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Owner of Preservation Hall : Jazz Funeral Held for Allan Philip Jaffe

March 13, 1987|BURT A. FOLKART | Times Staff Writer

A traditional jazz funeral service was held Wednesday for Allan Philip Jaffe, the manager and owner of New Orleans' fabled Preservation Hall who kept the spirit of jazz alive and its exponents employed.

Jaffe, who took over the hall shortly after art dealer Larry Borenstein founded it in 1961, spent the rest of his life saving traditional, turn-of-the-century New Orleans jazz from possible extinction. He was 51 when he died of cancer Monday night at a suburban New Orleans hospital.

"He believed in helping people out," said Harold Dejan, leader of the Olympia Brass Band, one of the groups featured at the high-spirited mecca of music. "If you didn't have no horn, he'd try to get you one. I don't know what would have happened to a lot of musicians without him."

Jaffe also had been known, in cooperation with a local dental clinic, to provide dentures for his elderly musicians, many of whom had lost their own teeth years ago and had been unable to play properly since.

Christopher Botsford, who managed the Preservation Hall groups when they went on the road, credited Jaffe's "persistence and the close relationship he developed with the musicians and the love that he had for the music" with keeping the aging and once out-of-favor jazz tradition going.

Born in Pottsville, Pa., to a musical family, in which his grandfather played French horn in the Russian Imperial Army band and his father taught the mandolin, Jaffe started out playing the piano and cornet before eventually choosing the tuba as his instrument in junior high school.

After attending the University of Pennsylvania, Jaffe joined the Army and was stationed at Fort Polk, La., about 250 miles from New Orleans, where he rekindled an interest in traditional jazz.

After the Army, Jaffe and his wife moved in 1961 to New Orleans, where they worked by day and used the nights to search out good music.

A few months after their arrival, the Jaffes started attending jazz sessions in a small French Quarter location where crowds sat on simple wooden benches. That became known as Preservation Hall, a place where musicians could play regularly at union scale or better.

At that time, many of the elderly disciples of Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton and King Oliver had been long out of work because of a waning interest in their music. The Jaffes provided a home for that music and paychecks to keep the tradition going until public interest kept pace with scholarly pursuits.

Over the years Jaffe took Preservation Hall groups not only across the country but to Japan and other countries. In many instances overseas audiences were given their first taste of that piece of original Americana.

Jaffe learned the music from the older musicians and often played his tuba when the Preservation Hall groups appeared.

Last summer one of the hall's touring bands performed at the White House at a party for congressional leaders.

That, Jaffe said, was the recognition he had been seeking.

"It is something I thought we deserved and something that I never thought we would get."

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