new orleans: drumbeats of justice, interrupted.

A New Orleans prosecutor's decision yesterday to dismiss the case against David Bonds, the accused murderer of brass-band musician Dinerral Shavers, is disappointing to those of us who've followed this story. But to anyone familiar with issues of crime, law enforcement and judicial process in New Orleans, it should come as no surprise.

The wave of homicides that swept through New Orleans in late December and early January claimed among its victims Shavers, the 25-year-old snare drummer of the Hot 8 Brass Band and a teacher who had established Rabouin High School's first-ever marching band. Shavers was the sort of fine and gifted young man that made others proud to dance behind him in a second-line, that made mothers happy to send their children to his school, that inspired his very young son, who now often plays at Hot 8 performances, to pick up drumsticks and follow his daddy's example.

Shavers's short life was notable in a city filled with tales of empowered resilience, his death tragic even in an environment filled with unnecessary strife. If there's any good to come from such tragedy, it's the attention one hopes it draws to the complex of problems surrounding law enforcement in New Orleans, chiefly the fear that prevents so many witnesses from testifying against violent criminals and the many current inhibitions to a smooth relationship between police, courts, and the communities they serve.

One clear bright spot has been the citizen action group, Silence is Violence, which formed shortly after Shavers's death, with the drummer's sister Nakita among its leaders. Here's her nuanced statement about the situation, on the organization's website.
And here's the report in the The Times Picayune.

June 30, 2007 2:14 PM | | Comments (0)

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Evan Christopher Django à la Créole (Lejazzetal) 

Clarinetist Evan Christopher, a California native, moved to New Orleans in 1994. In his frequent duets with Tom McDermott, and as a standout member of trumpeter Irvin Mayfield's New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, his erudite and personalized approach to traditional jazz commands attention.

Dr. Michael White Blue Crescent (Basin Street) 

Long before the floods that devastated his city, clarinetist Michael White wrestled with the challenge of preserving New Orleans traditional jazz without embalming it. He sought to write tunes built on time-honored local forms that spoke to the here-and-now. But Dr. White struggled to compose anything at all during the past three years--until late 2007, when original music began pouring forth.

 
Dee Dee Bridgewater
Red Earth: A Malian Journey (DDB Records/Emarcy/Universal) Despite her place in the top rank of American jazz vocalists and her crossover success, Dee Dee Bridgewater has often felt displaced. "I'm always trying to fit in somewhere," she once told me. This new disc, which finds Ms. Bridgewater and her band in collaboration with a cast of Malian musicians and singers, is no further pose:
David Murray Black Saint Quartet featuring Cassandra Wilson Sacred Ground (Justin Time) 
Long among the strongest, most adventurous reedmen in jazz,
Joe Zawinul Brown Street (Heads Up) 
The list of great Viennese composers must include Zawinul--same for the honor roll of jazz innovators.
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