New Orleans’ Preservation Hall is a small weathered music venue in the heart of the French Quarter. Its jazz band was founded in 1961 by Allan and Sandra Jaffe. Since its inception the group has travelled world wide spreading the New Orleans sound, which centers on creating a joyful spirit.
In its own intimate setting the band fits like an old shoe, with the players creating sounds which seems informal, almost like a jam session without structure. In fact, the talented collection of marvelous musicians start out with a preset head, which introduces the tune. Then the players embellish on that theme, and return to conclude the leitmotif.
Blossom is not an intimate venue. It mattered little to the Preservation group. They created intimacy by speaking to the audience, getting the listeners’ involved through cues for cadence clapping, dancing in place, and encouraging applause for instrumental solos. The players yelled encouragement to each other, made comments, and generally enjoyed themselves while creating a joyous audience experience.
The band is headed by Ben Jaffe, the son of the group’s founders. An Oberlin graduate, he introduced one of his college professors and invited the audience to visit the new jazz building on the Oberlin campus.
Song choices included Bourbon Street Parade, Tailgate Ramble, Old Man Mose,
Ice Cream, Tootie Ma, and I'll Fly Away.
The group’s version of Ain’t She Sweet took the audience on a trip to the true joys of jazz.
Mark Braud on trumpet, Freddie Lonzo, trombone, Rickie Monie, piano, Clint Madgen, tenor sax, Ronell Johnson, tuba, and Joseph Lastie Jr, drums, gave a lesson on what it’s like to be in the presence of musical greatness. Eighty-year old Charlie Gabriel, danced as he played his clarinet, and let loose with mello sounds as he sang. He was an obvious audience favorite.
Alex, my sixteen year-old, award winning composing grandson, who has just returned from a summer studying composition and jazz piano at Interlochen, the renowned arts camp in Michigan, was overjoyed with the program. He commented on the group’s ability to build and bound off each other, and capture the audience’s attention. I think nothing would have made him happier than to have been able to slide onto the piano bench and jam with those guys.
Capsule judgement: The exciting and involving Preservation Hall Jazz Band, perfect weather, and the beautiful Blossom setting—what else could anyone want?