New Year’s Eve Gala: Preservation Hall Jazz Band

New Year’s Eve Gala: Preservation Hall Jazz Band

A New Orleans-themed dance party featuring Preservation Hall Jazz Band on New Year’s Eve. At the historic Sheridan Opera House. Doors, 9 a.m.; music at 10:30 p.m. Tickets are $100 general admission on the floor and $250 in the balcony. The night will include a midnight champagne toast and light appetizersTickets here or call 970-728-6363, ext.5.

NYE poster copy


Preservation Hall was founded in 1961 to promote traditional New Orleans jazz in all its authenticity. Legendary players like George Lewis, Sweet Emma Barrett and Kid Thomas Valentine, all rooted in the formative years of jazz, were its original stars. That generation is long gone now, yet the hall is still in business, and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band continues to tour the world.

Therein lies a paradox: how does an institution based on an early 20th-century musical culture prosper in the 21st? When asked that question on the occasion of the Hall’s 50th anniversary, creative director Ben Jaffe had a ready answer: “This anniversary is about the next 50 years.”

For Jaffe, 41, this not just a business question: he’s carrying on a family tradition started by his parents, Allan and Sandra Jaffe, who were instrumental in founding the Hall and turning it into an internationally-renowned cultural icon. When Ben Jaffe took over the operation in 1995, he faced the challenge of keeping it going with a dwindling band of veteran musicians and an aging audience base. His solution? Inject the touring band with new blood, younger players with fresh musical ideas, and collaborate with groups and musicians from outside the New Orleans tradition.

In recent years, the PHJB has performed and recorded with a wide array of musicians, ranging from groups like My Morning Jacket, Tom Waits, Merle Haggard, Pete Seeger, and the Del McCoury Bluegrass Band. The culmination of this collaborative effort was the sellout 50th anniversary concert the PHJB hosted at Carnegie Hall in January 2012.

Their latest album, That’s It, breaks new ground for Jaffe and the PHJB: it marks the first time in the band’s history that an album is made up of entirely original material, most of it composed by Jaffe and members of his group. In the heyday of the Jazz Age, New Orleans musicians learned new tunes all the time by listening to what their peers were doing in the dance halls and on their recordings. One of the aims of the Hall’s new album is to stimulate that kind of cross-pollination among today’s New Orleans jazzmen.

Though some traditional jazz purists may be surprised, the broader public will hopefully find the sounds engaging, enthralling — and best of all for New Year’s Eve, irresistibly danceable.

No one who hears Jaffe’s funky tuba lines, Joe Lastie’s backbeat drumming and the band’s groove on tunes like “The Darker it Gets” could doubt the group’s traditional New Orleans roots.


On the other hand, Clint Maedgen’s boozy “August Nights,” with it’s haunting tenor sax riffs and sultry muted trumpet work by Mark Braud, is a Tom Waits-like hymn to urban despair that would be at home on any barroom jukebox in the world. The punchy horn-section riffs on “Come With Me” and “That’s It” have a bite and exuberance that recall the Ellington big band sound. “I Think I Love You,” is a pop tune with a Caribbean beat and smooth, sexy vocals by 80-year-old reedman Charlie Gabriel (with Jim James of My Morning Jacket singing backup).

In short, That’s It is an eclectic release that draws on the collective experience of players nurtured in the New Orleans tradition, who remain determined to build something fresh and exciting on that solid foundation.

The album marks an important milestone in Jaffe’s crusade to carry forward the Hall’s original mission, while making it relevant to today’s audiences. For his part, co-producer Jim James is convinced that the PHJB has a future as vibrant as its past:

“The music will speak forever,” he said. “Will people stop listening to Beethoven? Will people stop listening to Bob Dylan? Will people stop listening to the Preservation Hall Jazz Band?”

Not if Ben Jaffe can help it.

“My parents were never preservationists in any strict sense,” Jaffee adds. “They simply presented the music the way the old jazzmen wanted to play it. And this is the music we want to play today. We’ll continue to do the old standards, along with new material that allows us to be creative and relevant. With this album, I wanted to do something that would challenge us and make us proud.”

That’s it.

For a preview of the show, watch this video of the Hall in action performing the title track “That’s It”:

The Sheridan Arts Foundation was founded in 1991 as a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization to preserve the historic Sheridan Opera House as an arts and cultural resource for the Telluride community, to bring quality arts and cultural events to Telluride and to provide local and national youth with access and exposure to the arts through education. The Sheridan Arts Foundation is sponsored in part by grants from the Telluride Foundation and CCAASE.

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