There is no music, in my opinion, more vibrant and life-affirming than traditional New Orleans jazz. For 50 years, much of that great music has been performed at Preservation Hall in New Orleans, and a lot of it by the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.
Preservation Hall was first founded in 1961 by Allan and Sandra Jaffe. Jaffe played tuba in the Preservation Hall Jazz Band as well. Today, his son Ben is the creative director of the Hall, a member of the band, and the co-producer (with Michael Cuscuna) of this 50th Anniversary Collection..
The extremely interesting and informative booklet included with the four-CD set gives Jaffe’s commentary on each and every one of the 58 tracks in the collection. The songs span from 1962, when recording began at Preservation Hall, through 2010, when the current band recorded with such guest stars as Richie Havens, Tom Waits, Del McCoury, Pete Seeger and Andrew Bird.
In the booklet, Jaffe explains that several recordings have never been released before because he found them while attempting to find and restore material after Hurricane Katrina. Several other songs are from arrangements he discovered at that time and re-recorded with new vocals and instrumentals. This music is as authentic as music gets.
The music and the booklet also introduce many colorful characters, such as Sweet Emma, Walter Payton, Sing Miller, and Tuba Fats.
The sacred is liberally represented here, with songs like “Do Lord,” “Just a Little While to Stay Here,” “His Eye is on the Sparrow,” “In the Sweet Bye and Bye,” and others. Jaffe says that these songs are done very much the way they are in New Orleans churches. If they were done that way in churches when I grew up, I would still be going to church.
The secular is equally well represented, with “St. James Infirmary,” “Shake That Thing,” “Short Dressed Girl,” and “A Good Man is Hard to Find” being examples. With 58 songs, the entire spectrum of sacred and profane is covered.
The common thread through all the songs is the sheer joy in singing and playing that comes through clearly to the listener, inviting him or her to join in.
This collection is a treasure for any lover of traditional jazz. Indeed, it is hard to imagine that any music lover would not enjoy listening to this CD. In addition, the photos and text of the booklet are among the most interesting CD inserts I have ever read and a treasure in themselves. You cannot go wrong by acquiring this for your collection.