April 2008 Archives

Arturo O'Farrill told me that he and his Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra were "cast out of the castle" after five years as a resident ensemble with Jazz at Lincoln Center. But he's hardly packed it in: He's created his own nonprofit, established a broader aesthetic mandate with the orchestra's first season at Symphony Space, and grown outspoken about Latin jazz as no exotic "other".

I've grown to admire O'Farrill as a pianist, composer, bandleader, and man. I recall his first visit to Cuba, in 2002, when he visited the childhood home of his father, Chico O"Farrill. And I can't forget the tears in his eyes while he watched as the corner where he grew up, at 88th Street and West End Avenue in Manhattan, was renamed "Arturo 'Chico' O'Farrill Place." He's done his father's legacy proud, and then some.

You can find my piece on Arturo (the son) in The Wall Street Journal here.
April 30, 2008 11:55 PM | | Comments (0)

Just when I was feeling guilty about heading into Passover without a thought of my desert-crossing ancestors or my going-without-bread family members, I ran into Ronald Lewis, a sweet-hearted, tough-minded guy who is still among the lonely pioneers who've returned to his Lower Ninth Ward neighborhood. (He was a key character in a piece I did for Salon last year.)

"You comin' to the Seder?" he asked.

"What Seder?"

"The one at my house."

"Huh?"

Turns out LJ Goldstein, photographer, Jew-about-town, founding member of Krewe du Jieux, was holding his krewe's ritual dinner at Lewis's recently restored home. If my culture was on display for a night at Lewis's place, so was his, permanently: When I introduced my wife, Erica, Lewis commanded: "Go see my museum!" -- the House of Dance and Feathers located just behind his home (this is the second edition, and impressive at that, reconstructed after Lewis lost his previous artifacts in the floods).

Some guests had prepared traditional Jewish fare -- kugel and matzoh ball soup and so on. There was brisket, too -- from The Joint, a favorite Bywater barbecue spot. We sat on the floor and worked through two hours of a Passover service far more faithful than my family's version. And different -- the Haggadah, for instance, began with "Shalom, y'all." Helen Regis, scholar of all things second-line, was there, as was Joel Dinnerstein, who is on Tulane Univeristy's faculty. So was Willie Birch, whose paintings, drawings, and mixed-media sculptures tell stories of struggle and transcendence as powerfully as the Haggadah.

"Yeah. I'm doin' a multicultural thing," Lewis joked when Birch showed up. When it came time to give thanks and to reflect, he turned serious. "I'm thankful for being back. But I miss the Ninth Ward like it was. I used to be able to just walk and see everyone and everything where there is still mostly nothing."

From there, as any good Seder does, we traced the tale of enslaved Jews on the run from Egypt, and I thought about how little difference there is between "Let My People Go" and "Let My People Go Home."

April 22, 2008 8:18 PM | | Comments (0)
I'm in New Orleans now, gearing up for jazzfest (and here's a little psych-up piece I did for Billboard on that). But were I in NY, and were I attending the Tribeca Film Festival, I'd be sure to catch a terrific documentary by Dawn Logsdon and Lolis Eric Elie, "Faubourg Tremé: The Untold Story of Black New Orleans." My synopsis in the Village Voice guide to the fest is here (just scroll down a bit). And I'd check out another doc, "Old Man Bebo," on Cuban pianist Bebo Valdés (I've included a piece I once did on Bebo for The Wall Street Journal below):
April 16, 2008 4:29 PM | | Comments (0)
I've been too long away. Forgive me. I arrived in New Orleans two days ago to find that the trial of David Bonds, the accused murderer of Hot 8 Brass Band snare drummer and educator Dinerral Shavers, had finally begun. It was a dramatic three days of testimony, after which, to an outrage I'm sure I share with others, Bonds was acquitted on all counts. 
I'll have more to say on this matter, but I'm off to the Experience Music Project Conference in Seattle to present a paper on jazz funerals, dirges, and hymns in post-Katrina New Orleans. You can find the Times-Picayune stories on the trial here.
April 10, 2008 9:03 PM | | Comments (0)

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This page is an archive of entries from April 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

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