Available everywhere September 25, 2012, through Legacy Recordings
NEW YORK, NY: Fifty years after a former art gallery on St. Peter Street became a haven and platform for the surviving musicians who made New Orleans the birthplace of jazz, THE PRESERVATION HALL 50th ANNIVERSARY COLLECTION box set celebrates their contributions. This deluxe 4-CD, 58-track collection will be available September 25 through Legacy Recordings, a division of SONY MUSIC ENTERTAINMENT.
THE PRESERVATION HALL 50th ANNIVERSARY COLLECTION includes five previously unissued tracks that were recorded at Allen Toussaint's Sea-Saint Studios over the years: In The Evening (When The Sun Goes Down)" (1967); Precious Lord" (1970); C. C. Rider" (1981); and I Get The Blues When It Rains" and Nellie Grey" (both 1986). After Hurricane Katrina ravaged the state-of-the-art studios in 2005, Preservation Hall producer and musician Ben Jaffe (son of original producer, Preservation Hall Jazz Band member and founder Allan Jaffe) was able to recover many of the tapes and restore a portion of the music.
In presenting its comprehensive history, THE PRESERVATION HALL 50th ANNIVERSARY COLLECTION draws from 19 albums (and one bonus CD) that were recorded and released between 1962 and 2010, on the Atlantic Records, CBS Records, Sony Music, and Preservation Hall Recordings labels. Tracks are sequenced in non-chronological order, so the listener can appreciate the seamless transitions of the music and the musicians' lineups from decade to decade.
For example, on disc two, the 1995 recording of (True) You Don't Love Me" (originally popularized by Little Miss Cornshucks), featuring Wendell Brunious on trumpet and vocal, and Narvin Kimball on banjo, is followed by 1962's In The Sweet Bye And Bye," featuring George Lewis on clarinet and trombonist Big Jim Robinson. The latter is from the Atlantic sessions of July 1962, produced by Nesuhi Ertegun and engineered by Cosimo Matassa (inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 2012, the man responsible for the career-defining hits of Fats Domino, Little Richard, Lee Dorsey, and many others).
They are followed by the venerable I'll Fly Away" from American Legacies, the 2010 collaboration between Preservation Hall musicians and the Del McCoury Band; and then the 2001 PHJB lineup's version of That Bucket's Got A Hole In It" with 'Tuba Fats' on vocals. Then it's back to the 1962 Atlantic sessions for Love Song Of The Nile" with Billie Pierce on piano and vocals, De De Pierce on trumpet, bassist 'Papa' John Joseph, and George Lewis. Next comes a 2009 cover of Jimmie Rodgers' Blue Yodel #9" by trumpeter Mark Braud, singer Clint Maedgen, and producer Ben Jaffe on tuba (as Jaffe reminds the reader that Rodgers' recording of the song with Louis Armstrong was one of the first times a white artist and an African-American artist collaborated on record"). Then it's back to the 1962 lineup for their version of Armstrong's Shine," and so on throughout the box set, as decades cojoin and the ultimate dream radio playlist evolves.
Moving the proceedings along and providing invaluable documentation are Ben Jaffe's song-by-song annotations. Billie and De De Pierce were two of my favorite people," Jaffe notes of Eh La Bas," the box set's first song. They were incredibly sweet and generous with their time. I remember De De's leathery hands and Billie's short, stubby fingers. I was 5 years old when they gave me a Rock 'Em Sock 'Em robot for Christmas. I thought it was the coolest thing ever, the kind of gift you receive from your grandparents... 'Eh La Bas' is one of my favorite tunes... De De sings it in Creole... He spoke Creole to Billie... I could pick up every other word. It was like going to my grandparents' house and hearing them speak Yiddish... Even if you couldn't pick up the words, you knew what they meant!"
In 2009, on a break from the Jazz & Heritage Festival, Pete Seeger and his grandson Tao (with his bandmates in the Mammals, Michael Merenda and Ruth Ungar) showed up at the Hall to record We Shall Overcome" with the PHJB.
As Jaffe notes: Mr. Seeger was a hero to my parents. He was an inspiration to them, a guiding light, and acted as a steadfast moral gauge. I remember meeting Mr. Seeger for the first time almost 30 years ago late at night, down on the Canal Street wharf on the Spanish Plaza right where the U.S.S. President used to dock. During Jazz Fest, there used to be late night shows on the President. Mr. Seeger was sitting by the dock. He and our Dad exchanged a few niceties. I remember Mr. Seeger putting me on his lap and singing me a lullaby. It felt like being back in the womb. Being at Preservation Hall, playing 'We Shall Overcome' with Mr. Seeger and his grandson Tao, was one of the most beautiful and proudest moments of my life. I think our Dad would have really enjoyed being there that day."
In many ways, THE PRESERVATION HALL 50th ANNIVERSARY COLLECTION is a family's story, and a tribute to Allan Jaffe (1935-1987). A trained musician from Pennsylvania, Jaffe frequently visited New Orleans when he served as a GI in the 1950s at Fort Polk, about four hours northwest of the Crescent City. He and his newlywed wife emigrated there in 1961, and fell into the second line of a parade that wound up at an art gallery. The owner actively promoted jam sessions at his gallery by the elder founding fathers of jazz. Most of them were born in the late 19th century, and had few outlets for their pure jazz (not Dixieland!) in the postwar era of the 1950s.
