Ronell Johnson to Replace Ben Jaffe as Preservation Hall Jazz Band Sousaphonist


Ronell Johnson. Photo by Howard Lambert

There comes a time when a man has to step away from what he loves, shifting his focus to another thing that he loves. This man is sousaphonist Ben Jaffe, who in the summer will step down from his position as sousaphone player in the Preservation Hall Jazz Band to dedicate his time to staying in New Orleans and raising his first child.

To the New Orleans community, this may sound alarming. Jaffe is the backbone of the band; the force. His sousaphone gets in the listener’s bones during a Pres Hall performance, and he’s one of the most colorful personalities in the group. But no need to worry—Jaffe will continue to play an active role with the band, as he will remain in his position as Creative Director of Preservation Hall.

Jaffe will be replaced by the more than capable Ronell Johnson, a familiar face around the Hall. Johnson is the great-nephew of Joseph “Kid Twat” Butler, who played acoustic bass as a member of Kid Thomas Valentine’s Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Like Jaffe, Johnson is a versatile and diverse musician, having played with names such as David Byrne, Ben Harper, and Busta Rhymes. He’s proficient on trombone as well, and is known to add an incredible amount of energy and humor to the bandstand, which makes for an exciting, worthy replacement for Jaffe.

  • Cacksacker

    I love Ben Jaffe and what he has done for Pres Hall and his playing too, but he’s not the backbone of that group.

  • tricky

    Ben’s biggest contribution to the hall is as a marketing guy. He would never be in the band if his dad hadn’t bought the hall back in the day and his decision to add  Clint Maedgen and “update” the repitoire to include Kinks songs is questionable at best. Ronell looks like a nice addition and should bring alittle extra bottom to the hall. Good move all around. 

  • OneHanded

    Backbone, band leader, sousaphone player, and the man who took on his father’s legacy and with Clint Maedgen , Complicated Life and the recent That’s It! album has given Preservation Hall a shot in the arm and brought it into the 21st Century while still warmly embracing it’s past. Questionable my patoot! Ben I and many others with a good pair of ears salute all you’ve done and continue to do! Bravo!