Santa Barbara has been a frequent touring destination for Preservation Hall Jazz Band, and the New Orleans-based septet is returning to share its latest musical influence from the island nation of Cuba. On November 21, bandleader and bassist Ben Jaffe, saxophonist and clarinetist Charlie Gabriel, saxophonist Clint Maegden, trombonist Ronnel Johnson, drummer Walter Harris, pianist Kyle Roussel, and trumpeter Branden Lewis will perform at UCSB’s Campbell Hall on November 21 through the UCSB Arts & Lectures program. Promoting “A Tuba to Cuba,” their latest album and a soundtrack to a 2018 documentary of the same name capturing the band’s 2015 trip to Cuba, the concert will include visuals from the film and also feature vocals from Cuban singer Yusa.
After the United States’ embargo on Cuba was lifted in 2015, Mr. Jaffe and his bandmates decided to take a journey to the Caribbean island and explore its jazz tradition, which the bassist described as similar to that of New Orleans. Mr. Jaffe told the News-Press that Preservation Hall Jazz Band’s journey documented in “A Tuba to Cuba” left an indelible mark on the group, which it has been eager to present to audiences.
“It’s left an imprint on our music and our souls and is something that we wanted to share,” he said.
Though the members of Preservation Hall Jazz Band don’t speak Spanish, they spent a long time learning the rhythmic styles of the country’s music so they would be able to achieve synergy with its musicians. In part because Cuba and New Orleans’ music shares similar African and Spanish elements, Mr. Jaffe recalled how he and his bandmates musically gelled with the Cuban bands and were able to communicate through song. Just as Preservation Hall Jazz Band felt an affinity for Cuba and its music, the Cuban bands felt it for New Orleans and its music.
“In Cuba they actually talk about New Orleans as if it’s northern Cuba,” Mr. Jaffe said.
Between the Presentation Hall Jazz Band’s trip to Cuba and the release of “A Tuba to Cuba” and its accompanying soundtrack, the group released the album “So It Is”
in 2017, which also drew on influence from the Cuba trip. Preservation Hall Jazz Band’s November 21 concert will primarily feature music from these two releases.
Named after the famous jazz venue in the French Quarter of its home city of New Orleans, Preservation Hall Jazz Band was formed in 1961 by Mr. Jaffe’s tuba-playing father Allan Jaffe. Following his father’s death in 1987, Mr. Jaffe took over as the band’s creative director. Like his father, Mr. Jaffe also serves as director of Preservation Hall, which his father and mother Sandra Jaffe started in 1961 as a place to showcase New Orleans’ vibrant musical talent, which heavily consisted of African Americans. When the Santa Barbara audience once again hears Preservation Hall Jazz Band with its newly acquired Cuban sounds, Mr. Jaffe hopes the public walks away with an appreciation for his hometown, which he called “a special, special place.” Growing up all his life in the New Orleans jazz tradition, Mr. Jaffe is just as proud as ever to be a part of it.
“We are very blessed to be who we are as a band,” Mr. Jaffe said.Tickets for Preservation Hall Jazz Band’s November 21 concert range between $35 and $50 can be purchased online at www.artsandlectures.ucsb.edu. UCSB students with current student IDs can purchase tickets for $15. The concert will begin at 8:00 p.m. at Campbell Hall.