Jazz, the first indigenous American style of music to affect the rest of the world, was born in the recently hurricane-ravaged city of New Orleans. Ben Jaffe, manager and bassist of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, warmly thinks of the Tarrytown Music Hall as the band’s “home away from home.” This year, however, when Mark Morganelli of Jazz Forum Arts brings the band back to the Music Hall on April 7 for an encore performance, the words will take on a very different meaning.
The Preservation Hall Jazz Band derives its name from Preservation Hall, the venerable music venue located in the heart of New Orleans’ French Quarter, founded in 1961 by Ben’s parents, Allan and Sandra Jaffe.
The hall was created as a sanctuary to protect and honor New Orleans Jazz which had lost much of its popularity to modern jazz and rock. A New Orleans tourist magnet, it’s a venue that resounds with rousing performances of songs such as St. Louis Blues, Bourbon St. Parade,Tiger Rag, and, of course, When the Saints Go Marching In.
All of the musicians with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band survived Katrina, but most of them — seven out of the eight members — lost their possessions. “They left New Orleans literally with the clothes on their backs,” Ben confided. “The hurricane has been devastating to the city economically in addition to physically, and has furiously destroyed the fragile cultural ecosystem we had here. It is incredible to fathom that the city has lost one half of its population. It has been an emotional roller coaster.”
The building where the band plays is still standing, but has been closed ever since the storm. Prior to the hurricane, the band was planning its 45th anniversary. A date has now been set for the reopening: Friday/Saturday, April 27-28, 2006 during the annual New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. Ben encourages everyone to make the trip down for the special event. “We need as many people as we can get to turn the city around.” Ben’s performance at the Music Hall will be one of his last as a musician with the band. He intends to dedicate his full time to reviving the city of New Orleans. He is director of The New Orleans Musicians Hurricane Relief Fund, an independent 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to aiding New Orleans musicians affected by Hurricane Katrina and reviving the city’s unique musical culture: http: //www.nomhrf.org/index.php
Other incredible jazz performers that Jazz Forum Arts will present at the Music Hall this year include Maynard Ferguson on March 31 and the Dave Brubeck Quartet on May 6. “I saw Maynard Ferguson for the first time when I was in high school,” Mark Morganelli remembers. “Twenty thousand people were watching. He is an icon who is approaching his 78th birthday. Seeing him play his horn in the intimate theater will be a real treat.” Dave Brubeck, with Bobby Militello on sax and flute, Michael Moore on bass, and Randy Jones on drums, is sure to play his favorites: Blue Rondo a la Turk and Paul Desmond’s Take Five. “At 85, Dave never ceases to thrill the audience with style and wonderful presentation,” Mark commented.
Jesse Humm, an aspiring jazz pianist in his second year at Sleepy Hollow High School, was one of several students to meet Dave Brubeck backstage after his concert last year. ” It was really inspiring to meet him,” Jesse recalls. “He was very nice and friendly, a cool guy, and his concert was fabulous. It was great to meet someone who has been able to build a career as a jazz pianist and is still playing in his eighties! This is what I want to do, too!” Jesse Humm will perform in the Sleepy Hollow Jazz Fest on March 17 at the Music Hall. Area highschool bands will compete with one another and be judged by members of the Westchester Jazz Orchestra. The winners will be invited to perform with the Westchester Jazz Orchestra and the host, the Sleepy Hollow Jazz Band, on the Music Hall’s stage.