November 1, 2007

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Marsalis for everybody
Delfeayo Marsalis plays free concert in Manch
By Alec O’Meara aomeara@hippopress.com

It might be surprising that a New England College convention meant to give students a chance to hear from presidential primary candidates suddenly includes a free concert open to all featuring jazz master Delfeayo Marsalis.

Then again, once New Orleans gets involved, as it has this year with students requesting that relief for victims of Hurricane Katrina be chief among talking points, the music is rarely that far behind.

Marsalis is part of jazz’s reigning royal family. His father, Ellis, was a celebrated instructor of jazz at the University of New Orleans and the Center of the Creative Arts. Brothers Wynton and Banford are two of the most celebrated jazz recording artists of their time. Delfeayo isn’t quite as near the spotlight’s center as his two brothers, but that has as much to do with his instrument of choice, the trombone, as it does with his comfort on either side of the recording glass. Delfeayo Marsalis has amassed nearly 100 producer credits to his name over the last two decades, having worked on a number of his brothers’ albums as well as working with legends like Harry Connick Jr., Elvin Jones, and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. He’s helped produce scores for films including Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing and Mo’ Better Blues. This is a busy guy, one of the true elites in his genre, and he’s making a special trip up to New Hampshire on Wednesday, Nov. 28, to play for the general public as part of a student convention. For free. Wait, how did this happen again?

Power of the Primary
Every four years, New England College hosts a convention to invite students both here and from other states to participate in the state’s unique primary season, said Wayne F. Lesperance Jr., assistant professor of political science at NEC. At the convention, students are given the chance to hear presidential hopefuls speak on the issues that they choose. As Lesperance was polling students, he found that yes, the war in Iraq was a hot-button topic among them, but so was the continued relief effort aiming to rebuild the Gulf Coast following Katrina. As fate would have it, Lesperance was lucky enough to have a life-long New Orleans native, Dennis Kalob, working in his department. Capitalizing on Dennis’s and his wife Cathy’s ties to the region, he compiled an impressive list of New Orleans speakers being enlisted to come to the concert. It is Delfeayo Marsalis’ performance, however, that will serve as the entertainment for the first evening of the event.

Cathy Kalob said that she had called Marsalis directly and asked if the busy musician would be willing to fly across the county to play. It wasn’t until later that he found out the scope of the event he had agreed to participate in. While he appreciates the concerns and the interest from students, he’s less interested in hearing what the candidates have to say.

“If you ask me, the time for talking is pretty much over,” he said. “So, I’m not really all that interested in hearing what they have to say.”

Marsalis did add that probably the most helpful thing for those attending the conference to do would be to not forget about the city and the work that needs to be done.

“We still don’t want folks to forget about us,” Marsalis said. “Just keep us in your thoughts and prayers, that’s probably the best thing that you can do.”

Lesperance added that the school’s student conference is expected to be covered by a New Orleans television station.

“From their perspective, it is exciting that people in New Hampshire are taking an interest in what’s going on,” Lesperance said.

The City’s soul
When there are piles of still- uncollected rubble, miles of empty streets, and countless former residents just trying to survive, it may seem odd to worry about something like music. However, a growing fear that the tradition of jazz in the city will somehow be washed away with everything else is also on the minds of those who call New Orleans home. Music is deeply entrenched in all parts of the city, as something that is passed down through generations. It is one of many things that make the city unique, and the city’s uniqueness is one of the reasons that, 10 years after moving to New Hampshire, Cathy Kalob still says “we” when talking about people who live there.

“Who takes that music to the next generation if there’s nobody there? Or if they are too busy struggling to survive? Or if they have lost their instruments?” Kalob said.

Marsalis is less concerned.

“It’s appropriate that New Orleans is the city of jazz. Jazz is the music of survival,” he said. “It’s going to be fine. I see a lot of music still going on.”

For Marsalis and the Kalobs, the conference represents a serious chance to get those who want to lead the county to talk about the future of the city closest to their heart and to enlighten students about the massive amount of work that still needs to be done. In exchange for hearing that message, those who take the time to come out to the Armory Room of the Radisson Hotel in Manchester will get to hear some of the best jazz the country has to offer.