Carrying the Torch

The New Orleans Jazz Orchestra

Come living hell or high water—literally—Irvin Mayfield simply refuses to back down.

The critically acclaimed trumpeter is on a quest not only to explore the rich tradition and enduring legacy of New Orleans jazz, but also to share this glorious music with those outside the Crescent City. Mayfield is the artistic director and founder of the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra (NOJO), a 16-piece ensemble formed in 2002 that is the only performing jazz institution based in post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans. Its mission is to sustain, support, promote and celebrate jazz's integral value to New Orleans and American culture through performance and education.

Musically, NOJO glides easily from blues and traditional jazz to swing and spirituals. Currently on the road presenting New Orleans: Then and Now, the big band covers a century of New Orleans heritage and history by exploring the music of such celebrated Big Easy figures as Professor Longhair, Jelly Roll Morton, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Sidney Bechet and others. For example, you'll practically feel the heat during the "Ballad of the Long, Hot Night" as your imagination takes you to a humid summer evening when the moon is out and the scent of jasmine and honeysuckle envelops you.

And who better than Mayfield to guide us through this timeless journey? A Crescent City native, he founded the Institute of Jazz Culture at Dillard University in 2003. In addition, he co-founded the New Orleans-flavored Latin band Los Hombres Calientes with percussionist Bill Summers and also fronts his own band, the Irvin Mayfield Quintet. Mayfield, whose father was sadly identified as a flood-drowning victim during Hurricane Katrina, has dedicated himself to helping rebuild and revitalize his hometown. By championing through music the vibrant spirit and resiliency that was and still is New Orleans, he is doing exactly that.

Irvin Mayfield & the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra performs at the Orange County Performing Arts Center, Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, 615 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa, (714) 556-2787; www.ocpac.org. Sun., 2 p.m. $14-$74. All ages.

 
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