Preservation Hall Jazz Band celebrates 60 years
- What: Preservation Hall Jazz Band
- When: 7 p.m. March 10
- Where: Vilar Performing Arts Center, Beaver Creek
- Tickets: Start at $45
- More info: VilarPAC.org
Preservation Hall Jazz Band performed at the Vilar Performing Arts Center when it first opened in 1998, so it’s fitting that the band, which celebrates its 60th anniversary, is also playing during VPAC’s 25th year.
In 1998, “the group brought its self-proclaimed ‘happy music’ to the stage, a veritable moving Mardi Gras that had the audience on its feet to fully appreciate the traditional New Orleans jazz sounds. This energetic performance delighted listeners and kept alive an important piece of musical history,” according to VPAC’s historical record.
This year, Preservation Hall Jazz Band presents “Pass It On: a 60th Anniversary Musical Celebration.”
“Preservation Hall is a treasure of American musical history, emblematic of the rich traditions of New Orleans jazz that have impacted much of popular music over the past century,” said VPAC executive director Owen Hutchinson.
The musicians took their name from a humble, much-loved, physically-small-but-spiritually-huge room in New Orleans that’s dedicated to keeping the past and future of jazz alive.
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In addition to live shows, the band has shared its music through various recordings, including the latest “Preservation Hall Presents: Charlie Gabriel Eight Nine.” Recorded in 2020 and 2021, the album showcases Gabriel, who has been a member of the band since 2006 and has developed a tight musical relationship with bassist and tuba player Ben Jaffe and guitarist Joshua Starkman, who join Gabriel on the album.
“I never did anything in my life but play music. I’ve been blessed with that gift that God gave me, and I’ve tried to nurse it the best way I knew how,” Gabriel said, adding that he’s been playing since he was 11 and has toured with Aretha Franklin, among other pop and R&B artists.
The band also recorded “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” its rendition of the Black National Anthem, recorded in New Orleans for the critically-acclaimed documentary “MLK/FBI.”
Since the musicians’ first trip to Cuba in 2015, they have been exploring Cuban and NOLA history; the documentary “A Tuba to Cuba” highlights their journey.
Though music fans worldwide visit Preservation Hall regularly, this season, the band tours nationwide. Its mission: to initiate audiences “into the ineffable, almost religious experience of channeling their ancestors through the music and culture they’ve inherited from them,” according to the band’s press release.
“Touring is a part of our ritual,” said Jaffe, who’s also the creative director of Preservation Hall. “It’s our tradition. When my parents began touring with the band in the early ’60s, they were bringing something that most people didn’t even know existed to stages all over the world. It was this magnificent revelation to people that something so beautiful could even exist. People come to Preservation Hall and have transformative experiences, and that’s part of our mission: to go out in the world and make that experience available to people.”