Sunday, September 30, 2012

Celebrating music and culture in the Big Easy

Amid the tragedy and devastation of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, many of us found an even deeper appreciation for New Orleans musical contributions – past, present and future. Quite simply, there is no other city like it. And it is important that seven years after Katrina, New Orleans survived, continues to rebuild its infrastructure and remains such a music incubator.

There is a lot of focus on that tradition this fall, as the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, founded and led by trumpeter Irvin Mayfield, is celebrating its 10th anniversary. Mayfield, who lost his father to Katrina, is a modernist with a bright, swinging sound. He is also a busy fellow. Besides running the big band, he co-leads Los Hombres Calientes, runs two jazz clubs bearing his name, is an educator and New Orleans’ cultural ambassador. 

Mayfield brings the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra to Carnegie Hall in New York on October 8 as part of the band’s 10th anniversary celebration. Special guests include Dee Dee Bridgewater, Branford Marsalis, Aaron Neville, American Idol Season 10 finalists Casey Abrams and Haley Reinhart, and The Sphinx Virtuosi – an ensemble of young Black and Latino string players. Mayfield calls the New York gig an opportunity to use music to thank the jazz world and others for supporting his city’s culture and music since the flood. 

The orchestra is also celebrating in its hometown with a series of local concerts and events that began a couple of weeks ago. Among the bigger events:
  • November 17 - Say Hello to Old New Orleans, a concert with Cyrille Neville and other special guests.
  • November 30 - A tribute to Louisiana literary great Ernest Gaines, featuring an original jazz score written by Mayfield.
  • December 19 – the orchestra’s 10th birthday party, a concert at Irvin Mayfield's Jazz Playhouse at the Royal Sonesta Hotel New Orleans.
There are quite a few other community events and gigs by NOJO members throughout the fall.

If you can't get to New Orleans anytime soon for live music, do the next best thing and check in on HBO's music-filled drama series Treme on Sunday nights. It is fascinating as it digs into much of the post-Kastrina challenges and realities, albeit in the guise of fiction. New Orleanians will tell you fiction it ain't. Season Three's second episode airs tonight.