In Which a Disaster is Swallowed Whole and Set to Music

John Swenson of New Orleans magazine Offbeat writes that "There has been plenty of rhetoric about New Orleans music post-Katrina, but just as 9-11 didn't produce a wellspring of inspired popular music, Katrina has failed to inspire the bumper crop of musical observations that many predicted. There have been a few good songs written about the event and its aftermath to be sure, but the disaster is too large scale to be swallowed whole in a song."

He's right about 9-11, we couldn't find a single song, but not only does the New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund's benefit download - Re-Define 8/29 - offer 20 original download songs about the loss, it has been given a four star review in Rolling Stone Magazine and met with fanfare from international music lovers.

In these songs curated by NOMRF Chairman Jeff Beninato formerly of the dB's, the disaster is not only swallowed, it is digested and translated from some of the best artists around. Song samples are available on the page as well, so you'll be the kind of informed consumer musicians depend on. REM, Craig Klein, Ewin McCain, The Subdudes, Dr. John (pictured above) – you're invited to log on and see what they've come up with regarding New Orleans recovery.

Swenson goes on to review music by the wonderful Anders Osborne, who has played NOMRF benefits around the country that help us help other displaced musicians. He concludes that, "The spectral presence of the dead in our lives, beckoning mutely for us to join them in whatever afterlife they inhabit while they haunt us in this one, is one of the uneasy legacies of Katrina, one which mocks the empty bravado of recovery rhetoric suggested by the song's title."

Empty bravado of recovery rhetoric indeed, without support from music lovers around the world. You're what we depend on.



Couldn't Hear Nobody Pray

“I couldn’t hear nobody pray.

I couldn’t hear nobody pray.

Way down yonder and by myself, I couldn’t hear nobody pray.”

When George French, Deacon John and Irma Thomas are in the choir and your priest can sing a song like that, you must have been living right. Willie Tee’s tribute yesterday at Our Lady Star of the Sea was a memorial to a loving, funny and brilliant New Orleans legend.

Something that impressed me was how much Rev. Tony Richard talked about the heartbreak of being displaced, as Willie Tee had been, and coming home, as some of the congregation has managed to do.

Coming from 12 hours away, nobody talks about it enough for me. It was so inspirational I found myself remembering the Pentecostal roots of a religious childhood. We were more likely to be in a rickety building in the next town than a brick and mortar church. You had to drive 20 miles to find poor people but my dad managed to find them and build a modest church. Thankfully lighting passed us over, since Pentecostals have an affinity for aluminum structures.

We sang a small, sad version of “I’ll Fly Away” this spring - my husband, by brothers and myself. I remember insisting Dad would have wanted a jazz funeral. If he’d ever seen one I’m sure he would have, but the grieving don’t think straight and it wasn’t practical to fly a brass band up to our little town.

Yesterday, the maidens in Our Lady Star of the Sea floated above us in their dreamlike mural, The Dance of Innocence, and the priest described how he snuck back into the city to check on his church two years ago. He admitted to fibbing as monitors at the checkpoints asked where he was headed. “To the suburbs.” Then he talked about how Willie Tee’s brother Earl passed away a month ago, and he never expected to lose Willie so soon.

During the service, the priest played a recording of a piano solo Willie wrote for his grandson. You know how there’s a certain curve an instrumental can take, right after the verse but before the chorus when the hook can break your heart? This whole song was like that. If I were a music reviewer this would be a more lucid description, but it was right up there with what you’d hear if sunrise had a sound.

The crowd marched out to a second line of “I’ll Fly Away,” the way it’s supposed to be played. We saw some friends, paid our respects and watched the second line march on as the weather gathered toward Sunday’s storm. I grieve for this community’s loss of a man who I only know from his music and his tribute.

Based on that alone, he must have been living right.


Helping New Orleans With a Little Help From Our Friends

"Without a concerted effort by the city government to address their needs, there will continue to be a slow bleed of musicians to cities where they feel they will be more appreciated," writes Richard Webster of City Business in New Orleans

A concerted effort by the state and federal government is needed as well, especially since most of the slow bleed is going out of state and could use social services in their new towns as well.

