Blakeview: Preservation Hall turns 60 this week | Blake Pontchartrain | Weekly gambit
Singer Tom Waits called it “holy and hallowed land” while the New York Times called Preservation Hall “New Orleans’ traditional jazz mecca and sanctuary.” The French Quarter monument at 726 St. Peter St. opened 60 years ago this week.
Preservation Hall grew out of informal jazz sessions held in the gallery of art dealer E. Lorenz “Larry” Borenstein. According to writer and clarinetist Tom Sancton (who performs regularly in the hall), two idealistic young jazz fans, Ken Mills and Barbara Reid, later persuaded Borenstein to let them put on nightly concerts there.
Along with other friends, they formed the New Orleans Society for the Preservation of Traditional Jazz, in hopes of reviving the native art form that had almost disappeared. They hoped to support the aging musicians who would perform in the hall and collect the tips thrown into a wicker basket.
According to the Hall History of author William Carter, other names were considered for the place, including “Authenticity Hall” and “Perseverance Hall”, before it opened as Preservation Hall on June 10, 1961. The Surroundings were intentionally spartan and remain so – a simple room with worn floors, a few wooden benches, and no air conditioning.
In September 1961, Borenstein decided to rent the hall to Pennsylvania honeymooners and jazz fans, Allan and Sandra Jaffe. They ran the club and Allan played tuba in the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.
The Jaffes’ son, Ben, now plays tuba with the band, is the Creative Director of Preservation Hall and a member of the board of directors of its Preservation Hall Foundation. In recent years, the group has added other musical styles to their repertoire, performing with Paul McCartney, Dave Grohl, Dave Matthews, Beck, Arcade Fire and My Morning Jacket.
While Preservation Hall remains closed, this Saturday, June 12, the group will play their first concert in over a year, with two concerts at Tipitina’s.
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