by Chad Campbell, senior producer
As you’ve probably heard by now, Bob, fellow producer Geoffrey Redick and I went down to New Orleans for the first weekend of the city’s annual Jazz and Heritage Festival in late April. We recorded 12 interviews with 12 musicians all over the city in all kinds of settings. My favorite was Ben Jaffe AT Preservation Hall in the French Quarter. He was kind enough to meet us at 9am on a Sunday morning, just five hours after wrapping up a show with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Jaffe plays tuba and double bass and is the band’s director. As we waited outside, Jaffe rode up on an old bicycle painted Saints gold and covered in stickers - his trademark reddish afro bobbing with each push of a pedal. Jaffe wore a charcoal grey suit, a white dress shirt and tie, with Preservation Hall cufflinks. The building we were about to enter is roughly 260 years old, as Bob pointed out OLDER than this country and was first a private residence, then a Spanish tavern, then who knows what, before becoming an art gallery. It’s only been Preservation Hall for the last 49 years. Click here for a virtual tour of the property. After showing us around the main room where the band performs and the crowd sits on benches along the walls, and on cushions on the floor, Jaffe surprised us by opening up his family’s old living quarters for the rest of the interview. It’s mostly one big room, with a bedroom/office up in the old hay loft. That was once his parents “room” and below that was a kitchen that the Jaffe’s turned into Ben’s brother’s bedroom. The main room is now chock full of knick-knacks, a collection of tuba player figurines here, dozens of mouthpieces for old tubas and horns there, a hand-crank player piano in an alcove along with a whole bunch of other stuff collected by Ben’s late father Allan Jaffe, who along with his wife Sandra, started the Hall in 1961.
One wall is a big picture window looking out onto the courtyard between the old living quarters and the main room. Two walls of the room are covered with bookshelves and stacked with CDs, albums, photos, cassettes, super 8 film canisters, beta video tapes, DATs, computer discs, books and reel-to-reel tapes. There’s also a piano, a sofa and a large table with benches so the space seems to be used now as a lounge or a green room for the band, guest performers and special guests. The night before, or technically, earlier that morning, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band hosted My Morning Jacket for a show which started a little after midnight. Sunday morning there were still coolers with ice and soda and grown-up beverages. On the table, we even found a couple of hand-written set lists from the show. After talking with us for over an hour, and opening up his family’s private space to us, Ben Jaffe was even nice enough to recommend the perfect place for brunch. It was just a short walk to a hotel called Le Richeileu and the restaurant inside where the same waiters have been working since Jaffe’s childhood. He has dedicated his life to preserving his hometown’s musical traditions - from playing with and leading the Preservation Hall Jazz Band - to founding non-profit organizations which help musicians. Click here to learn more about Sweet Home New Orleans, which began as the New Orleans Musicians Hurricane Relief Fund. Learn more about the Preservation Hall Music Outreach Program here.
Click here to purchase The Preservation Hall Jazz Band’s latest CD titled Preservation.
Click here to see more pictures of our New Orleans adventure.