The inimitable Scott Aiges, director of programs for the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation, "said four new festivals — the Crescent City Blues Festival, the Louisiana Cajun Zydeco Festival, the Congo Square Rhythm Festival and Fiesta Latina — have been created since Katrina to attract tourists and keep musicians employed." writes Webster. He adds that the Foundation has set aside $90,000 to help musicians clear their credit so they can apply for home mortgages. Some of these mortgages may be in the burgeoning Musicians Village which just broke ground on the Ellis Marsalis Educational Center.

Music education is a primary focus for Jazzfest, too. "One of its successes is a community partnership grant program that has set aside $350,000 for artistic and educational programs within the community," Webster says. All that and Crawfish Monica.

Legal aid is part of the package too. "Ashlye Keaton is the supervising attorney with the Entertainment Law Legal Assistance Project, a joint initiative of Tulane Law School, Tipitina's Foundation and the Arts Council of New Orleans. The law clinic started in January 2005, has counseled more than 200 clients and boasts a case resolution rate of 85 percent."

Our New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund hearts friends like Scott, Ashlye, WWOZ's Bob French in his new Musicians Village home, Eric at the Carrolton Station Foundation, Marc at Tipitina's Foundation and a town full of musician / philanthropists including the Marsalis family, Dr. John and Craig Klein - all true friends of New Orleans music.

It takes a village and we're happy to be the grass roots NOMRF village people.

Moment of Truth - The Passing of Willie Tee

“This is the moment of truth and you know it. We got to think about out kids and what’s coming behind them. I don’t know what this world is coming to. But we’ve got to straighten it out, we’ve got to face the truth.”

Moment of Truth
- Willie Tee

Wardell Quezergue, Willie Tee and Chief Danny Montana

We will always associate Willie Tee with staying out too late over Jazzfest. Dr. John brought froglegs and blue catfish roe back from the bayou, and Jaeger’s cooked it all up in a feast of Roman proportions. In fact, we're in trouble with Wardell Quezergue for mentioning how many froglegs he put away in one sitting. To clear that up, he’s no glutton, just a man who loves seafood very, very much.

After dinner we told Wardell there was a Mardi Gras Indian summit at Rosie’s Jazz Hall. I was already fading, but he asked to come and you don’t keep Wardell from the Indians. We got to the show and there was Willie Tee to the left of the stage, the musical architect of The Wild Magnolias and producer of “They Call Us Wild,” which Peter Watrous of The New York Times called “one of the funkiest albums ever.” He wrote “Smoke My Peace Pipe”, so that sounds about right. Willie Tee has passed away at 63, and his memorial is Saturday.

That night at Rosie’s, Wardell and Willie Tee sat at the side of the stage for an hour, catching up and greeting Mardi Gras Indians including Danny Montana, Big Chief Tootie’s son. Wardell produced one of Willie Tee’s first singles, the top 20 hit “Teasin You.” He describes the sessions. “Willie Tee was a a professional in all respects. A nice fellow to work with - very cooperative even at that young age. No problems at all on the set.” Willie was a teenager at the time.

I asked who played on the session and Wardell said it was Smokey Johnson on drums, George Davis on guitar, George French bass, Willie Tee on piano and a local horn section with Carl Blouin baritone sax. “All younger than me. It was cut at Cosimo’s (Matassa) studio.”

That’s the beautiful thing about New Orleans music. You can pick up the phone and call a living encyclopedia.

Whether or not you’ve heard of their songs, New Orleans musicians are perpetually too cool for school. Alex Chilton ended up here, and got an A- from Robert Christgau for his cover of Willie Tee’s “Thank You John.” Wilson Turbinton (Willie Tee) songs have been sampled by rappers like P Diddy, for decades.

He released his first full album with the production company of Cannonball Adderly and his brother. A creator of early funk, Willie Tee influenced Joe Zawinul of Weather Report, and wrote “Can It Be Done” for the band. Joe died last week on the same day as Willie Tee. Weather Report’s fretless bass pioneer Jaco Pastorius passed decades before, and the band is known for the funk classic, ”Heavy Weather.” That album influenced my husband to pop the frets off his bass as a kid playing on Bourbon Street with Fats Domino’s sons.

