At 9 pm New Orleans time 11 days from now, I’ll be sitting on this floor with Joe and his parents, listening to jazz.
Not just any jazz…
I learned about Preservation Hall a few months back, when Joe and I were watching Sonic Highways, the HBO documentary series created by Dave Grohl. In it, Foo Fighters travels to eight American cities, recording an album along the way and exploring each city’s musical history through interviews with local musicians and producers.
One of my favourite episodes was filmed in New Orleans. Foo Fighters set up a makeshift recording studio in Preservation Hall, where jazz musicians have been playing since the 1950s. (It launched officially as Preservation Hall in 1961.) Dedicated to preserving New Orleans jazz, the French Quarter venue features live performances seven nights a week with a rotating roster of local jazz talent.
From Vanity Fair:
“Just a single room with worn floorboards . . . the peeling walls are covered with smoky paintings of musicians now long gone. Over the two centuries since it was built, this 31-by-20-foot chamber has been a private drawing room, a tavern, a tinsmith’s shop, and an art gallery. For the past 50 years, however, it has been known by the name written in brass letters on two battered instrument cases that hang over the wrought-iron entrance gate: Preservation Hall.
Since its opening day, June 10, 1961, more than two million people have walked through that gate, including presidents, prime ministers, movie stars, and rock idols. Paul Newman and Steve McQueen filmed scenes at the hall. Singer Tom Waits, who recorded there last year, called it “sacred, hallowed ground,” and bluesman Charlie Musselwhite says it is “the holy grail of clubs.” Louis Armstrong, at his 70th-birthday tribute, in Newport in July 1970, said of Preservation Hall, “That’s where you’ll find all the greats.”
The line can apparently be a two-hour wait at times (with no guarantee you’ll get in), so we decided to get tickets in advance. This promises either a rickety chair, bench, or floor cushion up front. As one yelp reviewer described the seating: “I was so close to the band, I felt like I was in the musicians’ laps, and could have literally reached out and grabbed the slide trombone as it danced within inches of my head.”
Joe isn’t super into jazz, but loves live music. I figure if this experience doesn’t sway him, nothing will. Today he told me, “I know I’m going to enjoy the show. But it’s not going to make me want to listen to jazz at home.”
Love this moment with Dave Grohl and the band. I keep hearing about these impromptu parades that go on in New Orleans. Maybe we’ll get caught up in one while roaming the streets…
Have any of you been to Preservation Hall?
The only other thing we have ‘booked’ for New Orleans is a French Quarter walking tour. Everyone I’ve asked for tips on visiting the city says, “Eat. Eat everything.” Noted.
Happy Friday, friends.
p.s. A great Rolling Stone interview with Dave Grohl on the making of Sonic Highways.