At a moment when musical streams are crossing with unprecedented frequency, it’s crucial to remember that throughout its history, New Orleans has been the point at which sounds and cultures from around the world converge, mingle, and resurface, transformed by the Crescent City’s inimitable spirit and joie de vivre. Nowhere is that idea more vividly embodied than in the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, which has held the torch of New Orleans music aloft for more than 50 years, all the while carrying it enthusiastically forward as a reminder that the history they were founded to preserve is a vibrantly living history.
PHJB marches that tradition forward once again on So It Is, the septet’s second release featuring all-new original music. The album redefines what New Orleans music means in 2017 by tapping into a sonic continuum that stretches back to the city’s Afro-Cuban roots, through its common ancestry with the Afrobeat of Fela Kuti and the Fire Music of Pharoah Sanders and John Coltrane, and forward to cutting-edge artists with whom the PHJB have shared festival stages from Coachella to Newport, including legends like Stevie Wonder, Elvis Costello and the Grateful Dead and modern giants like My Morning Jacket, Arcade Fire and the Black Keys.
Meet the band
As son of co-founders Allan and Sandra Jaffe, Ben has lived his whole life with the rhythm of the French Quarter pulsing through his veins. Raised in the company of New Orleans’ greatest musicians, Ben returned from his collegiate education at Oberlin College in Ohio to play with the group and assume his father’s duties as Director of Preservation Hall. Today he serves as Creative Director for both PHJB and the Hall itself, where he has spearheaded such programs as the New Orleans Musicians Hurricane Relief Fund.
Charlie Gabriel/Clarinet and Vocals: The musical heritage of Charlie Gabriel can be traced back as far back as the 1850s. Great-grandson of New Orleans bass player Narcesse Gabriel, grandson of New Orleans cornet player Martin Joseph, and son of New Orleans drummer and clarinetist Martin Manuel Gabriel, Charlie is truly a living legend. At eighty-one years old, the extensive list of musicians with whom he’s played includes well-known PHJB alumni Kid Howard, Kid Sheik, Jim Robinson, and George Lewis.
Though Clint is best known as leader of multi-media alt.cabaret group The New Orleans Bingo! Show, he has been in love with the sound of traditional New Orleans jazz since he was a small child. After studying with clarinet innovator Alvin Batiste at Southern University in Baton Rouge, Clint returned to New Orleans’ French Quarter where he cemented his reputation as an artist and collaborator through an ongoing series of eclectic and experimental musical ensembles. As a full-time member of the PHJB, he brings an infectious passion to both his playing and singing.
Born and raised in New Orleans, Ronell started on the trumpet and piano around the age of 6. He is from a musical family and was taught to play, in the beginning, by his three older brothers who are also professional musicians. Also, he and his brothers are the great-nephews of Joseph “Kid Twat” Butler, who was the string bass player with the legendary Kid Thomas Valentine and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Ronell is recognized around the world and in a host of magazines and journals as one of New Orleans’ prized musicians who adds a lot of energy, animation, humor, and fire to the band stand.
Walter’s musical backgrounds began at home, where his father was a guitarist and mother a vocalist. He grew up in a well-rounded spectrum of musicians, which led to the inspiration of his career as a drummer. He was exposed to a wide variety of talent within his family circuit on both sides of his family, being the nephew of the Brooks’ family and the Harris family gave Walter the opportunity to be exposed to all genres and aspects of music.
Beginning on piano at age nine with formal classical training, Roussel has made a major mark as a keyboardist adept at jazz, gospel, and R&B. He’s performed and recorded with the Headhunters, Terence Blanchard, and Delfayo Marsalis among others, and released his debut as a leader, “Rookie of the Year”, in 2014.
One of the most exciting young trumpeters in jazz today, Branden Lewis is a co-creator of the supercharged New Orleans brass juggernaut TrumpetMafia, and performed on Dee Dee Bridgewater’s acclaimed 2015 album “Dee Dee’s Feathers” as well as the Bobby Rush and Dr. John Grammy nominated “Decisions” in 2014. Lewis made his debut with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band in 2016.
Preservation Hall + The Foundation
Founded in 1961, Preservation Hall is the home of the living traditions of New Orleans Music. Situated in the heart of the French Quarter at 726 St. Peter Street, the 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.
Education and Outreach
In New Orleans, “Tradition” is not just a body of knowledge. It is the personal bond between generations of practitioners that allows culture to be transmitted and made meaningful to the present through education, community outreach, archiving, and caring for our aging culture bearers.