Beginning in 1963 several bands began touring under the Preservation Hall Jazz Band name with the intention of spreading New Orleans jazz around the country. Today PHJB has been winnowed down to one group, which has kept roughly the same 14-member line up since 2009. Many members had relatives in earlier incarnations of the band; for example, sousaphone player Ben Jaffe (also the group's current creative director) is the son of the band's previous director, tuba player Allan Jaffe.
When it came time to plan a 50th anniversary tribute concert for the band, it was understood that the show wouldn’t take place at Preservation Hall; the historic New Orleans venue is notoriously small, rarely charges more than $15 for a show, and – perhaps most detrimental to a Mardi Gras-style celebration – doesn’t serve drinks. Many were surprised when they learned the tribute show wouldn’t even take place in New Orleans but rather 1,300 miles northeast at Carnegie Hall. But holding the event in New York made sense; PHJB were on tour when Hurricane Katrina hit and every member of the band lost their homes. Since they couldn’t get back to the Big Easy, they convened in the Big Apple, formulating a plan to continue touring and enlisting fellow musicians to help raise money to help their damaged city. New York sheltered them when their hometown could not.
So PHJB returned the favor, staging a massive Bourbon Street style party in New York on January 7, 2012, where they were joined by a wonderfully varied and universally skilled group of fellow musicians from other New Orleans legends to relatively unknown indie rockers. The highlights of that marvelous evening of music have been compiled on St. Peter and 57th Street (a nod to both Carnegie and Preservation Hall’s addresses). While it’s always hard to capture the excitement and spontaneity of live New Orleans jazz, the album presents a fantastic overview of what the rotating musicians of the PHJB have been doing so well for half a century.