The jazz club I was at last evening, Irving Mayfield's Jazz Playhouse, had a great atmosphere - chill, relaxed, and the focus was on the music. Jazz is not background here. The group that was performing was the Shannon Powell Trio with Shannon Powell on drums, Evan Christopher on clarinet and sax, and Matt Lemmler on piano. The playing was tight, the solos innovative and invigorating, and the engagement between the players and the audience was electric. The second set was just starting to take off when a young lady walks through the door to the club and announces "The Tigers won!" - immediately, Evan Christopher goes into an impromptu riff on the LSU fight song. The band joins in, and they each take solos, with Shannon Powell chanting 'hold that tiger' throughout. There is so much I loved about that moment- two different anchors of New Orleans culture, jazz and sports, combining at the highest levels for an experience of community, spontaneity, joy, and sheer musical brilliance. It was breathtaking.
The essential repertoire list for any El Sistema program in New Orleans continues to both grow and sharpen in my mind. I've discovered this music at street parades and jazz clubs, in atmospheres of celebration and joy. The music that the children will play will not only connect them to each other, but it will serve as a bridge to the greater community of New Orleans, to both past and present, as they, themselves create their future.
Questions of the day:
How can an orchestra access cultural anchors outside of music?
How would an orchestra become a cultural anchor for a community?