<i>Wynton Marsalis Protégé to Perform at Brady Theater</i>

Contributing Writer

BIG EASY SOUND: Irving Mayfield and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, straight from the port of New Orleans, Louisiana, is coming to Tulsa for a rare performance on November 1 at the Historic Brady Theater.

In 2002, I had the pleasure of interviewing Wynton Marsalis, recently hailed by Jazz Times Magazine as the King of Jazz. It was a privilege and honor to not only interview Marsalis in person, but I had the opportunity to “kick it” with him for hours talking music and our efforts to provide music education for the youth.

I also discovered a brilliant musical genius who was also down to earth, and deeply committed to spreading the gospel of jazz around the world. Needless to say, Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra have done a great job doing just that, and in November 2002, performed to a packed house in Tulsa. The 2,400 music lovers roared their approval with sustained standing ovations.

Indeed, it was a night to remember!

Four years later and Tulsans have another opportunity to enjoy a band of musicians close to Mr. Marsalis’ heart: Irving Mayfield and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, straight from the port of New Orleans, Louisiana. This world-class jazz ensemble comes to Tulsa for a rare performance on November 1 in the Historic Brady Theater.

The 16-member ensemble will cast a spell of mesmerizing music, popularized by jazz legends of the Crescent City. According to Mr. Mayfield, “Wynton is my mentor, my friend and let me put it to you like this: no him, no me. I am indebted to him and love him dearly.”

Recognition by peers and fans alike as one of the crème de la crème of the jazz world, this young lion gives a lot of credit to Wynton Marsalis. A trumpet virtuoso, bandleader and composer, Irving Mayfield is not only Mr. Marsalis’ protégé, but he is the Cultural Ambassador of New Orleans, the first director of the Institute of Jazz Culture at Dillard University, Founder and Artistic Director of the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, and he’s just 29 years old.

He also co-founded the New Orleans-flavored Latin jazz band Los Hombres Calientes with percussionist Bill Summers, and leads his own band, the Irving Mayfield Quintet. Mr. Marsalis and Mr. Mayfield talk on the phone every day, even though Wynton lives in New York City, while Irving lives in New Orleans.

“Wynton and I laugh about this because I tell him he’s a fish out of water in New York,” Mayfield said. “There’s a different vibration in New Orleans. We have a much more down-home feel. People here really know how to relate to jazz.”

I had the privilege of interviewing Mr. Mayfield by telephone recently and asked him what it was like growing up in New Orleans and how he became a lover of jazz music.

“When I was a young kid, imagine sitting on your porch and a band comes marching down your street with 400-500 people dancing, singing and marching behind. I mean it’s a party, a celebration and the band is playing music of the 1920s, Louis Armstrong, King Oliver, Kid Ory.”

It was magical and it’s the way people from New Orleans interact with jazz and the musicians that make New Orleans so special. From our music to the dance, the New Orleans food traditions and even the way we talk, it’s our culture, our history and we embrace it and love it.”

As the conversation continued, I asked Mayfield, “Which jazz artist inspired or influenced you the most?”

“There’s not a specific person, because there were so many musicians from New Orleans; such a long list of inspiring musicians. Louis Armstrong was probably one of the most influential. Even an obscure piano player by the name of James Booker was something else. The inspiration comes from so many different areas such as trumpet player Terence Blanchard, John Lewis and the Modern Jazz Quartet, Charlie Mingus, sax legend Ornette Coleman, trumpeters Woody Shaw and Shorty Baker, Mahalia Jackson and of course, Wynton Marsalis, who I lived with for three years in New York City.”

When asked about what Tulsans should expect from his performance on November 1, he replies, “We intend to offer the experience, the authentic New Orleans experience, to hear the gumbo, taste the French Quarter, smell the second line and to touch on everyone’s five senses. There are those who think jazz is just for sophisticates; that jazz is something they can’t attain and that is not true at all.”

“Jazz opens your mind, individually and partying in a group, simultaneously. It also creates diversity. You can dance to it, sing to it and no matter what the situation, jazz gives you hope that you will get through whatever life throws at you.”

As for a message for Tulsans: “This is the message. After what we have been through this past year in New Orleans, and the fact that I lost my father during Hurricane Katrina, your coming to our concert on November 1 is as much a part of the rebuilding process as hammer and nails.

“The City of New Orleans appreciates you and your support, the band appreciates you and I personally appreciate you. You are really helping us, your brothers and sisters in America, get on the right foot in New Orleans, and we thank you from our hearts.”

Throughout the telephone interview, I listened intently to Mayfield’s New Orleans drawl, filled with joy, laughter and a lilt in his voice, especially as he talked of jazz and his upbringing in New Orleans.

With his obvious passion for jazz and his undying love for his hometown, I could not help but be impressed by his positive outlook, uplifting spirit and his down-to-earth manner, very reminiscent of his Big Easy mentor Wynton Marsalis.

His attitude and comments assured me that Americans are, indeed, a resilient people, full of hope, compassion and seemingly always finding ways to build towards a brighter future.

To tell you the truth, I can’t wait for Irving Mayfield and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra to step onto the stage of the Historic Brady Theater and you know why? I want to hear the gumbo. I want to taste the French Quarter and smell the second line. Above all, I want all of my senses to be touched by this very special musical heritage that will bring a joyful noise to Tulsa on November 1.

So wear your beads, masks and bring your umbrellas, and oh yes, we will get out of our seats and prance, dance and march with the second line just as Mr. Mayfield said we would. The Joint will be Jumpin’ for “Mardi Gras in November.”

For more information or to purchase tickets, call 58B-RADY, or visit www.etix.com.

Updated 10-26-2006

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