Aural History: Preservation Hall & The Preservation Hall Jazz Band
by Terrance Osborne
In 1963, Allan Jaffe organized the Preservation Hall Jazz Band as a touring group to bring this joyous noise to the world. By 1967, the Band had seduced the beast that nearly devoured New Orleans jazz, triumphantly playing alongside The Grateful Dead, Santana, and Steppenwolf at a Bill Graham concert in San Francisco. A SO-year old band will have some personnel changes over the years but this band probably sets the record at 46 members and counting. And in a city of legacies, none is more poignant than that the tuba chair has been passed to Allan and Sandra’s son, Ben Jaffe, who also mans the upright bass in the Band’s current eight-man lineup.
Here, Osborne shows his continuing evolution as an artist, leveraging his vigorous style to reveal his subject’s depth. His shrewd use of a trump l’oei sleight to preserve the buildings’ orthogonal geometry and maintain the Band’s vertical plane is masterful. His allegory of the band emerging from its historic home binds the two and alludes to its going on tour as if a marching band, a heritage it shares but does not embody. From the smallest details, such as including the house cat, to his placing Ben Jaffe, Allan Jaffe’s son who ascended to his father’s tuba position, overseeing the band’s arc – a curve that pulls the viewer deep into the Hall – Osborne delivers history with knowing grace.