Monday, September 17, 2007

Second line with Hot 8 Brass Band and Trombone Shorty

On Saturday Grace and I jumped into the French Quarter after our visit with Augusta and a brief hello with Alabama Slim, who'd doing great by the way. :)

After a quick treat at Cafe Du Monde we were surprised by a second line on Decatur. When we heard the brass we went running out to the street to see the Hot 8 Brass Band leading a small crowd. They had a great sound, and I jumped right in front to grab a few pictures. While looking up at the trombone player I said to myself, "Wait, it's Trombone Shorty!" I think a lady with them saw my face and said to me, "That's Trombone Shorty." Grace and I started calling out to him while a man in their group started calling us in. I grabbed Grace's hand, jumped in right next to the man inviting us and right behind Trombone. To my surprise he tapped Trombone on his shoulder who turned to us and reached back with his right hand for Grace. We got to shake hands and then they went on their way off of Decatur. We still continued after them for a tiny bit, and then smiled afterwards at how much fun it had all been. Our timing in the Quarter always seems to bring about some magic for us.

We were first introduced to Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews last April 2006 during a second line through the Treme neighborhood. We were all headed to the MLK park to check out Wynton Marsalis' Congo Square performance, and the crowd of hundreds jammed with the brass and percussion en route. As we were about to jump out of the line to grab some shade for Grace, the crowd stepped back to make a big circle around one particular brass player. I remember that we were very impressed by him, and didn't learn that he was Troy Andrews until reading about him on Wynton's web page.

We checked out his scene through online postings, and then were lucky enough to cross paths with him again at the Superdome reopening in September. Because I had been at Sunday's rehearsal for the on-field performance, I had the opportunity to meet him as he head out of the Dome. He was very kind with me when I approached him and let him know how much I appreciated his performance that night as well as at Congo Square.

My husband got to check him out right here in Baton Rouge at one of the downtown outdoor performances. I had been in NJ at the time and missed the event, but it was good to experience it through my husband's accounts. Maybe they'll come back one day.

We were then surprised at the 2007 Jazz Fest when he stepped onto the stage with Norah Jones for a performance of Sinkin' Soon. We really were thrilled to have another chance to listen to him.

I'm looking forward to learning more about the Hot 8 Brass Band and hopefully seeing them again. They're playing tomorrow night, 9/18, at the Shaw Center downtown, but I don't think we'll be able to go unfortunately.

Please check out both Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews and the Hot 8 Brass Band. :D

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Great Weekend Warrior News and a return to NOLA Volunteer Work - 9/15/07

There's great news from the Weekend Warrior team. They've committed themselves to completing Augusta's house in Violet and having her in by Christmas. This was shared in one of Michael's Sept. 5 email's:

"Please also note that Jim, Nancy & Karen have asked us all to commit to working toward getting Augusta B. out of her FEMA trailer and into her house in Violet, LA by Christmas. She has received her electrical inspection permit to close up her walls, and was working this last weekend to insulate the walls. I'm guessing that she'll at least need help installing and floating drywall, painting, as well as installing appliances and cabinets."

I believe that this decision was made at the August 25 UU Katrina remembrance dinner, and there was no delay in the team getting in there to do the work soon thereafter. :D

Here's an update from Michael's Sept.10 email about the progress:

"Hello all! - David E., Todd R., Jim Casper and I had a great weekend working at Augusta Butler's house. With the help of "Reese", the ceiling drywall lift that Reese Brewer loaned us, we were able to install ceiling drywall in three rooms. Jim's plan is to have the at least the rest of the kitchen and maybe the bathroom done next weekend, so that cabinet work can be started in those rooms. We got to drive around the neighborhood, and Augusta was real pleased that her neighborhood is really coming back."

All of this came on the tails of the Sacred Space church service in which I was so moved to request a special "pregnant Warrior" assignment from Michael. He took me up on that and included this in his Sept.10 email:

"Recruitment Inducement: Irene Kato is interested in tagging along to help, take pictures and give massages!!!!" Lots of laughs. I'm not sure if it's a good idea to use the word inducement with a pregnant Warrior, but his listing is so much appreciated. I've felt off the past 6 months not heading in for the work that continued, and the extra encouragement kept me planning on a return.

The Return

Saturday, Sept.15 I drove in with my daughter to visit Augusta and the team at the house. It was SO great to see Jeannie, Karen, and Nancy working with Augusta, and just to be in the space again.

