“New Orleans is the birthplace of jazz and every member of the band comes from a musical family,” says Preservation Hall Jazz Band director Ben Jaffe. “Either their father, their grandfather, even their great grandfather were musicians in New Orleans.”
Hamptons.com spoke with Jaffe while the band was on a brief break from their busy performance schedule. “The band goes pretty hard,” the director says. “Once we get people going and they’re dancing, we don’t stop.”
The Louisiana based band has deep roots in the New Orleans jazz scene. “Most of our musicians who play at Preservation Hall can trace their roots in music back to the earliest days of jazz.” That includes Jafffe whose parents, Allan and Sandra Jaffe, helped turn Preservation Hall into the iconic venue it is today.
Established in the 1960s, Preservation Hall originally opened their doors as an art gallery, and eventually turned into a spot for local artists to gather and showcase their talent. “It became a place where they celebrated New Orleans Jazz,” says Jaffe.
The band thrives on tradition, as membership is passed down from generation to generation. “It’s essential to have younger members coming up behind you. That’s how a tradition gets passed on,” notes Jaffe. “It was passed on to me. Older musicians took me under their wing and gave me an opportunity to play alongside them when I was a child. Now I’m in my 40s and I’m able to pass that tradition on to a young generation.”
Their rich history is something the director truly treasures. “The most important aspect of the band, the thing that’s important for me to continue is a celebration of our history.”
It was the celebration of their 50th anniversary that sparked the inspiration for their latest album, “That’s It!,” which is composed off all original music, a first for the group. It was natural, organic evolution for the band. “Spending a year focused on your past really got me thinking about our future as well,” says Jaffe.
Part of their future includes a performance in the Hamptons at Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center on Friday, May 9, at 8 p.m. They might even commemorate the concert with a trip to the beach. “To me that’s beautiful, to stand in Montauk looking out over the ocean,” says Jaffe.
WHBPAC is located at 76 Main Street in Westhampton Beach. For more information call 631-288-1500 or visit whbpac.org.