Willie Tee also recorded “Brothers for Life,” with his brother Earl Turbinton who passed last month. Earl was known as the African Cowboy, a force of nature on the saxophone. Both grew up in the Calliope projects, near the Neville brothers. All of them found a way out with music.

New Orleans music is a family affair. Willie Tee had 39 years of marriage to his credit and a gifted musician as his daughter. He had a long-term gig at Sweet Lorraine’s but after 8/29/5, ended up an artist in residence at Princeton, performing and directing two bands. He also worked on “Sing Me Back Home” with the wonderful Leo Sacks. In November of 05, Willie Tee was inducted into the Carolina Beach Music Awards Hall of Fame and sang Teasing You for the crowd, along with his other hits.

He has also been recognized by the Governor of Louisiana for his contribution to Mardi Gras Indian music, and any entity who recognized these legends while they are still with us is thinking right. In 2002 he played for hours for London’s Music CafĂ©. Europe is still showing love to our legends and it’s impossible to estimate what that does for their spirit.

In 2004, Willie Tee was a featured guest on Dr. John's grammy-winning, N’Awlinz: Dis Dat or d’Udder. Wardell was also part of that project, and Dr. John replaced Wardell’s Grammy certificate lost to the levee break with his own at the New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund benefit for Wardell the following year. That’s about as full circle as it gets, except for the fact that Willie Tee and his brother are gone. And Willie Tee never made it home from Baton rouge.

With each musical loss, the world is in for some heavy weather.

“There is a chance that one day this world will be at peace. I truly hope that you and I will be around. There are so many beautiful places that are just waiting to be found. And if our kids are ever to learn to love, I sincerely wish that we will be the ones to turn all the hatred off. This world of ours is put here for every man to please, but selfish motivations have caused a lot of misery. So I hope that I can in some way touch and help someone in need. And cause a chain reaction. Freedom love and peace is all we’ll ever need.
- “Moment of Truth”
Willie Tee


I Remember the Gumbo Krewe

We remember the gumbo krewe.

They brought pots of food up from Louisiana after the planes flew into the Twin Towers, because food is one way New Orleaneans show their love. There was a collection to purchase a firetruck for the first responders, and our hearts went out to them.

After 8/29, their hearts went out to us. A group of poets so esteemed it is nerve wracking even sending them an email came together this spring for a New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund benefit in New York (photo above).

In the last two years, the support has not stopped flowing back and forth between our two cities, and I commemorate their tragic anniversary today as they have honored ours.

Two coastal, vulnerable and culturally irreplacable cities. There is no learning curve on describing our loss to one another.

"We never felt more connected as a country," is Oprah's comment on her 9/11 Anniversary special. On 8/29, I never felt more disconnected as a person.

My husband's mother, up north for the first time in her life after two years without a permanent home, is heartbreaking to walk with through an antique store. It's a day of, "Maw had one of these." or "We lost this set at the bottom of the locker."

Just try not talking with a New Orleanean in a store. It's virtually impossible. She'll brightly wave a tapestry at a clerk and say, "I lost one of these in the city." For Miss Gloria, there is still only one city.

Oprah said she feels 9/11 should be a national holiday of remembering the tragic day that the country came together.

Not to get all Kid Rock and Tommy Lee at the Video Music Awards, but I feel that 8/29 should also eventually be officially recognized.

It's the day the country, for so many of us, split in two.


Two Years Ago Today: Jazz Musicians Ask if Their Scene Will Survive

These are the true Anniversary stories from two years ago, when we first began questioning who would be able to come back and under what conditions. Jazzfest rolls on, the Indians still march, and many New Orleans musicians still live in Texas.

Best quote? Mr. Boudreaux, now safe with his daughter in Mesquite, Tex., stayed put through the storm at his house in the Uptown neighborhood; when he left last week, he said, the water was waist-high. He chuckled when asked if the Mardi Gras Indian tradition could survive in exile. "I don't know of any other Mardi Gras outside of New Orleans," he said.

