Coming up Sunday afternoon, April 8, at Jewett Hall Auditorium will be the latest edition of the Concerts at Jewett series. This time around will be the State Street Traditional Jazz Band. To learn more about this Portland-based group, I arranged an interview with Ann Page, wife of band founder and trumpet player John Page as well as producer of their DVD release, “Live at the Portland House of Music” as well as their CD, “State Street Traditional Jazz Band — Portland, ME — Volume 1.” I began by asking her if she’d be willing to give me a thumbnail sketch of the group.

Page: Sure, it’s really vintage, traditional New Orleans jazz. It represents the roots of jazz, what jazz was birthed from at the turn of the last century. It came out of New Orleans, Louisiana, and originated with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. They had learned that music from their parents and their grandparents. What happened was the leader of the band, the trumpet player, my husband John Page, was a young Maine Maritime Academy cadet and in the early 1970s he started shipping out of New Orleans. He had studied and played trumpet since he was 8 years old, and he meandered into the French Quarter and walked into Preservation Hall. He heard this music and he was just captivated; it really got deep into his soul. Subsequently he frequented the Hall whenever he was in New Orleans, and he became so familiar with the band that they mentored him, taught him this music. He sat in with them on occasion, and he vowed that he would create his own band someday to honor the original jazz music that was birthed in New Orleans from Preservation Hall. So in 1989 he created this band, and it has a traditional line-up of seven musicians and they play all the music he learned in New Orleans as it was originally played. It’s no longer played in that format anymore in New Orleans.

Q: How so?

Page: What happened was generations evolved and they started to change it. So very rarely do you hear this music, a few bands play it, but Preservation Hall as it is currently does not play this music. It’s joyful music, it has a deep background in black spirituals and people from 8 to 80 love this music. It just gets in your bones. It’s wonderful, that’s all I can say. Everywhere they play they’re a great success.

Q: Will the musicians on the website — John Page, Bill Rayne, Peter Dunphy, Barry Daniels, Doug Protsik, Don Whitney and Pat Whitaker, be the ones performing at Jewett?

Page: Pat Whitaker recently retired as the tuba player so we’ll be having a different tuba player, and also Barry Daniels will not be playing that performance. We’re bringing in a clarinetist from Boston who frequently plays with the band. There are permanent members and then there are alternates who step in at certain times when other members can’t perform. But, they’ve pretty much all been playing together since 1989 when John originated this band.


Q: Could you give me the name of the guy coming to replace Barry?

Page: Yeah, his name is Pete Collins. And, the tuba player will be Tom Wilbur, an original to the band in 1989 and we’re thrilled to have him back. Also, Don Whitney retired and the new drummer is Bill Thurston who was a sub with the band for a while. There’s always seven pieces, that’s the traditional New Orleans jazz line-up: trumpet, clarinet, drums, banjo, trombone, piano and tuba.

Q: What’s the band’s repertoire?

Page: Oh, like “Ain’t She Sweet,” “Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans,” “St. Louis Blues,” “Some of These Days,” “Bill Bailey,” all those wonderful tunes, and they always end with “When The Saints Go Marching In.” The original Preservation Hall Jazz Band traveled all over the world, and they were a bunch of old guys (chuckle). Subsequently, this music moved up into Chicago and New York. And then it changed and became more modern jazz, that’s where you get Duke Ellington and all of the others, but this is where it came from originally.

Q: Has the band played at Jewett Hall before?

Page: This is the first time the band has played there.


Q: Are you familiar with the venue?

Page: Oh, absolutely — it’s perfect! I should also add that my husband, Johnny, is very emphatic to note that this is not Dixieland music, and it’s not straw hat music, this is the original form of traditional New Orleans jazz.

Q: You said earlier that it’s not being played that way much anymore. Has your husband considered mentoring younger musicians in this genre so it won’t vanish and be forgotten over time?

Page: All the time, that’s what the band is all about and, in fact, in spring, summer and fall months in Maine, weather and schedule permitting, they play outdoors in the Old Port on Sunday’s to mentor young people. They’ve met many young people that way and interested them in this type of music.

Q: For the survival of this genre, that’s great news, for sure. Look, Ann, is there anything you’d like to pass on to the folks reading this article about your band’s Jewett Hall debut?

Page: Just that this music will touch their souls, it will warm their hearts, it will bring them joy!

Lucky Clark has spent 45 years writing about good music and the people who make it. He can be reached at [email protected] if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.

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