Preservation Hall was built in 1750 in the heart of New Orleans' French Quarter. During the war of 1812, it served as a tavern for thirsty soldiers. In 1952 it had become an art gallery, and the owner invited jazz musicians to rehearse for his friends there. In 1961, Allan Jaffe bought the hall, and it became one of the most popular spots to hear traditional jazz in a city steeped in jazz tradition.
While the price of admission at Preservation Hall is only $4, the bands can command a higher price when they go out on the road. For example, one of the three Preservation Hall Jazz Bands, the "Brunious Band," is charging $20 to $36 a ticket ($12 for students) for a concert in Deer Valley on Saturday, Aug 1 (call 533-NOTE for tickets). The Utah Symphony will open with six ragtime tunes under the baton of Kory Katseanes who can swing.Perhaps the reason they can charge more here in Utah is that the Preservation Hall Jazz Band exemplifies New Orleans music. Drummer Shannon Powell grew up next to the New Orleans Sanctified Church, where he began playing drums when he was 6 years old. He learned jazz by watching drummers like Cie Frazier and Louis Barbarin at Preservation Hall.
Trumpeter John Brunious received his first music lessons from his father, a jazz composer and arranger, who regularly entertained legends like Paul Barbarin and Johnny St. Cyr.
The band features 89-year-old Narvin Henry Kimball on banjo, whose father played bass with Fate Marable on the riverboat S.S. Capital. After a brief tour with his father, Kimball the younger played with Sidney Desvigne's Orchestra and Papa Celestin's Original Tuxedo Orchestra and composed the 1931 Ink Spots hit "Don't Let Old Age Creep Up on You."
After taking a break from professional music during the Depression, Kimball played bass behind Louis Armstrong at the National Jazz Foundation in 1945 before taking a job in the U.S. postal service, which he held until 1964. Kimball has played with the PHJB since its inception in 1961.
Joining the band 20 years later, pianist Thaddeus Richard also had a musical father who arranged and composed for Ray Charles. Bassist and conductor Ben Jaffe is the son of the band's founder and former tuba player Allan Jaffe. Jaffe graduated from the Oberlin conservatory and teaches at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts.
Perhaps $20 isn't too steep a price for this group of second generation jazzers with Bourbon Street in their blood.