Ben Jaffe is staying in New Orleans for the venerated band's 31-date summer tour, which includes a performance at the Stern Grove Festival in San Francisco (July 1) for its first time in five years. In Jaffe's place is Ronell Johnson, whose family is no stranger to the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, as his great uncle Joseph “Kid Twat” Butler played string bass with the legendary Kid Thomas Valentine and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Johnson is also a member of his family's brass band Coolbone and has toured with David Byrne, Ben Harper, Spearhead, Busta Rhymes, Counting Crows, De La Soul and others.
Jaffe's parents founded the New Orleans cultural institution 51 years ago. The group plays two sets July 4 at the Marin County Fair (2 p.m. and 4 p.m.), where they’ve performed for the past 21 years, making the fair and the Bay Area a second home of sorts for the group and its brand of New Orleans culture.
“We have deep, deep roots in the Bay Area,” Jaffe says.
Looking to deepen those ties, Jaffe has partnered with his friend Jack Knowles to open Preservation Hall West on the former New College property in San Francisco’s Mission district that Knowles bought after the school closed in 2008. The project includes the Chapel at 777 Valencia, an upscale restaurant serving New Orleans and Southern food, as well as the more casual Second Line Café and an auditorium will be an entertainment venue, according to the plans. It’s expected to open later this year.
The project and the band’s live shows all over the world are part of Jaffe’s goal of both enticing newcomers to New Orleans jazz and preaching to the converted. Alan and Sandra Jaffe transformed Larry Borenstein’s Associated Artists Gallery in the French Quarter 51 years ago into a fledgling music venue. It remains one of the pillars of the musical and cultural scene in New Orleans.
Fair Concert: Preservation Hall Jazz Band
Time: Wednesday, July 4, 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.
Where: Marin County Fairgrounds, Play Fair Pavillion
Cost: Free with fair admission ($16 adults, $14 children & seniors). For more info and to buy tix, go to the Marin County Fair's website.