I enjoy New Orleans jazz and have a collection of albums by the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Sure, I own some albums by other local legends such as Alan Toussaint, James Booker, and Louis Armstrong, but I treasure the Preservation Hall ones the most. Although these great jazz musicians have passed away, the Preservation Hall still shines bright, and a new generation of musicians now play in the same room that legends played in and frequented decades ago. I happened to be in the city with my wife during March of this year, so we made the decision to go see some live music.
Preservation Hall was established as a live music venue in 1961. It stands on a lot that dates to the early 1800’s. Throughout its existence, it has also operated as an art gallery, a record label, and non-profit organization titled, The New Orleans Society for the Preservation of Traditional Jazz. Today, it operates only as a music venue, hosting five (5) shows per night, 360 days per year.
My wife and I were not able to order our tickets prior to the show so we chose to stand in line about an hour and a half early. The timing worked out well with perfect spring temperatures and plenty of people to watch who were roaming the French Quarter. We were second in-line for tickets which were provided at the front entrance. It was entertaining to watch the musicians arrive on their bicycles, each checking in as we stood against rustic wood siding and an old iron sign that captured the uniqueness of the location perfectly.
As we were let in, we were ushered into a room directly left of the ticket office. In this room, there was a small stage, piano, and chairs lined up in a few, miniature rows. After we took our seats the band came in and took their seats. Short introductions by the host, Mark Braud, followed. Mark is a well-known local musician, as are the rest, and his Cajun accent set the tone for an amazingly, energetic hour of music. Each musician had time to shine and the audience was included in a sing-along as the band wrapped up its final track.
We had a wonderful time. The venue and band were everything I thought they would be, and it was amazing to finally see them live. We were able to say hello to the artists as we exited the venue and it was clear that everyone enjoyed the performance. There were also a lot of conveniently placed items for purchase on the way out, so we grabbed a few souvenirs to remember the experience.
Overall, I was very impressed. The staff and musicians were very professional, yet just as personable and friendly. Despite the intimacy of the location it never felt crowded or overbooked. If you are ever in New Orleans searching for good jazz, I would highly recommend waiting in line for the magic of Preservation Hall. I am happy to cross this one off my bucket list.