NEW ORLEANS – The Preservation Hall Jazz Band has played the White House, Carnegie Hall, all over New Orleans and the world, but a new destination is one that may not have appeared on the itinerary until now: Havana, Cuba.
The legendary New Orleans band, which takes its name from the French Quarter landmark that remains a shrine to traditional jazz, announced Thursday that it will travel to Cuba in December for the 37th annual Havana Jazz Festival.
Fans are invited to make the trip with the band, for the eight-day, seven-night trip, which costs roughly $5,000 for airfare, accommodations and tour activities.
“In the process you will meet and get to know everyday Cuban people, go to the best and most innovative music venues, meet musicians and composers and visit artist studios,” said the band’s announcement, adding that the city’s famous food and architecture will also be highlights.
The band, through its Preservation Hall Foundation’s Neighborhood Horns program, will also make donations of musical instruments to schoolchildren in Havana.
The trip is made possible because of President Obama’s recent decision to ease restrictions on travel to Cuba, including the “People to People” educational travel program, which removes some of the paperwork associated with Americans traveling to the island country.
“It allows participants to visit a wide scope of organizations, institutions, and community projects that provide a deeper understanding of Cuba, its people and its culture. This trip includes a full time schedule of educational exchange activities designed to promote meaningful interactions between Americans and the people of Cuba,” according to the band.
The Preservation Hall Jazz Band’s rich history includes performing from every U.S. president from Richard Nixon through George W. Bush. President Bush and his wife Laura awarded the band, and Preservation Hall, the National Medal of Arts in 2006 in an Oval Office ceremony. Other appearances have been at the Kennedy Center, the Grammy awards, as well as music festivals and touring appearances here and around the world, from the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival to Voodoo Fest.
In recent years, the band, first formed in the 1960s along with the Hall on St. Peter Street, has expanded its repertoire to include contemporary versions of traditional jazz favorites.
The band, led by artistic director Ben Jaffe (tuba, string bass, banjo and percussion), also features Charlie Gabriel (clarinet, saxophone), Ronell Johnson (tuba), Mark Braud (trumpet), Rickie Monie (piano), Clint Maedgen (sax), and Joe Lastie Jr. (drums).
Dominic Massa / Eyewitness News, 4WWL
April 30, 2015