New Orleans has rallied behind the families and rescue workers affected by the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, and the local music community is doing its part to help. Radio station WSJZ's benefit at City Park on Sept. 16 (featuring a star-studded roster including Irma Thomas, Donald Harrison, Jr. and Allen Toussaint) raised $30,770 for the Red Cross' Disaster Relief Fund, and a benefit at Café Brasil organized by Maureen Johnson and Egg Yolk Jubilee's Geoff Douville raised $2,300. (At presstime, another benefit led by singer/songwriter Denise Marie is scheduled for Café Brasil on Sunday, Sept. 29.)
The outpouring of support continues this week with another large-scale benefit this Thursday, Oct. 4, at Tipitina's. The line-up includes the Radiators, Cyril Neville's All-Star Band, Anders Osborne, Kermit Ruffins, Marva Wright, Bag of Donuts, and additional performers to be announced. Eighty-five percent of the door and bar proceeds will go to the New York Police and Fire Departments, and 15 percent will be donated to the New Orleans Police and Fire Department's tragedy funds. Showtime is 8 p.m., with a minimum donation of $10. For more info, call 895-8477.
Another worthy cause drawing the support of some of New Orleans' finest musicians is the Ernie K-Doe Fest at Kingsley House (1600 Constance St., 523-6221), on Saturday, Oct. 6. The daylong event benefits the Kingsley House's myriad social programs, including Head Start pre-school, day care and teen programs. Earl King headlines the festivities, which spotlights New Orleans rhythm and blues. The line-up includes Eddie Bo, Al "Carnival Time" Johnson (who will act as grand marshal), Marva Wright, Little Queenie, J. Monque'D, Coco Robicheaux, Rockie Charles and the Staxx of Love, the Reggie Hall Band, Prince Albert & the Royal Knights, Irving Bannister with Dynamite Freddie, Oliver Morgan, Johnny J. and the Hitmen, Samirah Evans, Guitar Joe and Lady Yvonne.
The festival is spearheaded by Albinas Prizgintas, the mastermind behind the Trinity Artist Series and the epic annual "Bach Around the Clock" event. Prizgintas hopes to make the R&B festival an annual event. "Rhythm and blues continues to be an expression of the American spirit, in New Orleans and around the world," he says. "It's been marginalized in recent years for some reason, and it's something that we want to put back in the center of our community, where it belongs." The festival starts at 11 a.m. and will also feature food and craft vendors. Admission is $3 adults, $1 for children. For more information, call 523-6221.
In club news, Kermit Ruffins' Jazz & Blues Hall has closed its doors, less than a year after opening. "I shut the joint down permanently," says Ruffins. The club, located in Treme at 1533 St. Philip St., featured live music, including Sunday afternoon shows featuring Ruffins and pianist Henry Butler. Ruffins says his decision to shutter the venue was strictly an ownership issue. "My lease was up in late October, and I was really trying to buy the place. But the owner didn't want to sell, so I didn't re-sign the lease."
Ruffins hasn't ruled out trying to open another club; he's already looking at alternate locations. "I wasn't making a ton of money, but bringing that music to the neighborhood is the important thing," he says.
As Ruffins' club goes dark, another venue is reopening after a summer hiatus and renovation. Mama's Blues, the blues club located above Mama Rosa's at 614 N. Rampart St., is back in business with Marva Wright performing on Friday, Oct. 5 and Sunday, Oct. 7.
The artist submission deadline for the 2002 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival is approaching. Bands need to submit a bio, publicity photo, and recording to the Jazz Fest offices by Thursday, November 1. Packets should be sent to 336 Camp St., suite 250, New Orleans, LA 70130.
With the holiday season around the corner, a batch of new CDs by Louisiana artists hits the stores soon. Next week brings Dr. John's Creole Moon, while Harry Connick Jr. is releasing a pair of albums; 30 is his long-anticipated piano album, with Wynton Marsalis making a guest appearance, and Songs I Heard is a children's album with performances by Connick's big band. Mid-October brings Down on Dog Hill, the last album that zydeco legend Boozoo Chavis recorded before his death. (Sonny Landreth guests on guitar.) And Eddie Bo's classic funk anthem "Hook and Sling Part 1" is included on the new compilation Pure Soul Power: The Soundtrack to the Soul Generation, which finds Bo taking his rightful place next to such legends as James Brown, the Temptations, Curtis Mayfield, and Ike and Tina Turner.
- The Radiators headline a benefit for New York and New Orleans' police and fire departments at Tipitina's on Thursday, Oct. 4.