The Preservation Hall Jazz Band has been around since 1961, when Ben Jaffe’s father, Allan Jaffe also a tuba player, started the group with local New Orleans musicians to preserve and enhance NOLA’s unique musical heritage. The last 50 years have seen numerous line-ups and even multiple bands at the same time and these groups have travelled the globe spreading their joyful and soulful classic jazz sounds. Of course, Preservation Hall is also a major tourist attraction itself and many fortunate souls have had the chance to hear the group play on home turf over the years.
The 50th Anniversary Collection features highlights from the various line-ups over the years, tracing the band’s history in fine detail. Meanwhile, St. Peter & 57th St. is all about the here and now. For years, the Pres Hall band has been pushing the boundaries of traditional jazz while keeping the roots in place. Therefore, they have played Bonnaroo and collaborated with all manner of musicians from rock to hip-hop, bluegrass to indie. That exploratory nature is on full display with the new live recording, which features appearances from the Del McCoury Band (this version of “I’ll Fly Away” is the best set to wax), Allen Toussaint, Steve Earle, Mos Def, King Britt, Merril Garbus of tUnE-yArDs, and more.
It was an amazing night, as Ben Jaffe describes: “I couldn’t imagine a better way to celebrate our 50th Anniversary than making music with our all our friends on one stage. The night was magic. It didn’t matter what you played or where you came from, that night, we were all part of the same New Orleans family. What an amazing way to pay tribute to one of our great treasures, Preservation Hall.”
Today we have the pleasure of premiering a mini-documentary that mixes interviews and music to highlight Pres Hall’s history, as well as the concert that became St. Peter & 57th St..
Yeah, I may as well admit it straight out, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band is my favorite band along with Beausoleil and so next week will be a very happy week for me as well as countless others who treasure American roots music in all of its glorious forms.
Photo: Danny Clinch