NOMRF ReDefines 8/29 on the 4th Katrina Anniversary

It's almost impossible to think about the city of New Orleans without its trademark and historical music community. The New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund, Inc. has provided housing, furniture, transportation, instruments and anything else it can to assist those still struggling to rebuild their lives post Katrina. The New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund, Inc., a grass roots certified 501c(3) non-profit was founded in Internet cafes and FEMA rooms by musician Jeff Beninato and his wife Karen and is supported by volunteer graphic designers, publicists, video producers and friends of New Orleans music including Wilco, REM, Dr John and Ian Hunter.

With the 4th Anniversary of Katrina approaching, this organization has played a big part in assisting survivors in rebuilding their lives. Millions of Americans will never forget as they watched the horror unfold before their eyes as 80% of the city flooded along with many areas of neighboring parishes for weeks. Tens of thousands of survivors were left clinging to rooftops, trapped in hospitals and shuffled to the Convention Center where they were left without food or water for five days. Hundreds of thousands of other survivors were scattered around the country, many of them just now returning home. In the first few years after the storm the New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund was able to mail hundreds of direct grants to musicians across the country and help them return.

With grass roots charities struggling to survive, the New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund has increasingly received physical items ranging from drums to desks. Tanio, a brass band drummer, received a donated van for gig transportation. When the band's van was stolen, the lawyer who processed the donation paperwork donated her car just in time for his family's Hurricane Gustav evacuation. This week, 500 pounds of bright blue band uniforms were shipped from Williamstown School in New Jersey to Lusher Charter School to give them the chance to have a marching band. And within the last year, the Astor Crowne Plaza donated 20 floors of four star furniture to Furnish our Neighbors as the New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund helped them kick off ReDefine 8/29. The furniture sells for $8 and $29 to those returning home and people drive home with truckloads. Furniture was also donated to musicians living in the Habitat for Humanity Musicians Village. Help keeps rolling in in the form of instruments including 3 grand pianos, guitars, horns, congas - even vintage clothing for gig wear. And the charity was pleased to offer a free family friendly CC's Coffee Shop series that gave musicians extra gigs this summer.

"It's been humbling how many of their own instruments music lovers have sent us, even four years after the storm when many are struggling themselves. Those who have the least sometimes have the most room in their hearts for a city still healing," said Karen Dalton Beninato. "Instead of focusing on the day to day struggle of trying to keep a small charity running, it's heartening to focus on the help that's still coming from music lovers and musicians."

Jeff Beninato agrees, and just told Press of Atlantic City about the charity's support from New Orleans legend Dr. John: His presence can make ailing friends and family members forget their troubles just a bit. We visited his friend in the Musicians Village who was having a tough time paying for his medication, and through Mac's generosity he forfeited his expenses from a show used to help many musicians," Beninato said.

"The New Orleans Musician's Relief Fund has a great debt of gratitude to Dr. John for his unselfishness as an ambassador for the music of our city. Jeff adds that "Tragedies like the Galveston hurricane and Minneapolis Bridge collapse are forgotten too quickly in today's news cycle, like New Orleans, but I believe that people have enough compassion to go around if given the chance. Traveling across America after Katrina to raise funds for displaced musicians because we couldn't go home, it was amazing how many local jazz and dixieland bands would be playing traditional New Orleans songs. The sounds of New Orleans still entertain people across America, and it drove home the point that our music is a cultural mainstay."

You can help keep the music programs rolling. Founders Piano Prints are available, and soon NOMRF will post Jackson Squared - an artist's pop art nod to Michael Jackson's 8/29 birthday and Andrew Jackson who fought the Battle for New Orleans which is ongoing in many ways. You can also purchase ReDefine 8/29 tee shirts and memorabilia at the charity's web site.

This year's rebooted ReDefine 8/29 download for $4.99 will feature 6 tracks: Dr. John, Dream Warrior; Ian Hunter, When the World was Round; REM, live South Central Rain; Peter Holsapple, Chris Stamey and Branford Marsalis, Begin Again; Dave Pirner, Start Treating People Right; and the late Barry Cowsill, Kid. Rolling Stone Magazine gave the first ReDefine 8/29 download a four star review.

An auction to support the charity now underway with a 40th Anniversary edition Fender stratocaster signed by musicians including Little Steven; Rock Tree posters signed by supporters including Mike Mills and Ian Hunter, and other pieces of history including two Andy Warhol photo prints will be auctioned on ebay through 8:29 pm on August 29, 2009.

Contact the founders with any questions or comments - all support is welcome.

