "Born to Run", Prince, early Bob Marley, Cesaria Evora, Jelly Roll Morton, the list could go on and on
Do yourself a favor and head to the Sheridan Opera House on June 9th to experience traditional New Orleans Jazz music in its truest form!