New Orleans Musicians. A Tribute
A group of New Orleans musicians relaxes before the next tune
I feel the need to talk about New Orleans, the devastation caused by the hurricane, and about my connection to this great city. I was sick seeing the destruction, both in terms of human life and in the infrastructure of the city.
As for my connection to the city, I've visited there many times, both on my own and while on the road with Ray Charles. I've played at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, which is one of the world's greatest music festivals.
The city is friendly to musicians. As a place that nurtured the development of jazz, among other forms of music, it is second to none. It is indeed the birthplace of America's most unique form of music, it's mother and it's father.
Every time I visited New Orleans, I would go hear music. There was music everywhere. In the clubs, on the street, in church.... everywhere. And when I would introduce myself to the band, the musicians would invariably say the same thing. “Got your horn?”, they would ask, as a not so subtle invitation to sit in with the band. I always had my horn. It goes everywhere with me. I always sat in. You can't very well turn down such an enthusiastic invitation. Plus I love to play. There were many occasions where I finished the gig with the band, then we would walk over to Cafe du Monde for coffee and beingets. Cafe du Monde is an all-night coffee stand, and even at 3am is inhabited by all sorts of people, including most of the musicians in town, just getting off from their late gigs. Their coffee is strong and tasty, and the beingets, which are a kind of French doughnut, are a sugary heart attack on a plate. I would sit there and chat with the musicians about life and music. All of them shared their knowledge freely. And they had a lot to share. Many of them were winding down their long and illustrious careers with a gig near to their homes at places like Preservation Hall. Their stories were wonderful, and their years of tradition showed in the way they played their instruments. It showed in the way they held their horns, in the way they moved subtly to the music, and in their graciousness to a “young whippersnapper” like myself. I truly appreciate their kind and generous nature.
Now it's time to help them. The American Federation of Musicians is setting up a fund to accept donations to help musicians affected by the hurricane. When this is established, I will let you all know how to donate. If you care to do so before then, you can send your donations to Local 26, AFM, 400 NE Jefferson Ave, Suite #307, Peoria, IL 61603. Please put “hurricane relief” on the bottom of your check.
And if you attend my concert at the Newsroom Bistro on September 10, I will be putting the tip jar out not to benefit the band, but to send to the folks that made the music possible.