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New Orleans jazz rolls into Breckenridge

KIMBERLY NICOLETTI
summit daily news

Ben Jaffe grew up two blocks from Preservation Hall, so it’s no wonder his only memories involve listening to older, legendary, musicians play at the infamous venue.

His parents, Allan and Sandra Jaffe, founded the hall, located in the heart of New Orleans’ French Quarter, in 1961 to support and perpetuate New Orleans jazz.

But it wasn’t easy. Even though the U.S. Supreme Court declared segregation in public schools unconstitutional in the 1950s, Louisiana still abided by Jim Crow laws, which strongly favored racial segregation in all private and public venues.

“My parents were instrumental in defying the establishment,” Ben Jaffe said. “My parents fell in love with the community, the people, the history and the culture,”

Out of jam sessions in the hall grew a cohesive band, known as the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. As a result, people like Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton, Buddy Bolden, Bunk Johnson “were the bedrock” that defined the band’s style.

And since then, “amazingly, not much has changed,” Ben Jaffe said. “The basic ingredients and recipe for our music are the same.”

Though the band writes original music, as well as plays traditional tunes, “unless you knew which was which, our new songs sound like our old songs,” he said.

The love that his parents passed down led Ben Jaffe to direct the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, in order to keep the traditional New Orleans’ sound alive.

“This is our history, our culture,” he said. “We have to care for it. Our music is our family.”

The ensemble has traveled worldwide, from Carnegie Hall and the Lincoln Center to shows for British royalty and the king of Thailand. The music crosses international boundaries because it embodies joyful, timeless and soulful characteristics. Thursday, the sound fills the Riverwalk Center as part of the Breckenridge Music Festival.

“I’ve always loved New Orleans Jazz and Brass Bands, and I have heard lots of Preservation Hall Jazz Band’s music over the years,” said Rick Hansen, director of marketing and administration for the music festival. “When I started to look at booking bands for this year’s Blue River Series, I kept seeing articles on them in Rolling Stone almost three months in a row, so I decided I had to go for them and it worked!”

Today, Preservation Hall still stands strong, despite its weathered exterior. It doesn’t serve drinks – and doesn’t even have air conditioning. But it does welcome music lovers of all ages, who, according to the band’s bio, are “interested in having one of the last pure music experiences left on earth.”


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