been in the storm too long

Tonight's "Tavis Smiley Reports" primetime special, "New Orleans: Been in the Storm Too Long," is produced in collaboration with Academy-Award-winning director Jonathan Demme. It premieres at 8pm EST/7pm Central on PBS.

Both Demme and Smiley focused on New Orleans with depth and sensitivity in 2005, after the flood, and they've both stayed on the storyline. (With so much attention rightly paid to the oil spill just now, it's my hope that the still-relevant story of the flood's aftermath is not forgotten--rather, that the two narratives are folded together to highlight many core issues in common.) 

This collaboration owes in part to Demme's ongoing documentary project "Right to Return." Back in 2008, Smiley gave over a week of his airtime to Demme's material and to the post-Katrina narrative in New Orleans. This New York Times piece by Felicia R. Lee offers more background.) On tonight's special,  Smiley interviews, among others: musicians Ellis and Branford Marsalis, and Lenny Kravitz; and actors Wendell Pierce and John Goodman (both of whom have central roles in HBO's "Treme"). Pierce, in particular, has seeded important redevelopment work in his native Pontchartrain Park.

I ran into Demme on Mardi Gras Day, when he was tracking Big Chief Donald Harrison of Congo Nation (among the families his documentary focuses on is the Harrisons): I hope some of that glorious footage is in the program.

You can find more information on tonight's show here.

July 21, 2010 12:25 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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