Science has yet to invent a time machine, but walk into 726 St. Peter St. in New Orleans’ French Quarter any night of the week and you may feel like you’ve stumbled into one anyway. Since the early 1960s, Preservation Hall has served as a haven for musicians familiar with traditional New Orleans jazz. As the clip above suggests, it’s a cant-miss stop for any visitor to New Orleans, and not just for historical value. The Jaffee family—first founders Allan and Sandra and now their son Ben—set out to provide a venue for veteran players. They succeeded and then some: Preservation Hall has played a key role in passing traditional sounds from one generation to the next.
In the second season of Treme, Delmont Lambreaux, the New Orleans-born jazz trumpeter played by Rob Brown, gets in an argument with some New York players who look down their nose at Preservation Hall as an artifact of another time that appeals only to tourists. They’d clearly never been there. Though grounded in past forms, the playing at Preservation Hall remains vital and spirited. It’s hard to sound stodgy when you’re playing music that depends on improvisation. Heard live, it doesn’t sound the least bit old fashioned, and since traditional jazz’s influence has seeped into virtually every musical style that emerged in New Orleans since its heyday, it doesn’t sound the least bit distant.