I first met Ben Jaffe in New York City at a benefit concert for New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina called “From The Big Apple to The Big Easy” on September 20th, 2005. I was hanging backstage and I could hear a tuba off in the distance. I walked out onto the stage to check it out and my eyes were immediately glued to the elaborate lights and visuals from Radio City illuminating off of the tuba wrapped around Benn Jaffe’s body. I didn’t want to bother him and disrupt the band’s sound check so I quietly snuck up behind Ben to capture the reflections shining on his tuba. I soon realized that while I was caught up photographing the moment, Ben had no idea that I was hiding behind him. He turned around, startled to see me there with my Leica in my hand. We had a quick conversation and the rest is history.
A few years later, Superstorm Sandy devastated the Jersey Shore. Our good friends in the Preservation Hall Jazz Band returned the unspoken favor and joined us for a benefit concert to raise money for the hurricane victims and uplift the spirits of everybody affected. Preservation Hall Jazz Band joined the lineup alongside My Morning Jacket, Steve Earle, Jesse Malin and many others to lead a powerful and triumphant night. It was very exciting and honorable to realize we were surrounded by friends and family that had our backs, just as we had theirs.
I’ve been all over the world and Preservation Hall in New Orleans remains on the top of my list for favorite places to photograph. Its patina and the light in the French Quarter is unparalleled. The texture is so incredible and the history is legendary. Whenever I get the chance, I love to take bands to the Hall for a photography session. In 2009, I took the Dave Matthews Band to the Hall to shoot some photographs and as we were standing outside, Dave came up with the idea to name their next album “Big Whiskey”. It’s moments like these that make Preservation Hall such an important and inspirational place in my life.
My friendship with Ben Jaffe and the Preservation Hall Jazz Band today is still as strong as it was when we first met in NYC. We’ve had many great memories together at the Hall alongside Tom Waits, Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters, Dave Matthews, Irma Thomas and many other historic artists. Ben and the band have taken traditional jazz into the 21st century and created their own version of it through the influences that Ben has experienced in his life. I love being able to capture these moments with my photography and look back at the memories to document a story. Every once in a while I look back at these memories and realize that 20 years have gone by and we are still like one big family of brothers and sisters. I’m so stoked to have documented the band’s history throughout the years and I’m excited to continue making memories together.