They played in Newark, but their hearts were in New Orleans
Saturday, September 17, 2005
BY ZAN STEWART
Irvin Mayfield had a lot on his mind when he took part Thursday in the New Jersey Performing Arts Center's Sounds of the City's Benefit for the Hurricane Katrina Relief Effort in Newark -- playing a moving rendition of the spiritual "Just a Closer Walk with Thee."
The trumpeter -- a New Orleans native and resident and co-leader of the popular jazz band Los Hombres Calientes -- had fared pretty well in the wake of the hurricane; his Uptown section home was not badly damaged. But he knew many other musicians who had "lost everything," and his father, Irvin Sr. -- who lives in the Gentilly section, which is still partially under water -- remains unaccounted for.
"I haven't heard from Dad. Wynton (Marsalis) and I were on a boat trying to get to get to him, but we couldn't get to the area," said Mayfield, 27, before the performance at NJPAC's Victoria Theatre. "But I do believe he's still alive."
"There's so much work to be done to save something that's more important than myself and my family, and that's the culture of the city," said Mayfield, the state-appointed New Orleans Cultural Ambassador who is in the metro area to advance the plight of musicians hurt by Katrina. [ ]
Mayfield's "Closer Walk," played with pianist Ronald Markham, a New Orleans colleague, was one of several pieces that gave a Crescent City heart to the NJPAC benefit.
The event raised close to $6,000 for Newark Emergency Services for Families (NESF), which is aiding 125 families who have arrived in the area, and the New Orleans Musicians' Clinic, which helps affected musicians (for information, visit www.thenojo.com).
A crowd of about 500 attended the eve
nt where everyone, including musicians, vendors and ushers donated their services. Sen. Jon Corzine, the New Jersey Democratic nominee for governor, and Newark Mayor Sharpe James also attended, and spoke briefly.
"It's common humanity ... we need to help others," said Corzine between performances, thanking the audience for helping. James had a similar sentiment, speaking later. "Thank you for reaching out to those in need in their time of need," he said.
The benefit began with Jersey-based conga drummer Kevin Jones' Tenth World ensemble. Jones hoped his band's music could bring "some joy" to Katrina victims. His offerings had a zesty Latin flavor, definitely part of New Orleans' musical gumbo.
Pianist Kelvin Sholar's amiable "Tú Boca" boasted a warm theme played by trumpeter Kevin Louis. It closed with a salubrious percussion duet featuring Jones' conga patters and Luis Quintero's drum whops.
Verushka Spirito, curator of Sounds of the City, preceded t
he band of Queens-based saxophonist Alix "Buyu" Ambroise by pointing out that the benefit was a celebration of culture. Ambroise talked about the strong relationship between his native Haiti and New Orleans. After a deft look at Wayne Shorter's "Footprints," he explored that relationship with "Kon-Vik-Syon" -- meaning "To have faith," he said -- a heart-tugging bolero which he sang with his horn.
After Mayfield and Markham earned a standing ovation with their tender-then-joyous "Closer Walk," South Orange tenorman Don Braden's New Orleans Tribute Band provided a fitting close to the affair. Sonny Rollins' "Doxy" and "Sunny Side of the Street" both had jubilant New Orleans' Second Line rhythmic feels, and sections where the musicians -- trumpeter Freddie Hendrix and guitarist Ron Jackson among them -- played simultaneously to solid effect. A quieter "Do You Know What it Means (to Miss New Orleans)," with superlative Hendrix, evoked emotion.