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Various Artists: Higher Ground Hurricane Relief Benefit Concert (2005)

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Various Artists: Higher Ground Hurricane Relief Benefit Concert How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

An extraordinary hurricane benefit concert took place at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York on September 17, just two weeks after Katrina washed away much of New Orleans. The five-hour show brought together a dazzling array of jazz and pop stars, and notables from stage and screen who recited tributes to the birthplace of jazz and urged Americans to give generously and to make sure their government fixes the levees and helps the city revive.

"Higher Ground'' was broadcast on public TV and radio, and now Blue Note Records has issued a CD of highlights, with proceeds going to New Orleans musicians and related causes. There's much to love on this record. Diana Krall's sultry "Basin Street Blues"; Dianne Reeves' uplifting "The House I Live In,'' an anthem about the best of America; Marcus Roberts' playing on Jelly Roll Morton's "New Orleans Blues,'' which opens playfully, then builds to a walloping finale; and Cassandra Wilson's majestic rendition of "Come Sunday.''

The emotional peaks, though, were scaled by the Crescent City's own. Terence Blanchard on a stately ballad, J@LC artistic director Wynton Marsalis leading a septet on a classically New Orleans stomp, "Dippermouth Blues';' Aaron and Art Neville digging into a deep funk bag on "Go to the Mardi Gras,'' with drummer Herlin Riley shakin' everybody's booties; and the multitalented Jordan family summing up the bittersweet reality of their city's plight on "Here's to Life.''

The most riveting performance was by trumpeter Irvin Mayfield, who dedicated "Just a Closer Walk With Thee'' to his father, Irvin Sr., who was missing at that time and whose death by drowning has since been confirmed. Mayfield, leader of the brilliant New Orleans Jazz Orchestra and the city's official cultural ambassador, played the somber hymn with grace, but imbued it with pain, and even rage, over what he and so many others had suffered.

Also on the disc are cuts by gospel's Shirley Caesar; pop singers James Taylor, Norah Jones, and Bette Midler; and Buckwheat Zydeco and saxophonist Joe Lovano, playing a tribute to the late New Orleans drummer Ed Blackwell.

Track Listing: This Joy; Over There; Go to the Mardi Gras; Basin Street Blues; Never Die Young; The House I Live In; New Orleans Blues; I Think it's Going to Rain Today; Dippermouth Blues; I'm Gonna Love You Anyway; Is That All There Is?; Just a Closer Walk With Thee; Here's to Life; Blackwell's Message; Come Sunday.

Personnel: Wynton Marsalis, Ryan Kisor, Sean Jones, Marcus Printup, Curtis Watson: trumpet; Irvin Mayfield: trumpet (12); Terence Blanchard: trumpet (2); Marlon Jordan: trumpet (13); Wycliffe Gordon, Vincent Gardner, Andre Hayward: trombone; Kent Jordan: flute (13); Sherman Irby, Ted Nash, Wessell Anderson: alto saxophone; Brice Winston, Walter Blanding: tenor saxophone; Joe Lovano: tenor saxophone (14); Victor Goines: tenor saxophone, clarinet; Joe Temperley: baritone saxophone; Allen Toussaint, Aaron Parks, Bette Sussman, Dan Nimmer, Cyrus Chestnut: piano; Peter Martin: piano (6); Ronald Markham: piano (12); Eric Reed: piano (1); Marcus Roberts: piano (7); Norah Jones: piano & vocals (8); Michael Mathis: organ; Art Neville: organ & vocals (3); Mark O'Connor: violin (15); Rachel Jordan: violin (13); Lionel Loueke, Paul Sinegal, Olivier Scoazec: guitar; Don Vappie: banjo; Buckwheat Zydeco: accordion & vocals (10); Derrick Hodge, Reginald Veal, L. Allen Zeno, Carlos Hernandez: bass; Rodney Jordan: bass (7); Herlin Riley, Aaron Mecals, Kendrick Scott, Gerard S. Julian, Ali Jackson, Idris Muhammed: drums; Jason Marsalis: drums (7); Dianne Reeves: vocals (6); Diana Krall: vocals (4); Cassandra Wilson: vocals (15); James Taylor: vocals & acoustic guitar (5); Stephanie Jordan: vocals (13); Shirley Caesar: vocals (1); Bette Midler: vocals (11); Aaron Neville: vocals (3); Bernard Sterling, Gene Conyers, Donald Gore: background vocals.

Record Label: Blue Note Records

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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