Working hard for the Big Easy

Working hard for the Big Easy

In 2005, when Katrina hit and water poured into New Orleans’ Sea-Saint Studio, a collection of Preservation Hall Jazz Band master tapes from the 1970s just barely stayed dry. “I knew that the facility had been flooded,” Preservation Hall creative director Ben Jaffe tells us. “I didn’t know how bad the damage was, so I went there myself about six months after the hurricane and was amazed to find the entire studio destroyed, including all of the master tapes, except, miraculously, the Preservation Hall tapes, which happened to be stored about three inches above the water line.”

Preservation Hall creative director Ben Jaffe has helped keep the legacy of New Orleans jazz alive and strong, even in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Check out the Preservation Hall Jazz Band at PVCC on April 19.

That’s the ticket!

This Friday, April 18, two of our favorite local acts hit the stage at Satellite Ballroom. “Mountain rock ‘n’ roll” band 6 Day Bender will be celebrating the release of their terrific self-titled record, and Sarah White will team up with her most recent collaborator, King Wilkie guitarist Ted Pitney, to open the show. We’ve snagged some tickets for the event, and, being your benovelent weekly music column, Feedback is going to give away one ticket to the first 20 people who e-mail us with answers (correct ones, please!) to these two trivia questions:

1.) What band did 6 Day Bender cover at the Charlottesville Music Showcase’s 2007 Halloween concert at Orbit Billiards?

2.) What group did Sarah White once open for at the San Fransisco’s Fillmore Auditorium?

Send your answers to and please include your full name and telephone number.

Amid the difficult struggle to recover from Katrina, this fortunate event led Jaffe, whose parents founded Preservation Hall in 1961, to begin putting together Made In New Orleans: The Hurricane Sessions. The first 504 (that’s the Crescent City’s area code) copies of the box set included a CD and DVD documenting Preservation Hall’s five decades of music, along with original photos, an unreleased 7" record and other material from their archives. That special run has understandably been snatched up, but you can still get a copy of the boxset with reproductions of the limited edition materials or purchase the tracks as digital downloads. “We wanted to open up our archives and give more of a history of Preservation Hall and getting people interested in what it means to be from New Orleans and part of Preservation Hall,” Jaffe says of the project.

A tuba player (like his father) and bassist, Jaffe is clearly the best person to put together such a collection, as he’s been living, breathing and playing New Orleans music his entire life. “It really wasn’t until I was in middle school that I realized there were people who had cars and cable television and couldn’t walk out of their house at 11 o’clock at night and go hear live jazz,” he says. The day after graduating from Ohio’s Oberlin College, he grabbed his bass and set out on an international tour with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.

Following the hurricane, however, Jaffe stopped touring as much to focus on the Hall, which is located in the French Quarter and reopened in April 2006. “Just being here, being back in Preservation Hall and playing music, it just meant the world to us all,” he says. Jaffe also founded the New Orleans Musician Hurricane Relief Fund, now Renew Our Music, an organization that helps Big Easy musicians by providing health insurance, housing and financial support.

Video of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.
C-VILLE Playlist
What we’re listening to

“My Funny Valentine,” by Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders (Winterland -San Francisco, CA, 10/02/1973) —On a fall night in 1973, Jerry Garcia and a group of talented musicians gathered for an eclectic set at the famed Winterland. Their 20-minute take on this jazz standard is the highlight, with Saunders’ mellifluous keyboards backing Garcia’s sweet-as-honey playing. Dig it!

“Little Birdy,” by Anomoanon (from The Derby Ram)—A cheery, flute-laced ditty that takes on a more somber subject: mortality.

“The Sound of German Hip-Hop,” by Clem Snide (from End of Love)

“Sweetleaf,” by Black Sabbath (from Master of Reality)

“Some Kind of Death,” by Birdlips (from Cardboard Wings)

While Jaffe won’t be performing, the current incarnation of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band will be bringing its historic sound to Piedmont Virginia Community College’s V. Earl Dickinson Building on Saturday, April 19. Like Jaffe, many of the players have New Orleans melodies in their blood. “Some are the sons and grandsons of musicians that used to be in the band,” he says. “For example, one of our trumpet players recently passed away, and we replaced him with his nephew. That shows a lot about the evolution of New Orleans music and how it is truly a family tradition.”

And, in addition to being a rare opportunity to catch the jazz ensemble, Saturday’s concert is also a benefit for the PVCC Educational Foundation, which helps support the community college.

“I think it’s great that people really have a good understanding of what it is we do now and are excited to be part of history,” Jaffe told us at the end of our chat. “Living, breathing history.” Don’t miss this chance to join in.

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