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Preservation Hall was established in 1961 to preserve, perpetuate, and protect one of America’s truest artforms – traditional New Orleans Jazz. Operating as a music venue, a touring band, a record label, and a non-profit organization, Preservation Hall continues their mission today as a cornerstone of New Orleans music and culture.
Situated in the heart of the French Quarter at 726 St. Peter Street, Preservation Hall presents intimate, acoustic New Orleans Jazz concerts nightly featuring some of New Orleans finest performers, showcasing a musical legacy dating back to the origins of jazz itself. The touring Preservation Hall Jazz Band presents the music of New Orleans worldwide with over 100 tour dates annually, which have included performances at Carnegie Hall, The Kennedy Center, Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival, The Hollywood Bowl, the United Nations, and Austin City Limits.
"Preservation Hall. Now that's where you'll find all of the greats." — Louis Armstrong
To this day, people from all around the world continue to visit New Orleans to share the intimacy and atmosphere of Preservation Hall. Preservation Hall presents concerts 7 nights a week, offering visitors and locals the best of Traditional New Orleans jazz. On any given night, one can witness this unique New Orleans musical legacy being passed down from generation to generation.
History of the jazz hall
The story of Preservation Hall dates back to the 1950s at Associated Artists, a small art gallery at 726 St. Peter Street in New Orleans’ French Quarter. Upon opening the gallery the proprietor Larry Borenstein found that it curtailed his ability to attend the few remaining local jazz concerts, and began inviting these musicians to perform “rehearsal sessions” in the gallery itself. These sessions featured living legends of New Orleans Jazz – George Lewis, Punch Miller, Sweet Emma Barrett, Billie and De De Pierce, The Humphrey Brothers, and dozens more. During this period, traditional jazz had taken a backseat in popularity to rock n’ roll and bebop, leaving many of these players to work odd jobs. Although concerted efforts by aficionados such as William “Bill” Russell succeeded in recording and documenting this fading art form during the “New Orleans Jazz Revival” of the 1940s, venues that offered live New Orleans jazz were few and far between. Before long, Borenstein’s sessions took on a life of their own; enthusiasts of the music gravitated toward the gallery, including a young couple from Pennsylvania named Allan and Sandra Jaffe.
The Jaffes arrived in New Orleans in 1960, on an extended honeymoon from Mexico City. During their visit they conversed with a few jazz musicians in Jackson Square who were on their way to “Mr. Larry’s Gallery.” As avid fans of New Orleans jazz, the honeymooners followed the musicians and were introduced to Borenstein along with a number of living jazz greats that had gathered that evening for a jam session. Needless to say, they were enraptured by what they saw and heard. The music was pure and unaffected by the swaying of popular music. Most of these musicians were elderly, many of whom were contemporaries of Buddy Bolden and other early jazz practitioners. The Jaffes knew they happened upon something special and soon after moved to New Orleans permanently.
The jam sessions at 726 St. Peter became much more frequent, so much that Borenstein moved his gallery to the building next door. Performances were held nightly for donations and were organized by a short-lived not-for-profit organization, The New Orleans Society for The Preservation of Traditional Jazz. Shortly after the Jaffes return to New Orleans, Borenstein passed the nightly operations of the hall to Allan Jaffe on a profit-or-loss basis, for which Preservation Hall was born.
The nightly jazz concerts at Preservation Hall gathered a significant amount of press interest from its inception, first from local media, then a year later from national outlets, such as The New York Times and the Brinkley News Hour. As time went on, Allan believed the success of both the Hall and its mission of preservation would require these bands to tour, and in 1963, he organized the newly minted Preservation Hall Jazz Band for a string of performances in the Midwest. True to Jaffe’s estimation, the tour was a success and interest in the band and the rediscovery of New Orleans music stretched as far as Japan.
Today 50 years later, Preservation Hall and The Preservation Hall Jazz Band continue their mission, now under the leadership of the Jaffe’s second son, Benjamin. In addition to nightly jazz concerts at the Hall and over 100 tour dates worldwide, Preservation Hall continues to broaden awareness of New Orleans Jazz in a modern age through new and archival recording releases, multimedia projects and presentations, maintenance of an ever-growing archive of New Orleans music and artifacts, collaborations with performers from other genres and disciplines, and most importantly the perpetuation of this great tradition through education.
The Preservation Hall Foundation
The Preservation Hall Foundation is a 501(c)3 organization primarily dedicated to Preservation Hall’s educational initiatives. Including but not limited to providing private lessons to youth taught by New Orleans jazz masters, coordinating group lessons with the Preservation Hall Junior Jazz Band, presenting workshops during Preservation Hall Jazz Band tours, or maintenance of the ever-growing Preservation Hall archives, the Foundation aims to ensure the perpetuation of the New Orleans tradition into the future.
Antoine Faisendieu bought the lot at the current location of Preservation Hall from Guillermo Gros in 1803 and built a tavern, selling it in 1809 to Pierre and Barthelemy Jourdain.
A subsequent 1812 sale advertises a "house lately belonging to M. Faisendieu, $4000 cash and two years of notes." In 1816, when the Orleans Ballroom burned, this building also burned, and according to an act of sale, the architects Gurlie and Guillot bought the lot and rubble for $5000 in 1816, selling the property to Agathe Fanchon, femme de couleur libre, for $13,500 in November 1817.
Madame Fanchon owned the property until 1866. The service wing and patio were home and office to the photographer "Pop" Whitesell in the first half of the twentieth century.
Hours of Operation
Preservation Hall is open for nightly concerts from 8pm to 11pm, 7 nights a week, with the exception of certain holidays and special events. There are three individual 45-minute performances nightly at 8:00, 9:00, and 10:00.
Preservation Hall offers limited advance ticketing at PreservationHall.com/Tickets
Further reading and references
- Preservation Hall by William Carter
- "Song for My Fathers" by Tom Sancton
- Historic Architecture of Preservation Hall
- Historic Architecture of Preservation Hall TV Interview
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Preservation Hall.|
- Preservation Hall . com
- ART+ Interview with Ben Jaffe about Preservation Hall's new CD, Made in New Orleans (July, 2007)