Jazz Musicians Ask if Their Scene Will Survive

The New York Times
Published: September 8, 2005

New Orleans is a jazz town, but also a funk town, a brass-band town, a hip-hop town and a jam-band town. It has international jazz musicians and hip-hop superstars, but also a true, subsistence-level street culture. Much of its music is tied to geography and neighborhoods, and crowds.

All that was incontrovertibly true until a week ago Monday. Now the future for brass bands and Mardi Gras Indians, to cite two examples, looks particularly bleak if their neighborhoods are destroyed by flooding, and bleaker still with the prospect of no new tourists coming to town soon to infuse their traditions with new money. Although the full extent of damage is still unknown, there is little doubt that it has been severe - to families, to instruments, to historical records, to clubs, to costumes. "Who knows if there exists a Mardi Gras Indian costume anymore in New Orleans?" wondered Don Marshall, director of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival Foundation.

"A lot of the great musicians came right out of the Treme neighborhood and the Lower Ninth Ward," said the trumpeter Kermit Ruffins, temporarily speaking in the past tense, by phone from Houston yesterday. Mr. Ruffins, one of the most popular jazz musicians in New Orleans, made his name there partly through his regular Thursday-night gig over the last 12 years at Vaughan's, a bar in the Bywater neighborhood, where red beans and rice were served at midnight. Now Vaughn's may be destroyed, and so may his new house, which is not too far from the bar.

On Saturday evening Mr. Ruffins flew back to New Orleans from a gig in San Diego, having heard the first of the dire storm warnings. He stopped at a lumberyard to buy wood planks, boarded up 25 windows on his house, then went bar-hopping and joked with his friends that where they were standing might be under water the next day.

The next morning he fled to Baton Rouge with his family, and now he is in Houston, about to settle into apartments, along with more than 30 relatives. He is being offered plenty of work in Houston, and is already thinking ahead to what he calls "the new New Orleans."

"I think the city is going to wind up being a smaller area," he said. "They'll have to build some super levees.

"I think this will never happen again once they get finished," Mr. Ruffins added. "We're going to get those musicians back, the brass bands, the jazz funerals, everything."

Brass bands function through the year - not only through the annual Jazzfest, where many outsiders see them, and jazz funerals, but at the approximately 55 social aid and pleasure clubs, each of which holds a parade once a year. It is an intensely local culture, and has been thriving in recent years. Brass-band music, funky and hard-hitting, can easily be transformed from the neighborhood social to a club gig; brass bands like Rebirth, Dirty Dozen and the Soul Rebels have done well by touring as commercial entities. Members of Stooges Brass Band have ended up in Atlanta, and of Li'l Rascals in Houston; there could be a significant brass-band diaspora before musicians find a way to get home to New Orleans. (Rebirth's Web site, www.rebirthbrassband.com, has been keeping a count of brass-band musicians who have been heard from.)

The Mardi Gras Indian tradition is more fragile. Monk Boudreaux is chief of the Golden Eagles, one of the 40 or so secretive Mardi Gras tribes, who are known not just for their flamboyant feathered costumes but for their competitive parades through neighborhoods at Mardi Gras time. (Mardi Gras Indians are not American Indians but New Orleanians from the city's working-class black neighborhoods.) Mr. Boudreaux, now safe with his daughter in Mesquite, Tex., stayed put through the storm at his house in the Uptown neighborhood; when he left last week, he said, the water was waist-high. He chuckled when asked if the Mardi Gras Indian tradition could survive in exile. "I don't know of any other Mardi Gras outside of New Orleans," he said.

These days a city is often considered a jazz town to the extent that its resident musicians have international careers. The bulk of New Orleans jazz musicians have shown a knack for staying local. (Twenty or so in the last two decades, including several Marsalises, are obvious exceptions.)

But as everyone knows, jazz is crucial to New Orleans, and New Orleans was crucial in combining jazz's constituent parts, its Spanish, French, Caribbean and West African influences. The fact that so many musicians are related to one or another of the city's great music families - Lastie, Brunious, Neville, Jordan, Marsalis - still gives much of the music scene a built-in sense of nobility. "Whereas New York has a jazz industry," said Quint Davis, director of Jazzfest, "New Orleans has a jazz culture." (Speaking of Jazzfest, Mr. Davis was not ready to discuss whether there will be a festival next April. "First I'm dealing with the lives and subsistence of the people who produce it," he said.)

