For fans of New Orleans Jazzperhaps no band is more revered than the Preservation Room Jazz Band.
The legendary ensemble returns to upstate September 6 for the season-opening performance of Clemson Brooks Center.
The group is known as the guardian of the flame of traditional New Orleans-style jazz, perhaps most characterized by the fiery, simultaneous improvisation of multiple musicians.
Preserving this style is a main mission of the group.
“Our musical traditions are passed down from generation to generation,” said conductor Ben Jaffe. “It’s part of our identity and our history, something we take very seriously in New Orleans.”
Democracy of sounds
The New Orleans sound, which emerged in the 1910s and 20s, primarily involves one instrument playing a melody while the other instruments improvise around that tune at the same time. The result is more improvisational and polyphonic than other styles of jazz.
Among the best-known New Orleans style standards are “When the saints enter,” “Basin Street Blues” and “tiger rag», the latter famously used as the Clemson University Fight Song.
The typical New Orleans jazz band includes clarinet, trumpet and trombone and a rhythm section of piano, guitar or banjo, tuba or double bass and drums.
More than one observer has compared New Orleans jazz to an idealized American democracy: many exuberant voices united into a harmonious whole.
The Preservation Hall Jazz Band has held court in its famous French Quarter venue for over 60 years. On hot summer nights, long queues form in Rue Saint-Pierre with fans eager to hear the band’s upbeat and infectious beats.
Jaffe’s parents, Allan and Sandra Jaffe, managed the band’s venue, Preservation Hall, for decades beginning in 1961. Allan Jaffe also toured as the band’s tuba player; later Ben Jaffe would become the band leader as well as the band’s tuba and bassist.
Over the years, band members have varied greatly in age, with older musicians helping to pass on the New Orleans style to younger instrumentalists.
Paul Hydelongtime upstate journalist, writing about the arts for the Greenville Journal.
If you are going to
What: Preservation Room Jazz Band
When: 7:30 p.m. September 6
Where: Brooks Center at Clemson University
Tickets: $40 adults; $20 students
Information: 864-656-7787 or Clemson.edu/Brooks