Asheville’s grassroots musicians’ benefit for Haiti

Mark Guest, guitarist, has organized a grassroots “Jazz and Blues for Haiti” benefit for Doctors Without Borders on Monday Jan 26 Jan 25 at Curras Nuevo Cuisine in Asheville, NC, a town he says “doesn’t to my knowledge have an immediate Haitian connection.” But Guest wanted to do something for people in crisis worth more than $10 bucks and knows how to leverage his skills; besides, he’s felt nature’s wrath himself, having been driven from Gulf Coast, where he and his wife lived “a beer-and-a-half from New Orleans’ French Quarter” by Hurricane Katrina.

Guest, a gentle finger-picker who likes to recast standards and ballads to highlight his style, leads his trio with bassist Zach Page and drummer Leonid Citer (both boast New York City playing-time) for the show. He’s lined up blues singer Peggy Ratusz (“She’s like a mama to the blues here; she mentored Skinny Legs and All which got pretty far on American Idol”) and the local Django-jazz band One Leg Up. He’s expecting other bands to emerge for the party. The’y’ll play from 6 p.m. “until we’re done,” Guest says, and he hopes for some 300 attendees. No cover charge; collections will be made between sets, and home-made arts and crafts raffled. All the musicians are donating their time, and ALL proceeds are going to Doctors Without Borders.  
“People call Asheville the Boulder of the East,” Guest told me over the phone from the home he adopted in 2005, a regional capital of about 80,000 people in the Blue Ridge Mountains. “It’s like a college town-plus. Some good musicians live here, though a lot of the local gigs are for very short money. 
“There’s no Haitian community as far as I know, but we have a black community, of people who’ve mostly been here for a while. The neighborhood where I live, called Kenilworth, was established as a village for free blacks to  after the Civil War adjoining Asheville and became absorbed in the itself. It’s mixed now, not predominantly a black neighborhood any more.”
Guest has never been to Haiti, but seconded my notion that rara troupes are kin to New Orleans marching bands. “I’ve never heard much Haitian music,” he admitted, “but maybe there’s an opportunity for it to get some attention now — if music’s being made. I know that Carnival is a big thing for Haiti, and I can’t image what they’re going to do about that. My wife and I plan to be in New Orleans. I hope we’ll have a good time without feeling too guilty.” 
Putting on this benefit ought to cover his trip to Mardi Gras. Just thinking of this reminds me of Haiti’s Boukman Eksperyans, which isn’t always as overtly political as here

but seems always as funky. Come on, Haiti, we’re pullin’ for ya.
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