New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund Link: http://www.nomrf.org

Ebay Auction Link: http://bit.ly/18mpfr

Furnish Our Neighbors Link: http://bit.ly/gJLCf

Press of Atlantic City Link: http://bit.ly/108oN9

For more information, please contact:

Jeff Beninato
New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund


Jazzfest Features Ever-Growing Family Bands

The musical heartbeat of New Orleans families shone through in this year's Jazz and Heritage Festival, deeply evident when Big Chief Bo Dollis sang "I Love You" and "Goodbye" for two stanzas while his son shook his head and looked to the skies. Bo's voice was in fine form despite his physical battles, and performing with the Wild Magnolias gave him the strength to stand up and reach out his fans, thanking his fans for giving him a career in music. Marva Wright joined the Big Chief in a set that was as joyful as it was heartbreaking. Little Bo Dollis is the new standard bearer in The Wild Magnolias, a band that blasted Mardi Gras Indians into the public's consciousness over 30 years ago.

New Orleans has always been blessed with musical families including Andrews, Batiste, Boutte, Clements, Ford, French, Neville and Paulin among many others. Shamarr Allen has three budding guitar players in his household and he's now touring with Willie Nelson who is on my wish list to headline next year's Jazzfest - it's not too early to start dreaming.

Representing for the twang contingency, three generations of Clements musicians (Annie, Cranston, Dave, Austin, Tyler and Lewis) gathered backstage after Annie's Sugarland gig. The teenage twins had already played a slamming original tune written with their dad, Cranston, for the Twangorama set which for the second year in a row drew a standing ovation from the Lagniappe stage. There's something about watching young musicians you used to babysit take the stage with talent that can take them as far as they want to go.

If a band can also be a family, Dr. John and the Lower 911 qualify. They have rallied around a bandmate who needs their support, broke through past a label that was done with New Orleans related songs to win a Grammy, and paid tribute to Eddie Bo at the new Rock n Bowl NOMRF Benefit with Marcia Ball, Joe Krown, Papa Gros, Cynthia Chen, Bob Anderson and Tom Worrell, ending in an all-star piano jam.

Aspiring guitarist Nicolas Broussard, Russ Broussard and Susan Cowsill

Members of New Orleans' rootsiest tribe, The Continental Drifters, are now mostly disbursed across the country and played a night show I regret missing. There's always the dream of a reunion tour - years from now it could include Nicolas Broussard who's been jamming to the White Stripes. Frankie Ford (the other one) sat in with Susan Cowsill on Saturday for her Covered in Vinyl show - he's 14 and already plays a mean harp.

New Orleans' musical families are growing by leaps and bounds, and it's wonderful to hear the heartbeat from stages all over town. In honor of Mother's Day, take your mom to see the Wild Magnolias the next time they play.

All you'll hear from Big Chief Bo Dollis is love.


Jazzfest Recap and New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund Benefit Update


Based on the first weekend of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, Nicolas Cage is selling his New Orleans houses too soon. All roads lead back to NOLA, evidenced when Wilco's Jeff Tweedy said from the stage, "It feels like home. John is home." Louisiana native John Stirratt somehow managed to keep a straight face while their John Holmes-looking cowbell player stole the show dashing around the stage during Hoodoo Voodoo - a song written by Wilco and Billy Bragg with reclaimed Woody Guthrie lyrics. Speculation ran rampant that the mystery cowbeller was a roadie, but it could have been a Second City alum doing a shirtless impression of the most enthusiastic cowbell artiste since Will Farrell on SNL.

(*Update from John Stirratt, it was guitar tech Josh Goldberg who will probably be booked on a solo cowbell tour once video of his, ummm, acrobatic performance gets out.)

It was Old Home Week when Stirratt was interviewed by reporter David Fricke of Rolling Stone. We caught up with him after his interview and before the cowbell and thanked him for the Wilco benefit that helped the Preservation Resource Center and New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund jump into action shortly after Katrina. Both are still going strong - the Preservation Resource Center sponsors programs to deconstruct and reuse materials in rebuilding New Orleans, and the New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund donates repurposed instruments and, on a good day, used cars for evacuation.

2009-04-28-fricke.jpgWhen Fricke asked the Wilco bass player which CD he most recently bought and enjoyed, it was a recent reissue of legendary songwriter Bobby Charles, of "Walking to New Orleans" fame. Bobby often co-writes songs with Mac Rebennack, a/k/a Dr. John, and Mac passed the word back to Bobby that he received a shout out at Jazzfest, so there's your full circle. Gambit Weekly's Entertainer of the Year, Mac played at a NOMRF benefit and Eddie Bo tribute at the new Mid City Lanes Rock n Bowl Tuesday; interviews Wardell Quezergue at the Ponderosa Stomp Wednesday; plays at the House of Blues with the full band on Friday; at the 40th New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival on Saturday; and with the Voice of the Wetlands on Sunday so it's worth a trip down to New Orleans - at the very least for Weekend 2 of Jazzfest.

Hugh Masecela closed down the first weekend in the WWOZ Jazz Tent describing how he still tours with the same white bandmate the South African police used to harass him about having in the band when Apartheid still separated the races. In response, Masecela gave the quote of the weekend: "We didn't give a shit."

With so many returnees, evacuees and relocatees walking the track at the Fest these days, I keep finding myself pulled into a mini-reunion around every corner with relocated friends like Jimmy Descant whose found object artwork rocked the art booths. Standing in the sandy racetrack path on Friday afternoon, our crew listened to Joe Cocker belt out "With a Little Help from My Friends." I've been humming it ever since.


