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Jazz Rebounds in New Orleans Five Years After Katrina


Tourists and locals walk down Bourbon Street in New Orleans

Tourists and locals walk down Bourbon Street in New Orleans

Nearly five years after New Orleans was flooded by Hurricane Katrina, one part of the city's legacy has returned with renewed support - jazz, the music that was invented in New Orleans.

For many years, long before Hurricane Katrina came to town, jazz was leaving New Orleans. Visitors to the city's famed Bourbon Street clubs favored rock, country and other sounds.

But post-Katrina visitors have shown an interest in the city's musical heritage. So a couple of years ago one of the city's principle promoters of jazz, trumpet player Irvin Mayfield, brought the music back to Bourbon Street at the Jazz Playhouse in the Royal Sonesta Hotel.

Irvin Mayfield

Irvin Mayfield

Mayfield says the return of players exiled by the storm has helped in the revival.

"Every citizen of the city of New Orleans was obviously displaced by Hurricane Katrina and we have seen the majority of musicians basically come back," he said. "I think New Orleans still remains the number one place to be a in-the-neighborhood musician, meaning that you can live at home and have a significant amount of work and have a comfortable lifestyle."

"I am appalled on a daily basis by how many first-time jazz listeners we encounter," he continued. "We encounter a lot of first-time jazz listeners and we approach the work here at this jazz club as meeting the mandate of the amateur, novice music lover and we feed them from that standpoint and we treat every listener as if this is their first time, they have never heard jazz before."

"We want people to become connoisseurs of what great music is and what great jazz is," Mayfield said. "Everybody who comes here has a story and it has been wonderful to talk to people before the show, after the show, and, sometimes during the show, we will just ask people where they are from and they will start yelling out, 'South Dakota, New Hampshire...' And it is always great to hear 'Ninth Ward' or 'I am from the French Quarter, I work here every day. So we get those who are here, who are so glad they can walk down [the street to come], all the way to people from Japan."

Irvin Mayfield, who also serves as the city's Cultural Ambassador, is optimistic about New Orleans in spite of lingering effects from Katrina. He says his hometown's musicians, artists, chefs and just plain folks will make it succeed.

"History has shown that when a good quality of people get together, they have success," he said. "I am just judging the city of New Orleans by that, by the people."

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