September is Hunger Action Month and what better way to help those in need (1 in 6 households) than to eat, drink and celebrate great local music at Harvest the Music in Lafayette Park! All proceeds go to Second Harvest Food Bank. This week, New Breed Brass Band opened for Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue. New Breed is a brand new brass band of young men born and raised in New Orleans who play originals and covers of traditional NOLA favorites. They may be new to performing onstage but they sounded like pros as they got the crowd moving and primed us for Trombone Shorty’s first stop on his Say That to Say This concert tour. Shorty’s latest album dropped last week and has dominated on the Billboard contemporary jazz chart.
I’ve been lucky enough to watch Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue for years now and can say Wednesday’s free concert was one of his best. Each of the band’s musicians has continued to grow in both skill and artistry. They make very complex and technically difficult music look easy and feel like a party. Everyone relinquished the stage for Joey Peebles’ energetic drum solo. They stood and watched from the sidelines as he wowed the crowd. Guitarist Pete Murano continues to blow me away and I remain thrilled that these guys found each other so young and elevate each other to greatness.
They played “old” favorites like Hurricane Season and Suburbia as well as tunes from the new album. Fire and Brimstone seems poised to become a new favorite. I’ve heard the standard, St. James Infirmary, hundreds of times. The song is so old, no one’s even sure anymore who wrote it. It’s been performed by Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, The Animals and even House‘s Hugh Laurie. I’ve heard many versions including many by Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, but last night’s version was by far the sexiest, coolest, funkiest version I’ve EVER heard.
As dusk turned to dark, the band invited trumpeter (and work-it twerk-it dancer) James Andrews to the stage. “Trombone Shorty” is actually Troy Andrews and James is his older brother. Then Rebirth Brass Band’s trumpeter Glen Andrews (Troy’s cousin) led New Breed Brass Band back to the stage and the whole thing became a you-had-to-be-there moment. There was so much talent packed on that stage (and so many Andrews). The evening ended with an encore of Do to Me. Shorty came into the crowd, as he had when he closed out Jazz Fest this year, and we all “got low” then “went crazy.” I left and climbed onto the streetcar drunk on music and joy.
Walking to the park earlier, we passed a homeless woman blowing kisses to the sky and saying, “Thank you, God.” She reminded me how grateful I am and how much I love my city. She’s probably among the 1 in 6 who are affected by food insecurity in this country. Every dollar spent at Harvest the Music feeds a family of 4 one meal through Second Harvest. I had the delicious Pulled Pork over Roasted Corn Cheese Grits ($6) from Squeal Bar-B-Q and sampled Lucy’s Queso con Crawfish Tails with Chips ($5) from Lucy’s Retired Surfers Bar & Restaurant and a decadent Cafe Adelaide Bananas Foster Parfait ($4). Even my soda and water ($2 each) went to help the hungry.
Tuesday, I was among a select group invited to watch A Place at the Table at the Prytania. The must-see movie takes all the information about hunger in America and humanizes it through a working single mother, a rural preteen girl, teachers dealing with lethargic children, a police officer and many others directly affected by food insecurity. Jeff Bridges explains that 1 in 4 children are hungry in this bountiful country. I was on the hot lunch (and breakfast) program during high school and know how it feels to be judged by others as somehow “less.” The truth is 50% of all children in America use food assistance at some point. The good news is that we have more than enough food to feed everyone. Malnutrition can permanently affect the developing brain of a child which in turn affects education, employment and overall health. Getting food to children helps our economy, education and crime rates.
MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry, New Orleans health commissioner Karen DeSalvo and Sterling Farms co-founder Troy Henry hosted a panel after the heartfelt and informative film. Accomplished, educated and dressed in fine fashion, Dr. DeSalvo revealed that she had also been on the hot lunch program as a youth. In fact, 50 million Americans will experience hunger this year. The panel answered questions, including what we can do to once again end hunger in this country (U. S. hunger was all but eradicated in the 1970’s). They discussed the importance of organizations like Second Harvest but urged us to contact our legislators who are voting on this issue right now. For Louisiana voters, here’s the contact link for Senators Mary Landrieu and David Vitter.
And I, for one, will continue to support Harvest the Music as they welcome the legendary Irma Thomas next week with Khris Royal.