We entered the house to see the floors completely stripped and clean, the insulation in, new windows installed, and the ceilings in the living room, dining and kitchen areas. Even the feel outside was improved as the yard is much more tame without debris and the overgrown weeds. There was even a new wooden fence lining the back yard installed by the neighbors after Karen and Nancy put in the posts. I noticed too that the recovered wind chimes were still up on the side trellis from six months ago. :) Take a look back at 6 and 7 months ago for a comparison and see the progress.
New Orleans 7
New Orleans 8

The team took a lunch break with us soon after our arrival giving us a bit of rebonding time. We shared food and chatted it up, and of course laughed too. That power crew is so friendly and open that it's tough not to feel at 'home again' with them. Even though I wasn't there to get my hands dirty, I felt the connection once again to Augusta and the work being done to get her back into the house.

Following lunch they kicked right back into the work on installing the dry wall in the kitchen area. I was very impressed by their team work of measuring, cutting, and attaching the pieces to the wall frame giving the open area definition. Grace got to help out too by handing over screws when needed and picking up the cut pieces of dry wall. They worked so well with her when she wanted to get involved and I greatly appreciate that. She really felt part of things, and even reported her work done when we arrived home. :)

The grand finale of our visit came when the final piece of one of the kitchen walls was installed. We stopped to document the historical moment as it was the first completed wall in the house.

Hopefully these images share the determination, commitment, accomplishments, and togetherness shared by the team that afternoon. I really applaud Jeannie, Karen, Nancy and Augusta for all of the work done, and all of the previous work accomplished by the Weekend Warrior teams to keep things moving. As usual, the visit left its mark on me, and I do plan on returning to record the continued progress and cheer them on. Actually, it's better to say that Augusta's positive spirit and the team make a lasting impression to continue.

The goal of completing the house by Christmas so Augusta can be out of her trailer is a big one, but it is very, very doable. When I shared an update of the work in church on Sunday as well as the images on my laptop, a number of people wanted to know what they could do to get involved and help. Some feel they aren't able to contribute to the work now, but are ready to pick up a paintbrush or help with the floors when the time comes. Thank you for this, and I'll do my best to keep others informed about what they can do.

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Friday, September 14, 2007

Farewell Mary - You'll be missed!

Mary Leblanc's friend's and family at Renaissance Village wish her well as she begins her new venture in New Orleans. She was a vital member in the running of the education program at the trailer park, as well as in the many other special ways she touched the place.

All the best Mary!!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Go Alabama Slim!

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

I just realized that I never posted any information in here about Alabama Slim. He's a New Orleans blues musician that received the Music Rising guitar purchased by a group of supporters this past February. I was honored to present it to him in June, and have stayed in touch with him ever since. He's a talented artist that has been playing for years, and following his displacement after Katrina, his work has been supported by the Music Makers Relief Organization.

I spoke with him today to find out the good news that he's been back in the studio recording. The guitar was with him too, and he said that it sounded so, so good. :)s

I'd like to share my experience about meeting him here, and invite you to visit For Music Rising to learn more about the work with fellow supporters in buying the guitar. Please be sure to check out more about Alabama Slim at Music Makers too. Scroll to the lower right corner to hear a sampler of his music. Thank you.

June 9, 2007
Nao, Grace and I arrived in the hot, melting afternoon sun. Alabama Slim greeted us outside his home, and after our introductions I took the guitar out of the car. "Oh yeah!" he said without hesitation, and Grace and I gave it to him right away.

Before we knew it we were inside, the guitar was out of its bag and hooked up to an amp. As we got comfortable on the couch, Alabama grabbed a guitar strap, a guitar tuner, and kicked right in. My heart raced because I was so excited to hear him play. Everything was becoming a reality.

Wow, it sounded amazing from the first chords, and as he played more he enjoyed more. It appeared as if he was getting reacquainted with an old friend. He had lost his 335 Epiphone in Katrina, and it became obvious very quickly that this guitar was in the right hands. He truly appreciated it without saying one word.

Here's a ninety second snippet from early in the set. Grace was running the show with the camera, so you'll hear a tiny bit of her too.

In between songs we talked a bit about his losses from Katrina, his move to Dallas, and his recent return to New Orleans this past November. He had lost everything in the flood except his life, his wife, and his good friend and cousin Little Freddie King. Music was part of his recovery process, and he was fortunate enough to hook up with Music Maker along the way.

