Like most New Orleans-born-and-bred musicians, Ben Jaffe understands music not as a byproduct of the human experience but as a heart-deep part of that experience itself. Jaffe—tuba player, bassist and current leader/co-composer for the venerable Preservation Hall Jazz Band—comes by it honest, as they say. In 1961, his parents founded the Preservation Hall venue, a performance space especially notable during the Jim Crow era for being one of a handful in New Orleans open to both white and black players. What started as the venue’s de facto house band is now a pillar of the city’s musical history: a live performance, recording and educational outreach project 55 years strong and counting. PHJB’s new album, So It Is, continues the band’s longstanding custom of preserving and contributing new material to traditional New Orleans acoustic music. Jaffe will be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week. Read our feature on the band.
Jaffe: Going to Cuba in December 2015 to headline the Havana Jazz Festival was like discovering a long lost family. A year to the day after President Obama lifted the most onerous parts of the embargo, our band did a two-week exchange in three cities across the island. We jammed, performed and connected with dozens of musicians, building bridges between the waters and politics that divided us for more than 50 years. While we were there, our dear friends T.G. Herrington and Danny Clinch filmed a documentary about the trip. The experience was so influential to us musically that our latest album of original music features compositions inspired by the trip.