- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 18, 2006

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — Narvin Kimball, the last founding member of the New Orleans Preservation Hall Jazz Band, died here on March 17. He was 97.

Mr. Kimball, known for his vocal stylings and banjo playing, died at his daughter’s home, where he and his wife had been staying since shortly after Hurricane Katrina, the band’s publicist said.

Mr. Kimball’s vocal renditions of “Georgia on My Mind” always brought standing ovations, said hall director Ben Jaffe. Mr. Jaffe’s parents founded Preservation Hall in 1961 in an 18th century French Quarter building.

Mr. Kimball was the son of bassist Henry Kimball, and he made his first banjo with a cigar box, stick and string. He began playing professionally in the 1920s on Mississippi riverboats with the Fate Marable Band. He made his first Columbia Records recording in 1928.

Mr. Kimball also worked for 37 years with the U.S. Postal Service. He formed his own band, Narvin Kimball’s Gentlemen of Jazz, and played around New Orleans for 40 years.

Mr. Jaffe, a bass player in the band, said Mr. Kimball gave him his first lesson when he was 10.

“He drew for me on a piece of paper all of my scales,” Mr. Jaffe said. “Every week it was something new. That was my first introduction to music theory.”

New Orleans and jazz lovers everywhere have “lost a link to another time, to another era,” Mr. Jaffe said. “He was really our last connection to a bygone time in the history of New Orleans.”

Brad Sullivan, 27, said in a downtown Charleston restaurant Friday that he remembered going to Preservation Hall while he was a student at Tulane University.

Mr. Kimball “was a part of classical jazz music, the type of jazz you just don’t hear anymore,” Mr. Sullivan said. “A part of that culture is gone with [his death] and with the displacement caused by Hurricane Katrina.”

Mr. Kimball last played with the band in 1999 in a Public Broadcasting Service performance. Not long afterward, Mr. Jaffe said, he had a series of strokes that ended his banjo playing.

In August, Mr. Kimball and his wife, Lillian, evacuated their New Orleans home to Baton Rouge, La., just five hours before Hurricane Katrina arrived, Mr. Jaffe said.

Mr. Kimball is survived by his wife, two daughters, four grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

Mr. Jaffe said the Preservation Hall Jazz Band will recognize Mr. Kimball in a few ways, including hanging his portrait over the chair he used and dedicating to him the band’s upcoming release.

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