His wife returned home as he played and we talked, and it was a true pleasure to meet her. She sat with us and enjoyed in Alabama's excitement too.

We got to hear the story of how he was contacted about the guitar we had for him, and he shared the telephone conversations with a smile. I shared the story too about quickly raising the funds, but not finding him until months later. It was then that I gave him the collection of special messages that the donors sent with me, and both he and his wife seemed very appreciative. Around this time he signed and gave us a copy of his CD, The Mighty Flood. Wow.

My favorite part of the visit came when I asked him what was special about his 335 Epiphone. I opened up a love story of sorts as he discussed its design, the woods used, and the unique sounds it creates. With some turns of the knobs and flips of the switch, he began to demonstrate to us his favorite sounds. "Do you hear that? ...deep tones? not too strong?" The word that kept coming from my mouth was 'sweet'. He smiled and understood. These moments made my eyes swell.

Nao asked him if he gets to perform anywhere, and we found out that he in fact does have a few upcoming local gigs with the guys he played with on his CD, Slew Foot and Cary B. He says that when they are around they put him on the bill too. :) We jotted down the dates, and hope to be able to check him out one day. We also discussed the possibility of him performing in Baton Rouge in the future, and I came up with the brainstorm that maybe he'd like to visit the children in the FEMA trailer park for evacuees where I volunteer. He said, "Sure, let's do it!" I was more than psyched to hear his reaction to that.

He told us about some other great opportunities through Music Maker. They sponsored his trip to a recent music festival in Salt Lake City, and even more grand they sent him to France in January billing him as the New Orleans blues man. This was HUGE for him, and he even shared his personal photos from the France tour, as well as a couple articles and flyers. We were floored when he brought out a few promo posters from France for us to keep too. Nao was smart enough to ask him to sign them, but we ended up using a regular pen since our Sharpie wasn't on board. (You'd figure that I'd have one attached to my body considering my NOLA encounters. LOL) The poster is cool, will look great framed, and be a nice reminder of Alabama's performance thrills.

We literally had to kick ourself out of there as we were so comfortable spending time with them. As we said our farewells, Alabama held his arms open and said, "I just don't know how to really thank you for this." I told him that his joy was already a thank you, and playing for us was part of that. "Just keep enjoying Alabama." He assured me that he would, and that he'd be up all day and night playing the guitar. His wife stood along his side nodding and smiling in agreement. I also told him that the donors would love to see him continue sharing his gift and talent for the blues with many people. He said for sure that was happening. Our time with him leaves no doubt with us that he is right. :)

Sweeeeet Alabama, thank you for your kindness, hope, enthusiasm, and music. :D

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Do you know what it means...

As of late it's come up more often in my conversations with fellow volunteers, friends, and contacts how much I miss my monthly visits to New Orleans. The Saturdays were filled with community, connections, hope, healing, and love. This month it is in the works that I'll return on the 18th with an assignment designed for my pregnant Warrior self, and I do look forward to sharing the time with fellow volunteers and Augusta again.

I've heard the phrase, "Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans?" countless times, and tonight was my first reading of the lyrics, believe it or not. Thanks to my friend Sammi for sharing them with me and prompting me to read a bit more about them.

I do feel this one, and think about those who really understand...

Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans
written by Eddie DeLange and Louis Alter, and first heard in a performance by Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday in 1947

Sung by Harry Connick Jr.with Dr. John

Do you know what it means to miss new orleans
And miss it each night and day
I know I'm not wrong... this feeling's gettin' stronger
The longer, I stay away
Miss them moss covered vines...the tall sugar pines
Where mockin' birds used to sing
And I'd like to see that lazy mississippi...hurryin' into spring

The moonlight on the bayou.......a creole tune.... that fills the air
I dream... about magnolias in bloom......and I'm wishin' I was there

Do you know what it means to miss new orleans
When that's where you left your heart
And there's one thing more...i miss the one I care for
More than I miss new orleans

(instrumental break)

The moonlight on the bayou.......a creole tune.... that fills the air
I dream... about magnolias in bloom......and I'm wishin' I was there

Do you know what it means to miss new orleans
When that's where you left your heart
And there's one thing more...i miss the one I care for
More.....more than I orleans