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: I was raised in a community of artists, and I saw and heard the world through their work. Their paintings hung on the walls of Preservation Hall. Their photographs documented the lives of the people closest to me. Their writings sat on the shelves in our home. One of my father’s closest friends was photographer Lee Friedlander. I was fortunate to see him at work, walking the streets of New Orleans or New York. Lee always seemed to be in the right place, but you have to wonder whether he was really “in the right place” or if he created the right place at the right moment. For Lee, I think it was a bit of both.