And most jazz in New Orleans has a directness about it. "Everyone isn't searching for the hottest, newest lick," said Maurice Brown, a young trumpeter from Chicago who had been rising through the ranks of the New Orleans jazz scene for the last four years before the storm took his house and car. "People are trying to stay true to the melody."

Gregory Davis, the trumpeter and vocalist for the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, one of the city's most successful groups, said the typical New Orleans musician was vulnerable because of how he lives and works. (Mr. Davis's house is in the Gentilly neighborhood; he spoke last week from his brother's home in Dallas.)

"A lot of these guys who are playing out there in the clubs are not home owners," he said. "They're going to be at the mercy of the owners of those properties. For some of them, playing in the clubs was the only means of earning any money. If those musicians come back and don't have an affordable home, that's a big blow."

Louis Edwards, a New Orleans novelist and an associate producer of the Jazz and Heritage Festival, said, "No other city is so equipped to deal with this." A French Quarter resident, Mr. Edwards was taking refuge last week at his mother's house in Lake Charles, La.

"Think of the jazz funeral," he said. "In New Orleans we respond to the concept of following tragedy with joy. That's a powerful philosophy to have as the underpinning of your culture."

In the meantime, Mr. Boudreaux, chief of the Golden Eagles, has a feeling his own Mardi Gras Indian costume is intact. He was careful to put it in a dry place before he left home. "I just need to get home and get that Indian suit from on top of that closet," he said.


Outrageous and Kinky in New Orleans

Rev. Goat Carson holds up his and Kinky Friedman's Texas Monthly article during the Krewe of O.A.K.'s Midsummer Mardi Gras. Last week I missed his Shallow Graves signing, as every New Orleans obligation seems to end in a series of detours, but wish Goat and Kinky well on their upcoming book tour.

O.A.K., appropriately enough, stands for Outrageous and Kinky.

Goat's the first person who put me up in a cot on my first visit to New Orleans, and he's been staying on and off at Kinky's ranch, Levon Helms' cabin and points unknown ever since evacuating.

In a perfect example of the chaos in communicating two summers ago, when Kinky told Rev. Goat there were 24 greyhounds coming to the rescue ranch, he thought that meant a convoy of Greyhound Buses instead of dogs and wanted to round up riders.

Goat's "Lost You In the Waterfall" is one of the poignant tunes on the (DOWNLOADS)

Click on his image below for our photo page with more from the New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund's Carrolton Station Download Celebration, Midsummer Mardi Gras, Jake's 8/29 Speech, the Fords' Open House with food from Bacco, and a donated brass band van.


Fun REM Facts: New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund and the Twisted Kites

From The Production Side - Acostill

The Athens, GA natives will release a live album from their recent Dublin performances on October 16 and they just donated a track for the New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund. ((DOWNLOADS)

The band made their first public performance in April of 1980 at a friend’s birthday party.

Before settling on R.E.M., the band considered the names Twisted Kites and Can of Piss.

In May of 1980 R.E.M. headlined their first show at Tyrone’s Club in Athens, GA.

The band open up for The Police in Atlanta in December, 1980.

By April of 1981 they have recorded their first demo.

May, 1982 their debut EP, Chronic Town, is released. Around this time, the band also signs with I.R.S. Records.

R.E.M.’s first full debut, Murmur, is released in April, 1983.

In 1983, the band opens up The Police at Shea Stadium and make their national televsion debut on The Late Show With David Letterman.

Reckoning, the band’s second album, is released on April 16, 1984.

In 1985 the band’s “Preconstruction” college tour previewed songs from their third album, Fables of the Reconstruction.

1986’s Lifes Rich Pageant extended to a wider audience.

1987 was a big year for R.E.M.; they began a U.S. tour in January, a compilation of rarities, Dead Letter Office, is released, as well as, their breakthrough album document·

“The One I Love” reaches #9 on the Billboard charts by December of 1987.

R.E.M. signs with Warner Bros. in June of 1988.

