By Lewis Watts
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Extra info for New Orleans Suite: Music and Culture in Transition
According to the 2010 census, the city’s population is only 70 percent of its 2000 level. The number of displaced people, who are disproportionately black and poor, is no doubt greater than that represented by a 30 percent population loss, as there has also been an in-migration of Latino/a workers, young white professionals, and others. Mayor Ray Nagin’s Bring New Orleans Back Commission (BNOB) defined the terms of reconstruction for the first several months after Katrina. While the commission included Wynton Marsalis—the trumpeter/composer and artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center, who was born and raised in New Orleans—and allies who publicly argued that all neighborhoods should be restored, others on the commission, primarily local business elites, voiced an exclusionist agenda.
A second attempt to mount a major festival with Wein at the helm was canceled after American Football League athletes, no doubt buoyed by the recent passage of the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act, organized a boycott of New Orleans in early 1965, after African American players arriving for the league’s all-star game were refused service by taxi drivers, hotels, and other businesses. A smaller event did go forward but 16 • R e f l e c t i on s on J a z z F e s t 2 0 0 6 received little attention within or outside of the city.
Musical expressions are generally quite complicated. They often contain contradictory and ambiguous sentiments created by artists, producers, recording engineers, and businesspeople; and their diverse listeners hear them differently and selectively across time and space. This is true even when talking about music with lyrics carrying a relatively straightforward semantic meaning, let alone when considering music full of complex imagery and innuendo, or without lyrics at all. Writing about power and possibility in New Orleans music brings with it a particular set of challenges.