Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Friday, April 12, 7:00 / 9:45 pm, It's A Breeze and Hawk Haven Vineyard Stage in Cape May Convention Hall

The Story

A New Orleans institution for more than 50 years, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band continues spreading joy around the world with Crescent City classics like “Bourbon Street Parade,” “Tiger Rag” and “Little Liza Jane.” In recent years, under the direction of bassist Ben Jaffe (son of the group’s tuba playing founder), the group has expanded its scope to include original material and crossover tunes co-written by the likes of TV on the Radio’s Dave Sitek and Semitonic’s Dan Wilson. They have appeared on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” played at Coachella alongside Arcade Fire and guested on the Foo Fighters' Sonic Highways. But while they may have become a more open-minded and stylistically adventurous ensemble, they remain firmly committed to playing traditional favorites like “Muskrat Ramble,” “Hindustan” and “Panama.”

The band derives its name from Preservation Hall located in the heart of the French Quarter. Originally an art gallery in the late 1950s, owner Larry Bornstein began inviting local jazz musicians in to play to attract customers. By 1961, Pennsylvanians Allan Jaffe and his wife Sandra began managing Preservation Hall and greatly expanded its jazz appeal. In the early days, key musicians at the club included pianist Sweet Emma Barrett, trumpeters Kid Thomas Valentine and Punch Miller, pianist De De Pierce, clarinetist George Lewis, banjoist Narvin Kimball and the Humphrey Percy on trumpet and Willie on clarinet, with Jaffe playing tuba. The group increased its profile in the 1960s and 1970s through several international tours. Jaffe died of cancer in 1987 at age 51 and in 1993 his bass and tuba playing son Benjamin became artistic director of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.

Hurricane Katrina forced Preservation Hall to close its doors from the fall of 2005 through April of 2006. In November of 2006, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band was awarded the National Medal of Arts, the nation's highest honor for artistic excellence. The award was presented to Benjamin Jaffe and Preservation Hall co-founder Sandra Jaffe, who accepted the award from President and Mrs. Laura Bush in an Oval Office ceremony. The citation reads: “With enormous talent and pride, this ageless ensemble has toured the world displaying the unbreakable spirit of New Orleans and sharing the joy of New Orleans jazz with us all.”

Following Katrina, they went back to performing in the French Quarter and returned to the recording scene in triumphant fashion with 2008’s acclaimed Made in New Orleans: The Hurricane Sessions, culled from early Preservation Hall Jazz Band master tapes salvaged from flood-damaged Seasaint Studios in New Orleans. They followed in 2009 with a live recording from Preservation Hall and in 2011 the group performed on the “Late Show with David Letterman.” The current edition of the septet includes Ben Jaffe on bass and tuba, Charlie Gabriel on saxophone and clarinet, Clint Maedgen on saxophone, Ronell Johnson on trombone

Branden Lewis on trumpet, Kyle Roussel on piano and Walter Harris on drums. Their latest release is 2017’s So It Is.

The Sound

When these beloved ambassadors of New Orleans make a joyful noise with “I Shall Not Be Moved,” “Jesus on the Mainline” and “Oh! Didn’t He Ramble” or break into infectious renditions of “Shake It and Break It” and “Tootie Ma Was a Big Fine Thing,” toes will be tapping and bodies will be moving involuntarily. Resistance is futile.

When and Where

It’s A Breeze and Hawk Haven Vineyard Stage in Cape May Convention Hall, Friday, April 12, 7:00pm & 9:45pm

Blake Haney