NOMRf Benefit, Eddie Bo Tribute at Rock N Bowl with Dr. John

The New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund, a grass roots 501c(3) charity, is proud to announce a Living Legends benefit at the brand new Mid City Lanes Rock n Bowl with solo piano by Dr. John, Marcia Ball, Joe Krown, Papa Gros, Cynthia Chen, Tom Worrell, Bob Andrews and Marc Adams. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 28, and the tunes will include classic songs written by the late Eddie Bo.

The new Mid City Lanes Rock n Bowl is located in the old Helm Paint Store and it's now all on one level and beautifully restored, debuting to rave reviews in nola.com.

Benefit tickets are $25 and are available at Mid City Lanes Rock n Bowl, behind the old Helm Paint store and next to Ye Olde College Inn.


Dr. John, Friend of New Orleans Musicians, to Host Benefit

Dr. John has a heart that's still broken over his lifelong musician friends scattered to the four winds after Hurricane Katrina. That said, he is resilient, hilarious, generous and a badass depending upon what's called for at any given time.

Here is a photo essay of one week in the life of a friend of New Orleans music; a friend of New Orleans and, we're proud to say, a friend. Here he is delivering a donated New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund saxophone to the legendary Smokey Johnson for his church; sitting in with the Dirty Dozen Brass Band at Tulane's Benefit Crawfest; and spending time with Red Tyler and Al Johnson at the Musicians Village.

Dr. John will be playing the New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund Living Legends Benefit on Tuesday, April 28th at the new Rock 'n Bowl Mid City Lanes, with New Orleans pianists including Joe Krown and Papa Gros with musical tributes to the late Eddie Bo.

He was recently honored with a Blues Foundation Slim Harpo Award including this City of Baton Rouge proclamation officially declaring it Dr. John Day.

Isn't every day?


New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund's Video for Friday the 13th

Suffering from Fear of Friday the 13th (Triskaidekaphobia)? This video won't help. It's Phil DeGruy guitar solo from 13 years ago on a Friday the 13th television appearance in New York:

Phil plays the CC's Community Coffee House / New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund Concert Series next weekend, and Craig Klein plays tonight's Friday the 13th Gig. Stop by and show some support on the scariest damn day of the month.

The Craig Klein Trio 6 p.m. 3/13: 900 Jefferson (Magazine)
Phil DeGruy 6 p.m. 3/20: 2800 Esplanade
Joe Krown 6 p.m. 3/25: 900 Jefferson (Magazine)
Joe Krown 6 p.m. 3/26: 2917 Magazine Street

Spencer Bohren 6 p.m. 4/3: 2800 Esplanade
Patrice Fisher 6 p.m. 4/8: 941 Royal Street
Patrice Fisher 6 p.m. 4/15: 2917 Magazine Street
John Rankin 6 p.m. 4/17: 900 Jefferson (Magazine)
Spencer Bohren 6 p.m. 4/19: 2800 Esplanade
Susan Cowsill 6 p.m. 4/23: 941 Royal Street
Johnny Sansone 6 pm 4/29: 900 Jefferson (Magazine)
Leroy Jones 6 p.m. 4/30: 2917 Magazine Street


NOMRF / CC's Community Coffee House Concerts

Enjoy Free Shows throughout New Orleans

The New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund, a grass roots 501c(3), is proud to kick off a free CC's Community Coffee House Concert NOMRF Series in New Orleans. Starting this morning, sit, sip and soak in the sounds from New Orleans' own: John Rankin, Phil DeGruy, Craig Klein, Joe Krown, Spencer Bohren, Patrice Fisher, Johnny Sansone and Susan Cowsill and Leroy Jones. Details are available at: Nomrf.org.



John Rankin 10 a.m. 3/8: 2800 Esplanade
Phil DeGruy 6 p.m. 3/11: 941 Royal Street
Craig Klein Trio 6 pm 3/12: 2917 Magazine Street
Craig Klein Trio 6 pm 3/13: 900 Jefferson (Magazine)
Phil DeGruy 6 p.m. 3/20: 2800 Esplanade
Joe Krown 6 p.m. 3/25: 900 Jefferson (Magazine)
Joe Krown 6 p.m. 3/26: 2917 Magazine Street


Spencer Bohren 6 p.m. 4/3: 2800 Esplanade
Patrice Fisher 6 p.m. 4/8: 941 Royal Street
Patrice Fisher 6 p.m. 4/15: 2917 Magazine Street
John Rankin 6 p.m. 4/17: 900 Jefferson (Magazine)
Spencer Bohren 6 p.m. 4/19: 2800 Esplanade
Susan Cowsill 6 p.m. 4/23: 941 Royal Street
Johnny Sansone 6 pm 4/29: 900 Jefferson (Magazine)
Leroy Jones 6 p.m. 4/30 2917 Magazine Street