November 2007 Archives
Through my months on end in New Orleans during the past two years, few have inspired me on and off the bandstand and especially in the streets like the members of the Hot 8 Brass Band. In a city pushing hard to move forward yet ever-pulled by its powerful past, hit hard by tragedy yet soothed by transcendent charms, no band better embodies these complicated tensions, nor the simple power of African rhythms, modern black music, and the second-line parade.
I'm in New York now, where the Hot 8 will swing through and, in the space of four days, play Joe's Pub (11/24) and the Lincoln Center tree-lighting (11/26), and, along with me, present a workshop/discussion for students at Harlem's Urban Assembly School for the Performing Arts (11/27).
Here's what I had to say about the band in this week's Village Voice:
Let me take you where classic jazz was made back in the day. We'll meet not in some dark smoky Greenwich Village bar but on a quiet lane in Dix Hills. Indeed, important jazz landmarks lie well beyond the five boroughs and past big-city limits. The roots of a musical genre and a culture identified as a quintessentially urban American experience are nonetheless planted in suburban soil.
On Long Island's North Shore, a real estate deal alluring was trumped by a love supreme.
Here's the full text of my Op-Ed. piece in today's New York Times, about John Coltrane's former home in Huntington, Long Island -- now on the National Register of Historic Places, and soon, I hope, to be an innovative shrine to jazz history. And here's a site where you can find out more.
It's rare irony that finds me frustrated about missing a significant New Orleans musicial moment because I'm still in New Orleans: Fats Domino makes his first appearance in New York in two decades on Thursday, Nov. 8th at Pink Elephant (a benefit for the Tipitina's Foundation). Here's my Village Voice piece with more background.
Those who attended Terence Blanchard's Saturday night concert with the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra at Tulane University's Dixon Hall heard the trumpeter tell his story through music. And as Blanchard led his quintet and the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra through the music of his latest Blue Note CD, A Tale of God's Will, largely drawn from his score to Spike Lee's HBO documentary 'When the Levees Broke," still shots from the film were projected above the stage, supporting the music with visuals This made for some touching moments, as when the post-Katrina ruins of the Blanchard's childhood home flashed above, as well as an awkward one, when, for a prolonged moment, the image of Mayor Ray Nagin loomed over the musicians.
Blanchard, who spoke touchingly and sometimes humorously between numbers, had one moment of memorable defiance and drew deep belly laughs when he shared his retort to concerned folks he's encountered while on the road since Katrina: "Don't worry about us in New Orleans" he said. "We'll be fine because we hate your music and we can't stand your food."
But mostly it was Blanchard's tale, as related through compositions by he and his band members. Here's how the trumpeter spilled it out in words for the October issue of Jazziz magazine:
A TALE OF ONE TRUMPETER'S WILL
In 1980, trumpeter Terence Blanchard left his home in New Orleans - first for Rutgers University in New Jersey, then Art Blakey's band, and finally, Brooklyn, New York, where he settled in 1982. In the fall of 1995, he moved back to New Orleans for a number of reasons, including a desire to recapture the simple joys of his musical roots.
On Sunday, August 28, 2005, Blanchard and his family evacuated their city as Hurricane Katrina approached. By December 1, they were back, picking up the pieces of daily life, along with so many of their neighbors. Through his new Blue Note CD, A Tale of God's Will: A Requiem for Katrina, and through collaborations with director Spike Lee, with his working band, and his trumpet, Blanchard has slowly begun expressing the complex emotions left in the wake of the flood. He shares them here.
By Terence Blanchard
with Larry Blumenfeld
SILENCE WAS ALL I HEARD when I listened for the music of my requiem for Hurricane Katrina. And silence is the dominant memory of the first time I visited my mother's house after the flood. Standing in front of her house I heard no birds, no one cutting grass, no insects, no cars - nothing.