Revival of New Orleans Jazz

  • Arts & Culture
  • 1961

Art and music lovers Allan and Sandra Jaffe were driving back home to Philadelphia from a Mexico City honeymoon when they decided to make a stop in New Orleans to listen to jazz musicians in the beautiful French Quarter. Sandra later related, “When I heard the music for the first time, it felt like a total transformation. We found this whole new world…the music was just so wonderful.”

They decided to stay in New Orleans for a few more days in order to hear the (mostly elderly) musicians again. Then they stayed a little longer. Then the owner of the art gallery hosting the musicians, Larry Borenstein, told them the building was for sale. Worried that this could mean the end of the fading New Orleans style of traditional jazz music, the Jaffes never left the city. They started renting the premises in June, and in September 1961 opened it as Preservation Hall, dedicated to preserving and deepening New Orleans jazz.

Allan went around town rounding up musicians, and Sandra employed her journalist skills to market the offerings. What started as a few performances per week eventually turned into one of the most respected jazz music series in the country. They quickly added a touring band, which began to travel the nation in 1963. A 501(c)(3) foundation was created to maintain a jazz archives and offer young players in New Orleans lessons with jazz masters. Now directed by the Jaffes’ son Ben, the hall has been credited with saving New Orleans jazz.

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