This is time of year when “we give to our relations,” as Jackson Browne sings in “The Rebel Jesus” (one of my essential holiday songs). We also do what we can for the less fortunate among us. Locally, there are many deserving charities providing food, shelter and other comforts to those in need. Lately, however, my heart, mind and checkbook have been reaching beyond our borders to the national community of music.
More than a year after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans has yet to completely recover. The bustling French Quarter, spared by most of the storm’s ravages, is open for business, but the soul of the district is still in many ways an American Diaspora, scattered across the country in search of a way home.
“Most musicians don’t have anywhere to live in the city of New Orleans,” says Bill Taylor. Taylor heads Tipitina’s Foundation, a charitable organization named for the famous uptown jazz club which for the past five years has provided relief the Big Easy musical community. In the wake of Katrina, Tipitina’s work to preserve what Taylor terms “a national shrine” grew exponentially.
The New Orleans homeless problem received national exposure recently on NBC’s “Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip,” with a storyline featuring a fictitious group of displaced horn players. The network also included a Tipitina’s write-up on its website.
“All the young musicians are gone,” laments Gregory Davis, and many New Orleans clubs must look to places like Atlanta and Memphis for talent. Davis’s Dirty Dozen Brass Band released a Tipitina’s benefit CD recently; so did Fats Domino, the piano legend who was rescued after the hurricane.
In the words of one writer, jazz is “the purest expression of American democracy; a music built on individualism and compromise, independence and cooperation.” What we do to revive New Orleans, the birthplace of this great musical export, says a lot about our national character.
That’s why this year I’m thinking locally, but acting globally. Tipitina’s (www.tipitinasfoundation.org) isn’t the only organization helping to rebuild New Orleans. Habitat for Humanity and the Jazz Foundation are also hard at work.
As you open your gifts this holiday, and prepare donations to soup kitchens, shelters and other deserving groups, think of New Orleans, a true symbol of our cultural heritage. There beats the heart of America’s music – it deserves to be preserved for future generations.
Now, on to the local scene:
Thursday: Social Club Orchestra, Middle Earth Music Hall – A group of area musicians get together to “celebrate community and the season in song,” led by Bradford’s own Don Sinclair. The brainchild of club regular Paul Gardner, it features Tom & Gabby Masterson, Ruthless Geezers Peter Mallory & Brian Emerson and many others. Sauron is not vanquished from Middle Earth; thus, proceeds from the show will benefit the club’s legal defense fund.
Friday: Sensible Shoes, Skunk Hollow Tavern – Great to see this band back in the listings. They have a knack for picking great cover songs, by the likes of Otis Redding and the Beatles, that haven’t been played to death. A five piece band will be a tight fit for this tiny Hartland Four Corners venue, but it will still be a jumpin’ good time. Sensible Shoes is currently working on a CD of original tunes, which is very good news indeed.
Saturday: Play Dead, Royal Flush Diner – Bring a toy for a needy child and admission is free to this event, which features Grateful Dead songs by this well regarded tribute band. Open mike impresarios and erstwhile Dead fans the Kind Buds also appear; they will likely sit in for a few songs.
Sunday: Christmas Music On Television – As frequent readers have no doubt deduced, I love holiday music. On television, the country channels have the best selection, with an Alan Jackson’s “Precious Memories” gospel special and “Christmas at the Tennessee” on GAC. The latter features Deana Carter and one of my favorite newcomers, Julie Roberts. But best of all is CMT’s “Christmastime is Here” with Ricky Skaggs, Alison Krauss and the Whites.
Tuesday: Greenleaf & Kaplan Duo, Canoe Club – Alan Greenleaf is a Northeast Kingdom farmer and a self-taught musician who has released a series of charming records about his life. He’s accompanied by Jonathan Kaplan on piano for an evening of classic folk and blues, interspersed with plenty of country wit.
Wednesday: Trans-Siberian Orchestra, DCU Center (Worcester) – From the ashes of a has-been heavy metal band rose the most spectacular holiday extravaganza ever mounted. It must be seen to be believed. With 24 different musicians surrounded by smoke, lasers and fire, TSO is part rock opera and part spiritual journey. If, two days after Christmas, you’re still in the mood, this is for you.