Jazz auction helps stranded New Orleans musicians

Friday, November 18, 2005

NEW YORK -- Terrell Batiste has no idea where his grandmother is -- or even if she's alive -- more than two months after Hurricane Katrina.

All the 21-year-old trumpeter has now is a temporary home, a donated horn and a chance to eke out a living by playing New Orleans music in other parts of America.

On Wednesday night, the Jazz Foundation of America held an auction to help hundreds of hurricane-displaced musicians with food, clothes, housing and jobs.

Among those playing at the fund-raiser was 95-year-old tenor saxophonist Max Lucas, who once performed with Louis Armstrong, and 91-year-old alto saxophonist Fred Staton, who played with Art Blakey, Count Basie and Billy Strayhorn.

On the auction block were more than 50 jazz treasures including Miles Davis' boa constrictor snakeskin jacket. The auction raised more than $300,000 Wednesday night, with Davis' jacket fetching $13,000.

Members of the Hot 8 Brass Band -- Batiste and nine other young men whose edgy new jazz was at the heart of pre-Katrina New Orleans -- were flown in for the evening at the B.B. King Blues Club & Grill in Times Square.

Batiste's grandmother, Ethel Anna Herbert, 82, was floated on an air mattress from the family home to safety, suffering a stroke at the sight of the destruction and bodies in the water. She was airlifted from New Orleans' Superdome in a helicopter.

"Nobody could go with her, and the people on the chopper wouldn't take her medical file," said her grandson. "We've been looking everywhere for her."

The foundation will pay 126 New Orleans evacuees to perform in the next six months for schoolchildren in Louisiana, Texas, Georgia, Illinois and New York.

"People are hearing a lot more of what was just in the streets of New Orleans," said Hot 8's manager, Lee Arnold. "It's a good opportunity both for the country and the musicians."

The foundation was created in 1989 by Taylor and businessman Herb Storfer to help elderly jazz musicians in crisis.

Young and old, the New Orleans musicians are rooted in America's homegrown soundtrack.

"This music was born out of the atrocities of slavery, when families were tortured and separated," Oxenhorn said. "They became these magnificent, strong, powerful people who ended up giving back a gift to the world that has gotten all of us through life. The musicians will survive."

On the Net:

Jazz Foundation of America: http://www.jazzfoundation.org

Hot 8 Brass Band: http://www.hot8brassband.com

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: