The disasters that struck New Orleans this year affected all of us deeply. We've watched and read and listened intently as the news unfolded. Tragic stories and heroic adventures combined with political jibe to take over. This hasn't been about some group of strangers from afar; it's hit us hard, and the hurt is still with us.
The world has come together to rebuild what was, and to try to repair our heartfelt agony. Jazz at Lincoln Center's Higher Ground Hurricane Relief Benefit Concert of September 17 was one of the prescriptions that have been applied. It helps. Higher Ground features some of the movers and shakers in the jazz world. Each gives us a personalized note to carry home. The music calls for celebration and a return to normalcy. It may take time, but New Orleans will recover.
Wynton Marsalis, Wess Anderson, and Allen Toussaint interpret "Go to the Mardi Gras" with Art and Aaron Neville. The message is there. Diana Krall follows with a heartfelt invitation to visit "Basin Street," where the blues can be put aside and we can dream of better days. Dianne Reeves sings of "The House I Live In," and of its special place in our hearts.
Irvin Mayfield's "Just a Closer Walk With Thee," which he performs alone with piano accompaniment, stands out as the epitome of Higher Ground's message. Personal loss contributes to everything that we do. Mayfield dedicates this one to his father, who's still missing, and the heartfelt message is one that we can all feel deep inside.
Kent, Rachel, Stephanie, and Marlon Jordan deliver a beautiful interpretation of "Here's to Life" that reminds us of our losses and helps to provide us with the courage that we need to rebuild. That's what the concert meant then, and that's what this recording means to us every time we listen. Life goes on. We need emotional support in order to survive. The music gives us that and a whole lot more.
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.
I love jazz because it is both challenging and exhilarating, and the endeavor of improvisation is the highest form of art.
I met so many great musicians--including my two earliest heroes, Maynard Ferguson and Dizzy Gillespie--by attending concerts
and being willing to treat them with the respect they deserve.
The best show I ever attended was the Pat Metheny/Ornette Coleman Song X concert at Cornell University.
The first jazz record I bought was an RCA compilation by Dizzy Gillespie.
My advice to new listeners is to not be afraid to listen to something because you're not familiar with the artists or the band or
the genre or anything - this is music that is best experienced through discovery.