I.R.S. releases the compilation Eponymous in 1988.

Green, the band’s 1988 debut with Warner Bros., would go on to double platinum status.

The single “Shiny Happy People” features Kate Pierson of the B-52’s.
R.E.M. releases their eighth studio album, Automatic for the People on October 6, 1992.

Former Led Zeppelin bassist, John Paul Jones, composed the string arrangements for “Drive”, “The Sidewinder Sleeps Tonite”, “Everybody Hurts” and “Nightswimming”.

In the Kurt Cobain biography, Heavier Than Heaven, it states that Cobain was listening to Automatic for the People before his suicide.
Monster released on September 27, 1994.

“Let Me In” was written about Kurt Cobain, in fact, Cobain;s guitar (a Fender Jag-Stang) was given to Peter Buck and used on this song. The guitar can also be seen in the “What’s The Frequency, Kenneth?” video.

In 1995 R.E.M. embarks on their first tour in six years.

R.E.M. re-signs with Warner Bros. for a reported $80 million contract in 1996.

New Adventues in Hi-Fi is released on September 10, 1986.

Patti Smith appears on the single “E-Bow the Letter”.

Drummer Bill Berry leaves the band in October of 1997.

1998’s Up was the first album without Bill Berry and the first album to come with lyrics.

Up featured drummer Barrett Martin from the Screaming Trees and Beck’s touring drummer Joey Waronker.

The band contributes “The Great Beyond” and wrote the instrumental score for the Andy Kaufman biopic Man on the Moon.

Reveal is released on May 15, 2001.

Warner Bros. releases In Time: The Best of R.E.M. 1988-2003 in October of 2003.

Around the Sun is released on October 5, 2004.

R.E.M. is part of the Vote for Change Tour, touring with Bright Eyes, John Fogerty and Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band.

2005 marked the band’s first full length world tour in ten years.

In 2006 And I Feel Fine…The Best of the I.R.S. Years 1982-1987 is released.

On March 12, 2007 the band is inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by Eddie Vedder.

The band is currently working on their fourteenth album. (NOMRF Note: to be released in October)


Unleash Your Inner Rock Critic For New Orleans

Nice news for New Orleans - in an article by Steve Hochman of the L.A. Times, the New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund’s ReDefine 8/29 Download track “Poor Man’s Paradise” is picked as one of the best post-Katrina songs about social change by New Orleans critic Alex Rawls.

Hochman writes that Rawls has listened to Katrina songs and finds “the vast majority well-meaning . . . but, in his view, missing the mark.” But Rawls does enjoy “"Poor Man's Paradise," the title track of a new album by local roots-rocker Johnny Sansone.”

Rawls said, "The ones that don't work try to dramatize it, and it was already incomprehensible and dramatic beyond belief. Trying to frame Katrina in poetic language makes the language look poor. Trying to fit a hurricane in the rhyme scheme makes the whole experience seem small. These songs, the best of them, catch the details of how someone's life changed."

Here’s your chance to unleash your inner rock critic for $19.29 (DOWNLOADS). The New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund has selected 20 Katrina-related songs by local and international artists, and proceeds benefit our city’s displaced musicians.

Rolling Stone Magazine’s David Fricke gave the ReDefine 8/29 download four stars as “topically acute mp3s by Crescent City stars and out-of-town friends. Kaiser Chiefs donate "Out of My Depth, a fine new stomp that sounds like a pissed-off Badfinger, and Doctor John is among the locals singing for his neighbors. Ian Hunter's "How's Your House" comes in video form; grim newsreels of the devastation that show why projects like this are still necessary, two years after the flood.

Let us know which songs you like, and let your local radio station know, too. From REM’s new live Dublin track of “South Central Rain” to James Andrews “Sixth Ward Soul,” every style of music is represented, and many of the tracks are exclusive to NOMRF.

We have Ian Hunter; the late Barry Cowsill; Dr. John; The Kaiser Chiefs; The Subdudes; Bryan Lee; Edwin McCain and Maia Sharp; Backyard Tire Fire; Craig Klein; the dB's; Chicago Farmer; Susan Cowsill; James Andrews; The Rev. Goat Carson; John Rankin; Beatin Path; Spencer Bohren; and Joe Topping.

