Influences: Ben Jaffe of Preservation Hall Jazz Band
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Ben Jaffe leads the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, which makes its home in a storied New Orleans venue when it isn’t touring the world. Jaffe, son of the group’s founders, marched in carnival parades while still in grammar school. Now a tuba player and bassist, he extends the group’s original mission: to keep the music of 1920s New Orleans alive and accessible to audiences, and to maintain the rawness sometimes rubbed off by the “Dixieland” movement and its genteel followers.
The band appears at Walt Disney Concert Hall on Tuesday for a collaboration with dance group the Trey McIntyre Project.
Besides his expected roots in musicians such as Louis Armstrong, Jaffe, 40, says he’s also inspired by Muhammad Ali’s resistance to the Vietnam War draft, Pete Seeger’s involvement with the Civil Rights movement and Andy Warhol’s redrawing of art’s map. “Where do you go,” Jaffe asks, “when there are no limits or boundaries?”
Here are some of Jaffe’s influences.
Jelly Roll Morton: I consider Jelly Roll Morton to be one of the most significant cultural figures of the 20th century. His technique on the piano was innovative and unparalleled. He was our first great jazz composer. He grew up listening to French opera and hanging around Storyville. Louis Armstrong: There is music before Louis and music after Louis. It’s hard to actually understand how much he impacted the direction of popular music. I can’t imagine the challenges he faced as a black artist during his lifetime. He paved the way for all of us today. I think it’s important we understand the social challenges he faced and the choices he made.
Harold ‘Duke’ Dejan: Harold was my Piran, that’s ‘godfather’ in Creole. He was the leader of the Olympia Brass Band, the oldest brass band in New Orleans. From a very early age, Harold would take me along on parades and funeral processions. I would march in between him and my dad on tuba. That started when I was around 9. I learned so much more than just music from being around him.
Chester Zardis: Chester was the first bass player to take me under his wing and show me how to pluck the strings. Chester was a small man, about 5-foot-4.... But man, could he pull those bass strings! Chester was one of the very first early jazz bass players. There’s a great picture of Chester in the Buddy Petit band in 1920 standing in a field with his upright bass. He would always pull me in real close to his hands and make me listen to his tone. ‘You hear that? You hear that tone? That’s what you want.’
Anthony ‘Tuba Fats’ Lacen: We all called him Tuba Fats or Tuba. You couldn’t miss Tuba. Tuba played next to my dad in the Olympia Band. Tuba introduced the style of tuba playing most musicians are familiar with today. He created the repeating bass line on the tuba by adapting the funk lines electric bass players were using to the tuba.
-- Scott Timberg
Preservation Hall Jazz Band and Trey McIntyre Ensemble, 8 p.m. Tuesday, Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles. (323) 850.2000. www.laphil.com.