Mark Samuels: Basin Street In and Out of New Orleans
“ Although we have been slowed down a bit, we can continue to book our bands, manufacture product, promote our artists and do the things a label needs to do. Not everyone in business is so lucky. ”
By Mark Samuels
When I was invited to have one of our many artists write for All About Jazz's Megaphone column, I envisioned sitting down on the phone with one of them and typing as they talked. What has happened in the two or three weeks since has been amazing and has kept us from having the time to do such a thing. So I write this with the hope that although I have not asked any one artist to write it, that it will do a service to them and to this column.
If you don't know, our label is located on Canal Street in the mid-city section of New Orleans. We had about two feet of water in our offices and lost a significant amount of inventory and computer equipment that was stored there. However, our product is distributed by RED and is in warehouse locations around the country, so we weren't completely devastated. What we did lose was our staff being able to sit in one office. We are scattered around. Our artists: singer/songwriter/vocalist Theresa Andersson, Los Hombres Calientes: Irvin Mayfield and Bill Summers, trumpeter/vocalist Kermit Ruffins, clarinetist Dr. Michael White, drummer Jason Marsalis and pianist/vocalists Henry Butler and Jon Cleary have all been scattered around too and many of us have lost our homes.
Irvin Mayfield and Ronald Markham (CEO of the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra) have relocated to Baton Rouge with their families; Andersson and her drummer-husband Arthur Mintz (World Leader Pretend) have relocated to Austin; Cleary is on the road with Bonnie Raitt; Bill Summers, Leon Brown, Steve Walker and David Pulphus from Los Hombres Calientes are all in Atlanta; Victor Atkins from Los Hombres is in Birmingham and Jamal Batiste is in Baton Rouge. Ruffins and his band are calling Houston their temporary home and so is Dr. Michael White. Butler has been touring, but looks like he will set up temporarily in Austin and Jason Marsalis has been in Japan recording with pianist Marcus Roberts.
My three children, my parents and I are in Austin and my children have made friends and quickly adapted to this city. I am sure that our artists are being welcomed everywhere they are, as I feel we have been here.
Over the past few weeks, our artists and I have given interviews to everyone from People Magazine to the New York Times and from Good Morning America to Larry King Live. They have been invited to participate in tremendous benefit concerts: Dr. Michael White at the Higher Ground Benefit at Jazz at Lincoln Center; Theresa Andersson and Dr. White at "6th Street for Bourbon Street" here in Austin; Kermit Ruffins at Madison Square Garden's "Big Apple to the Big Easy" on a live pay per view event available to 80 million people; and to Irvin Mayfield performing "America the Beautiful" on Monday Night Football.
Our artists have continued to perform at their scheduled gigs also: Jon Cleary the weekend after the hurricane at Bumpershoot in Washington, Los Hombres Calientes at North Carolina State University, Henry Butler at Telluride's Blues and Brews Festival and Kermit Ruffins at Austin City Limits Festival. New opportunities have popped up such as a "regular" gig for Kermit Ruffins at Sammy's in Houston on Thursday nights and "regular" performances by our artists in Austin at Cedar Street Courtyard.
Last night, I witnessed first hand the power of the music and the amazing feelings that our artists and other musicians create for people. About a third of the audience at the "6th Street for Bourbon Street" event here in Austin was from New Orleans. Both Theresa Andersson and Dr. Michael White performed there along with Cyril Neville, Marcia Ball, Delbert McClinton, Jerry Jeff Walker and others. A 60+ person "second line" parade wove through the crowd and a sense of "all things are good right now" was prevalent. Musicians who hadn't seen each other since their homes were destroyed had an opportunity to see one other, play with one another and make their audience feel like they were at home.
We have received literally hundreds of emails per day from well-wishers around the world and we feel fortunate that our business can still run from anywhere we need to be. People can still buy our music from their favorite retailer, from their favorite website or from several digital downloading sites. Although we have been slowed down a bit, we can continue to book our bands, manufacture product, promote our artists and do the things a label needs to do. Not everyone in business is so lucky.
Over the next years while we rebuild New Orleans and create what will be a greater city than ever before, please continue to support these artists by booking them for your festivals or in your clubs, buying their music and covering their stories. They have always deserved it, but now they need it more than ever.