Summer of Jazz rekindles old memories
When I was a sophomore in high school, my best friend’s house burned down.The morning it happened, we were sitting in French class and someone from the office came to the door, whispered something in our teacher’s ear, then took Misty outside the classroom.They called me out, too, and I walked with her to the principal’s office with a sense of dread. The feeling was like nothing I’ve experienced since.We didn’t know what to expect, or how to react. But fear can knock the wind right out of you.Later we found out her parents were not hurt in the fire, but an explosion caused the little white house with black shutters to go up in flames before firemen could do anything about it.The sight and smell will never leave my mind, a reminder of how quickly life can change course. I shared with my best friend a desperate feeling of loss, even though it wasn’t even my home.Empathy is one of love’s best characteristics.Like anyone who faces tragedy, Misty and her family lost more than their home that day. She lost a bit of her teenage innocence. They lost decades of memories captured in old photographs and keepsakes passed down through generations.Those memories sparked again recently while interviewing Summer of Jazz musicians who played the past eight weeks in Glenwood. The music series was dedicated to New Orleans, a city I’ve never visited but for which I’ve developed quite an affinity. Who couldn’t love a place buzzing with live jazz, Cajun food and a party so big a Category 5 hurricane couldn’t stop it?As I spoke with the displaced musicians (most born and raised in New Orleans) a common theme linked them like a string of beads on a Mardi Gras necklace. Despite relocation, loss of personal belongings and having to literally start life over, the music backed by unrelenting faith continues to play in their hearts.The pain Hurricane Katrina has caused for clarinetist Michael White is so everlasting, I could practically grasp it in my hand. His mother, who lived in New Orleans all her life, is now in a nursing home in Houston. She’s not the same, and he knows she never will be.For The Jordan Family of New Orleans, jazz has been a saving grace. The musically talented siblings lost their homes, instruments and belongings to Katrina, but not their faith. Vocalist Stephanie Jordan now lives near the Washington, D.C., area with her son. The hurricane prompted a new chapter in her life, one she hopes has a happy ending, as do I.Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews and his band, Orleans Avenue, had such a positive impact on their Wednesday-night audience, he went crowd surfing at Two Rivers Park. Organizer Mary Noone believes that’s probably a first for a Summer of Jazz show. Like a Mel Brooks comedy after a bad day at the office, music has an uncanny way of spreading cheer to those who need it the most.In the past year, jazz pianist Jonathan Batiste has seen his deep-rooted New Orleans family uprooted to Dallas and beyond. He stresses there’s no place like home, but a standing ovation at Carnegie Hall after Katrina certainly made the Juilliard student love New York City just a little bit more. Sometimes, home is where the music is.Terrance Simien, a descendant of the Creole people of Louisiana, may not have lost his home to Katrina, but he still shares a sense of loss with his neighbors. He’s seen the sections of the city where rebuilding has yet to happen. He longs for the city’s return to glory, knowing music can help make that happen.Trumpeter Irvin Mayfield lost his father to the hurricane and carries his memory with him as he tours the country. In June, the cultural ambassador of New Orleans performed “Just a Closer Walk With Thee,” the first song his dad ever taught him, at the White House. He has dedicated his career to honoring the jazz greats and preserving the city’s culture not such an easy task in Katrina’s lingering aftermath.The Jazz Vipers saxophonist Joe Braun was my kind of interview. He was candid about topics ranging from the government’s slow response during Katrina’s darkest hours to the treatment of fellow Rainbow Family members in Steamboat Springs. He doesn’t call himself a hippie but if you call him one, he doesn’t mind. Music, and the people who surround him, are his life.Hurricane Katrina affected the lives of all seven members of the Soul Rebels Brass Band. Some were displaced, others lost irreplaceable instruments they’ve owned since the first grade. Band leader Lumar LeBlanc said it best when he remarked that the band members look at their music like stages of their lives. Even in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, they’re grounded yet spontaneous.That’s music to my ears.April E. Clark can’t believe how fast the eight weeks of Summer of Jazz passed her by this year. She can be reached at 945-8515, ext. 518, or email@example.com.
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