These songs are helping spread the story of the largest cultural diaspora since the dust bowl.

WWOZ’s David Freedman explains in the Hochman article, “ "People live the music." Key, he adds, is that many people are gone. “We're still missing 200,000, minimum. It's hard for people to really grasp how important this neighborhood business is in the city of New Orleans. Every high school marching band has its own sound and rhythms. You can tell where Mardi Gras Indians come from if you have the knowledge of the geography that's expressed in their chants.

“The problem is we don't have neighborhoods.” ”


A Good New Orleans Note to Come Home To

Music is an irreplacable part of of New Orleans and depending on which Anniversary headline you read last week, the music is dying or it’s coming back better than ever. As could only happen in New Orleans, both are true.

First are the statistics. The local musicians union says New Orleans housed more than 3,000 musicians before Katrina, and about 1,800 are back. Some estimates are twice as high, depending on who you consider a full time musician, but there are no official tallies from the city. And “coming back” is an amorphous term among musicians who worked full time before the storm.

The New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund just donated a van to help New Birth Brass Band’s Tanio Hingle out with transportation. He drives in for gigs, but is a commuting musician home?

NOMRF also offers an apartment for musicians like Jerome Jones of the Hot 8 who lives too far away to drive home after gigs. But is a musician home when he stays in a charity apartment while his family still lives out of state?

For those who did come back over the last two years, we’ve noticed a boomerang effect. Musicians like Dave Malone of The Radiators have come home only to have to leave again. It stands to reason that a town barely over half its original size can only support half as many musicians, but it hurts to be one of them.

In a New York Journal News article he says, "I really, really, really, really applaud musicians and others from there who are able to say: 'Oh yeah, we're coming back,' with this completely annoying, glass-half-full attitude," says Malone. "I'm bitter. I'm really heartbroken, and I'm bitter about it. I never thought in a million years I'd ever say the sentence, 'I don't live in New Orleans anymore.'”

The article concludes with Malone explaining why the groove of New Orleans is unlike anywhere else. "(There) is not only the ability, but the likelihood, of any person in the city to throw a party or have a parade at the drop of a hat," says Malone. "It's really true. It's like, 'Oh my god, the world's (screwed) up.' Pardon my French. 'Let's have a parade.' It's really probably the most laid-back city, certainly in the country, maybe in the world. It's not like any other U.S. city. It's more like kind of a Caribbean town with U.S. laws. ...There's something about the town. All of that adds to this laid back kind of feeling. I think that somehow transfers somehow into the rhythmic feel of the music."

Magdalene Kellett of the Columbia City Paper describes this rhythm in “Crescent City Rising”:

For generations, New Orleans has captivated writers, musicians, artists and everyday people all over the world with its rhythm, its beat, the music floating out of every barroom door. Or maybe it’s the smell of hibiscus and night blooming Jasmine in the early mornings on Barracks Street, the romance of a history drenched in pirates, kings and blood. It’s the sexy laissez faire attitude. It’s the coffee. It’s the way people pass you on the street and say “alright” or the way you get called “baby.” It is everything that strikes a note in the heart of people when they visit The City that Care Forgot.

Hometown hero Harry Shearer recently explained why he stays. "I had no damage to my home and I felt that when you love a city, you don't walk away from it at a time when it's battered and bruised; you help to bring it back to good shape."

That’s a good note to come home to.


Slideshow: ReDefine 8/29 and a Brass Band Van

The fastest way to describe the last week in New Orleans is with a slideshow. Our New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund Download Celebration at the Station, Mike Mills of REM summoning the Rolling Elvi, Krewe of Oak's Same Old Thong and Dance, ReDefine 8/29 Open House and Jake's Speech in Jackson Square.

And most exciting of all, NOMRF was able to donate a used van to a brass band leader in need of transportation.

So put on your favorite ReDefine 8/29 (DOWNLOADS) tune for 99 cents and watch the slideshow to keep up with our Fund. And keep bidding on that (Cowbell)!

Thank You. Thank You Very Much!

(New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund Anti-Versary Slideshow)