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Jazz Faces Ups and Downs in 2005


Hurricane Katrina made lots of noise in 2005, but not enough to silence the city where jazz was born, New Orleans, Louisiana. Jazz fared much better in other parts of the country as the live music crowd kept the meteorological demons at bay. Consumers on the other hand had to choose between buying that extra four liters of gas or a new CD, making album sales shaky at best. As VOA's Doug Levine tells us, jazz had its share of ups and downs in 2005.

As New Orleans continues to pull itself up from the wrath of America's worst natural disaster, its musicians are vowing to make their world-famous "venue" bigger and better than ever.

Even those not affected by Hurricane Katrina could only imagine the worst. A city that had endured menacing tropical storms for centuries wiped out by Katrina's floodwaters. To the rescue, native son Harry Connick, Jr., who was seen on national television rowing a boat down flooded streets and carrying helpless victims to safety. In addition to placing himself on the front lines, Harry Connick, Jr., made a pledge to personally help in the rebuilding of 150 houses under a plan called "Operation Home Delivery."

Fellow jazz musician Branford Marsalis also joined the effort. In Katrina's wake, music by Branford Marsalis, Wynton Marsalis, Harry Connick, Jr., and other New Orleans jazz greats was released on a CD to benefit MusiCares Hurricane Relief.

Under the direction of Wynton Marsalis, Jazz at Lincoln Center presented the Higher Ground Hurricane Relief Concert, just three weeks after Hurricane Katrina unleashed its fury on the Gulf Coast. The concert and CD have raised more than two million dollars for relief.

Relief for fans of vocal jazz came from Canadian singer Michael Buble, who had one of the top-selling albums of 2005, It's Time.

In these times of uncertainty, one thing is for sure: People still love a good melody. Enter Michael Buble whose mixed bag of pop classics, originals and jazz standards lifted the spirits of tired and weary souls.

Kenny G, Jamie Cullum, Chris Botti, and Diana Krall also released standout recordings in 2005.

The jazz world bid farewell to some very good friends, including vocalist Shirley Horn. Considered a late bloomer, Horn said she enjoyed the finer things in life: "Good company, good food and good music."

Cheers to the giants of jazz bass, Percy Heath and Keter Betts, who passed away in 2005; as did organist Jimmy Smith, bluesman Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown and singer Bobby Short.

Credit the Voice of America and a keen set of eyes and ears at the Library of Congress for one of the year's most talked about jazz albums, Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall. Although VOA recorded this historic concert in 1957, it wasn't until a jazz expert at the Library of Congress discovered the tapes in early-2005 that the performance finally became public.

Some jazz was meant to live forever.

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