Fifty years after a former art gallery on St. Peter Street became a haven and platform for the surviving musicians who made New Orleans the birthplace of jazz, The Preservation Hall 50th Anniversary Collection box set celebrates their contributions. This deluxe 4-CD, 58-track collection will be available September 25 through Legacy Recordings, a division of Sony Music Entertainment. Today Preservation Hall Jazz Band is sharing “C.C. Rider” from the box set, which just premiered on Paste.
The Preservation Hall 50th Anniversary Collection includes five previously unissued tracks that were recorded at Allen Toussaint’s Sea-Saint Studios over the years: “In The Evening (When The Sun Goes Down)” (1967); “Precious Lord” (1970); “C. C. Rider” (1981); and “I Get The Blues When It Rains” and “Nellie Grey” (both 1986). After Hurricane Katrina ravaged the state-of-the-art studios in 2005, Preservation Hall producer and musician Ben Jaffe (son of original producer, Preservation Hall Jazz Band member and founder Allan Jaffe) was able to recover many of the tapes and restore a portion of the music.
Also on September 25, Rounder Records will release a new album recorded by the Preservation Hall Jazz Band in January at Carnegie Hall. St. Peter and 57th will feature a variety of special guests from many musical genres.
In presenting its comprehensive history, The Preservation Hall 50th Anniversary Collection draws from 19 albums (and one bonus CD) that were recorded and released between 1962 and 2010, on the Atlantic Records, CBS Records, Sony Music, and Preservation Hall Recordings labels. Tracks are sequenced in non-chronological order, so the listener can appreciate the seamless transitions of the music and the musicians’ lineups from decade to decade.
In many ways, The Preservation Hall 50th Anniversary Collection is a family’s story, and a tribute to Allan Jaffe (1935-1987). A trained musician from Pennsylvania, Jaffe frequently visited New Orleans when he served as a GI in the 1950s at Fort Polk, about four hours northwest of the Crescent City. He and his newlywed wife emigrated there in 1961, and fell into the second line of a parade that wound up at an art gallery. The owner actively promoted jam sessions at his gallery by the elder founding fathers of jazz. Most of them were born in the late 19th century, and had few outlets for their pure jazz (not Dixieland!) in the postwar era of the 1950s.
When Allan Jaffe died from melanoma in 1986, at age 51, Ben writes “It left a wide open hole in our immediate family and at Preservation Hall.” A trained bassist whose life was inextricably bound up with the band, Ben went off to Oberlin College in 1989. Upon his graduation four years later, “I returned to New Orleans to manage the Hall and tour and record with the band on string bass. I was 22.”
Under Ben’s guidance, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band flourished in the ’90s and the ’00s, continuing to release new albums, and becoming a worldwide touring attraction. They perform some 100 shows a year, bringing traditional New Orleans jazz to old and new audiences in the U.S. and on foreign soil. Ben lamented the passing of two childhood heroes, Percy Humphrey in 1994 (age 89) and his brother Willie Humphrey in 1995 (age 95). Banjo mentor Narvin Kimball passed away not long after Katrina; and the great John Brunious died in 2008 (age 67).
“I get great pleasure,” Ben writes, “out of a song that has been interpreted, reinterpreted and performed for years and is still as fresh and new as the day it was born… That’s something music does… stretch time, overlap traditions, change history… New Orleans Music is meaningful… It is vital and full of life. It can be happy and joyous. It can be sad and mournful. It has no language barrier. It delivers a universal message we, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, carry with us everywhere we travel.”