Preservation Hall by Eve Adams
( Photographs by Shannon Brinkman)
I usually don’t review what are commonly referred to as ” coffee table books”. Books, that at their best, are visually rich but usually a bit anemic by literary standards. Despite that, I wanted to review this particular book for a variety of reasons. First, one shouldn’t let themselves be ruled by generalizations- especially where books are concerned. Secondly, I wanted to see if a book about a place that is dedicated to a mostly auditory passion could be conveyed mainly through photographs with some accompanying words in print. Lastly, for those that know me or have read previous reviews ( particularly, Dan Baum’s Nine Lives ) you know I have a passion for anything from New Orleans. The food, the culture, but especially the music. For that reason alone, this was a must read.
Preservation Hall , quite the musical institution in New Orleans, is not old by the city’s standards. It’s official status is a scant 50 years old and it began – as most things happen in the Crescent City- as an impromptu idea. The introduction, by current owner, Ben Jaffe ( son of the originators of Preservation Hall) chronicles the genesis of this musical icon. That story, in itself. is enough to get you interested.
From its origins, Preservation Hall has been a pairing of art and music, and those origins are reflected beautifully in this book. Shannon Brinkman’s photographs have , at times, a musical fluidity that gives you the feeling you are there and can actually hear the music. Accompanying the wonderful photographs are comments by the musicians of Preservation Hall. Some are short notes, others longer remembrances. All recall a rich sense of the building’s history, the history of the only truly American music and the importance of this small, unpretentious institution in our cultural tapestry. This book is an exceptional tribute to a unique and important musical icon of American history.
Review by Brenda Seward
Preservation Hall is published by Louisiana State university Press . Available now.