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A hodgepodge of musical notes

3rd May 2011   ·   0 Comments

By Geraldine Wyckoff
The Louisiana Weekly Contributing Writer

A Love Letter to New Orleans

If it seems as if Irvin Mayfield is omnipresent, that’s because he just is. The trumpeter delves into jazz on many levels as a solo artist, leader of the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, co-leader of Los Hombres Calientes, club owner, musical ambassador and more. He took up a pen for his current project, A Love Letter to New Orleans, a book and companion compilation CD in which he reveals in a very personal style some of the inspirations and motivations for his music throughout his career thus far.

In a sense, the book resembles an expanded version of the album covers and liner notes of old – think of those wonderful Blue Note LPs. One is immediately drawn to the cover photograph, a beautiful black-and-white shot of Mayfield taken by the late great Herman Leonard. It sets the tone of quiet intimacy that is echoed on the disc’s opening cut, “Mo Better Blues,” an early Mayfield release with Ellis Marsalis on the piano. In writing about the song, Mayfield expresses the impact the Spike Lee movie had on him and many of his fellow musicians for its dignified portrayal of jazz musicians.

The book stands as a reminder of the diversity that a young, ambitious jazz musician in New Orleans experiences and that becomes a part of their language. Mayfields journey as depicted here both in words and music found him traveling among all the city’s riches. He musically goes to church with artists like Davell Crawford and Shannon Powell singing “Ill Fly Away” while in his vignette he remembers as a youngster itching for the service to be over. Naturally, theres special attention to his association with Los Hombres Calientes co-founder, percussionist Bill Summers with Mayfield being quite frank about the difficulties of musicians working together so closely when their age differential is 30 years. The full-page photo captures their special relationship with Mayfield donning a rather self-satisfied grin and Summers cracking up.

Photographs of the subject matter, taken by various photographers add to the appeal of the 64-page book that is artistically and thoughtfully laid out. Again, like fondling an old LP while listening to the music, this duo of book a album offers a certain satisfaction. The photographs, writing and music share a rhythm. We read about, hear and see the funk of bassist George Porter whose face shows the grimace of his labor. By contrast, there’s the dignity of the white-gloved grand marshall leading a solemn jazz funeral.

It’s so easy for musicians to become typecast and Mayfield is no exception – the ambitious, straight-ahead jazz trumpeter playing in a combo or big band. When his work is displayed as it is here complete with commentary, one gets a different, more complete picture. Theres the beauty of the trumpeter performing with the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra and the jump, fun and rowdiness of the Mardi Gras Indians.

The album concludes with a mess of people in the studio including Kermit Ruffins who seems to be leading the parade on “Mardi Gras Second Line.” “New Orleans is not a city,” Mayfield writes. “New Orleans is an opportunity: an American opportunity,” In this retrospectiv on his life and music, Mayfield trumpets this citys gifts – opportunities – that were available to him and to all of New Orleans citizenry.

Irvin Mayfield and the Jazz Playhouse Revue will be performing at the free Wednes-day at the Square concert April 27, 2011. Showtime is 5 p.m.

Satchmo Jazz Camp Readies for Summer

The Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong Summer Jazz Camp, which boasts a truly stunning staff of educators/musicians, is taking applications for this years session that runs from July 5 through July 22, 2011. Students interested in applying must be 10 to 21 years old, have studied music for the last two years and be involved in music education programs in school or have worked with a private instructor. They also must participate in a non-competitive audition.

Dedication to the music describes the attitude at the camp. The instructors, including artistic director Kidd Jordan, who has been active in the program since its inception in 1995, plus renown artists like vocal instructor Germaine Bazzle, flautist Kent Jordan, percussionist Jonathan Bloom and others, give their all to the students. In turn, the students demonstrate their own dedication by spending five days a week from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the classroom pursuing the music.

Each year, the Jazz Camp invites special guests as artists-in-residence in order to offer the students an even broader perspective. Onboard for this session is multi-instrumentalist Sam Rivers, 82, a giant in the jazz world who gained particular recognition for his infamous, free-blowing New York loft sessions. Veteran swing dancer, the great Norma Miller will also be participating.

For further information call (225) 223-5255 or visit the website at

This story originally published in the April 18, 2011 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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