The aging gallery owner took a chance on the Jaffes, suggesting they take over the gallery lease, with the idea," as Ben writes, of our young parents formalizing the jam sessions into organized, nightly performances by the living legends of New Orleans Music, most of which had been forgotten, locked out by changes in the social landscape and the bottom line hustle of Bourbon Street." Allan Jaffe relished his role, not only as impresario but as tuba player (in lieu of string bass) at sessions.
Atlantic Records co-founder Nesuhi Ertegun's field trip of July 1962 was immortalized on the four Jazz At Preservation Hall LPs recorded there: Volume 1: The Eureka Brass Band of New Orleans; Volume 2: Billie & De De Pierce/ Jim Robinson's New Orleans Band; Volume 3: Paul Barbarin's Band/ Punch Miller's Bunch & George Lewis; and Volume 4: The George Lewis Band Of New Orleans. Six tunes from those LPs are heard on the 50th ANNIVERSARY COLLECTION. The ages of the musicians at those seminal dates tell a story, among them 'Papa' John Joseph (85), Alcide 'Slow Drag' Pavageau (74), George Lewis (62), Punch Miller (68), Big Jim Robinson (69), and 'youngsters' Emanuel Sayles (55), Billie (55) and De De Pierce (58), and Louis Nelson (59). In connection with the Atlantic releases, newsman David Brinkley featured the Preservation Hall on the old NBC Nightly News.
Jaffe then took over as producer, and launched the Preservation Hall Recordings label. The first LPs were released in 1964, Sweet Emma And Her Preservation Hall Jazz Band (pianist Sweet Emma Barrett was 67 at the time); and in 1966, New Orleans' Billie And De De And Their Preservation Hall Jazz Band.
A decade later in 1976, the PHJB signed with CBS Records. Four LPs were issued over the next ten years, all produced by Jaffe, and simply titled New Orleans Volume I (1976), New Orleans Volume II (1981), New Orleans Volume III (1983, subtitled When The Saints Go Marchin' In, whence comes the version of the classic song heard on this box set), and New Orleans Volume IV (1986).
When Allan Jaffe died from melanoma in 1986, at age 51, Ben writes It left a wide open hole in our immediate family and at Preservation Hall." A trained bassist whose life was inextricably bound up with the band, Ben went off to Oberlin College in 1989. Upon his graduation four years later, I returned to New Orleans to manage the Hall and tour and record with the band on string bass. I was 22."
The following year, the band recorded the first of two albums for the Sony Music Masterworks division. From In The Sweet Bye And Bye (1994), produced by Ben (who played bass) and engineered by Delfeayo Marsalis, comes Do Lord," featuring Ellis Marsalis on piano, Dr. Michael White on clarinet, and elder statesman Narvin Kimball (age 85) on banjo; and Sing On" with young Wendell Brunious on trumpet, son of the band's great trumpeter John Brunious. The second Sony Music album was Because Of You (1995), again produced by Ben Jaffe (on bass) and (co-) engineered by Delfeayo Marsalis. From that album comes the aforementioned (True) You Don't Love Me," a showcase for Wendell, who led the band for many years in the '90s.
Under Ben's guidance, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band flourished in the '90s and the '00s, continuing to release new albums, and becoming a worldwide touring attraction. They perform some 100 shows a year, bringing traditional New Orleans jazz to old and new audiences in the U.S. and on foreign soil. Ben lamented the passing of two childhood heroes, Percy Humphrey in 1994 (age 89) and his brother Willie Humphrey in 1995 (age 95). Banjo mentor Narvin Kimball passed away not long after Katrina; and the great John Brunious died in 2008 (age 67).
In 2010, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band released a landmark double-CD entitled Preservation: An Album to Benefit Preservation Hall & the Preservation Hall Music Outreach Program. Musicians from every strata flocked to the sessions, among those being the five who are featured on this new box set: Pete Seeger and clan on the aforementioned We Shall Overcome"; Andrew Bird on Shake It And Break It"; Yim Yames of My Morning Jacket on Louisiana Fairytale"; Tom Waits on Tootie Ma Is A Big Fine Thing"; and Richie Havens on Trouble In Mind." Among the many artists who collaborated on separate tracks for this project were Terence Blanchard, Brandi Carlile, Ani DiFranco, Dr. John, Steve Earle, Merle Haggard, Jason Isbell of Drive-By Truckers, Angelique Kidjo, Amy LaVere, Buddy Miller, Italy's Paolo Nutini, and others.
Among those 'others' was contemporary bluegrass star Del McCoury, who appeared on three tracks. The collaboration was so enjoyable that Del signed up his group the following year for a full album collaboration with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, entitled American Legacies. Two songs from that album, I'll Fly Away" and A Good Gal Is Hard To Find" are among the many highlights of this new set.
I get great pleasure," Ben writes, out of a song that has been interpreted, reinterpreted and performed for years and is still as fresh and new as the day it was born... That's something music does... stretch time, overlap traditions, change history... New Orleans Music is meaningful... It is vital and full of life. It can be happy and joyous. It can be sad and mournful. It has no language barrier. It delivers a universal message we, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, carry with us everywhere we travel."