Volume 18 • Issue 17 | September 16 - 22, 2005

Jazz

Vision Artists for New Orleans: A Jazz and Creative Music All-Star Benefit for the Artists of New Orleans
Tuesday, Sept. 20, 6 p.m. to midnight
Angel Orensanz Center for the Arts, 172 Norfolk St., just south of Houston.
Tickets $30, available at the door.
212-696-6681

The music must go on: Saxophonist Kidd Jordan, who lost his home to Hurricane Katrina, will perform Tuesday, Sept. 20 at the Vision Artists benefit for New Orleans jazz musicians.

A benefit for Katrina’s other victims: New Orleans jazz musicians

By Rick Marx

Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath continues to ripple around the nation and the world. Among the worst hit have been the musicians who carry on the history and heritage of the birthplace of jazz.

“New Orleans is where it all started,” said Alvin Fielder, a drummer living in Jackson, Mississippi, and a performer in next week’s all-star benefit, Vision Artists for New Orleans, which will take place Tuesday, Sept. 20 at the Angel Orensanz Center for the Arts on Norfolk Street. “It’s a sad loss.”

New Yorker Patricia Nicholson promptly responded to the cry of the musicians in desperate straits. She is the organizer of the Visions Festival, the premiere jazz event for avant garde and new jazz music, now in its 10th year. In the days following Hurricane Katrina, she decided to pull together friends and favors for the benefit, which will include many New York jazz greats.

“I had a really bad feeling when I heard about the hurricane,” said Nicholson. Her worst fears were confirmed when she learned that friend, musician and New Orleans resident Kidd Jordan had lost his home, and that his bandmate, trumpeter Clyde Kerr, was forced to evacuate.

Jordan’s house was destroyed when the first levee broke, said Nicholson. “He was near Lake Pontchartrain — so forget it. He was completely flooded out.”

An alto saxophonist and jazz director at South University, Jordan is one of the main jazz educators of New Orleans and a member of one of the “leading families of jazz” in the Big Easy.

Currently, Kidd Jordan is staying with his brother-in-law in Baton Rouge, the clarinetist and educator Alvin Batiste, and he will travel to New York for the concert. His son, Marlon, a noted trumpeter, was rescued days after the hurricane struck, from a rooftop, Nicholson said.

Trumpeter Kerr, who is currently staying in Atlanta after leaving his New Orleans home, is also a descendant of a great jazz family. His father’s Clyde Kerr Studio Orchestra became a legendary training ground for New Orleans schoolboy musicians. Along with his work with Kidd Jordan and others, Kerr is the dean of the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, where he has taught musicians including Nicholas Payton and Terence Blanchard.

Alvin Fielder, a founding member of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Music and a percussionist who plays with Kerr and Jordan, will also be performing with them at Tuesday’s concert. In describing the avant garde jazz music of New Orleans, Fielder said that the style is a “is an extension of the New Orleans swing period and bebop. Good music is just a continuum of what went on before. Some people lived in the world of the Model A and the Model T. Today we live in the space age.”

Along with Jordan, Kerr and Fielder — whom Nicholson dubs “the avant jazz of New Orleans” — included in Tuesday’s date are many of the greatest names in jazz. Among them are Muhal Richard Abrams, Reggie Workman, John Zorn’s “Masada,” and Tri-Factor, with Hamiet Bluiett, Billy Bang and Kahil-Zabar. Deborah Harry will be singing with the Jazz Passengers, and other performers include Matthew Shipp, Ted Daniel, Dave Douglas and Amiri Baraka. Because of the number of musicians who will be appearing, each band or artist will play between 10 and 30 minutes.

In the afternoon, many of the musicians will be working with local high schoolers at Humanities Prep and the James Baldwin School, both on West 18th Street.

The Visions event will send proceeds to the Jazz Foundation of America, the New Orleans Musicians Clinic, and other groups in the Gulf area helping New Orleans musicians.

“I don’t think it’s going to be the same,” said drummer Fielder, speaking of the New Orleans jazz scene. “A lot of the history has just been wiped out. A lot of the people aren’t going to come back. It’s probably one of the most devastating losses in this country’s history.” But, he adds on a more positive note, “It’s important to remember that everything could have been worse. Now we have to have hope.”


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