Music And Concerts



Higher Ground: Hurricane Relief Benefit Concert
(November 22, 2005)

Track Listing

1. This Joy - Shirley Caesar
2. Over There - Terence Blanchard
3. Go To The Mardi Gras - Art & Aaron Neville
4. Basin Street Blues - Diana Krall
5. Never Die Young - James Taylor
6. The House I Live In - Dianne Reeves
7. New Orleans Blues - Marcus Roberts
8. I Think It's Going To Rain Today - Norah Jones
9. Dippermouth Blues - Wynton Marsalis Hot Seven
10. I'm Gonna Love You Anyway - Buckwheat Zydeco
11. Is That All There Is - Bette Midler & Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra
12. Just A Closer Walk With Thee - Irvin Mayfield Jr.
13. Here's To Life - The Jordan Family
14. Blackwell's Message - Joe Lovano
15. Come Sunday - Cassandra Wilson & Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra

Higher Ground (Blue Note)

The audio of the first televised benefit for Katrina victims is more inspirational than most newly released Christmas CDs. Shirley Caesar's stirring "This Joy" symbolizes the hope Americans expressed through massive donations. Terence Blanchard's Herculean trumpet solo on "Over There" tells of his fellow Crescent City natives' terrifying efforts to escape. Norah Jones offers a quietly moving "I Think It's Going to Rain Today" as comfort while Aaron Neville's "Going to the Mardi Gras" celebrates cultural contributions that can't be destroyed by wind or water. Wynton Marsalis, Diana Krall, Bette Midler, Cassandra Wilson and Mark O'Connor are among the other artists who performed with desperate soulfulness. (Roberta Penn)


Detroit Free Press
Sweet home New Orleans
By Terry Lawson
November 20, 2005

Higher Ground: Hurricane Relief Benefit Concert

There was no shortage of tireless volunteers in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, and one of the true early responders was proud son of New Orleans Wynton Marsalis, who sacrificed his tiresome jazz purity to put together a benefit concert at Frederick P. Rose Hall at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York. It manages to pay respect to the multiple musical tributaries of the Big Easy, yet maintains a cohesive spirit that is captured on this CD.

Gospel singer Shirley Caesar sets the sanctified tone with an earth- and heart-shaking “This Joy,” while trumpeter Terence Ballard, also from N.O., contributes an achingly empathetic “Over There.” Marsalis gets the opportunity to revisit the R&B he played with high school bands as he joins two Neville Brothers, Art and angel-voiced Aaron (whose interpretation of Randy Newman’s “Louisiana 1927? would become the sad anthem of the disaster), on a rollicking version of Professor Longhair’s “Go to the Mardi Gras.” Marsalis also takes his chair with the Lincoln Center Orchestra, conducted by Don Sebesky, to provide a beautifully blue backdrop for Bette Midler’s surprisingly appropriate rendition of the Peggy Lee hit “Is That All There Is?”

Marsalis’ personal moment comes, however, with a Louis Armstrong-style Hot Seven romp through King Oliver’s “Dippermouth Blues,” a standout on a condensed version of the program that also includes contributions from Diana Krall, Dianne Reeves, Norah Jones, James Taylor, Marcus Roberts and Joe Lovano. We hope an upcoming DVD will include more, or maybe all, of a show that also featured Elvis Costello and Allan Toussaint, Paul Simon, Arturo O’Farrill and the great Abbey Lincoln.

All net profits from the CD will be donated to the Higher Ground Relief Fund, established to benefit the musician and, music-industry related enterprises from the New Orleans area that were affected by Hurricane Katrina and to provide other general hurricane relief.

AMG Music
Review by Steve Leggett

When Hurricane Katrina made landfall at New Orleans on August 29, 2005, and the levees failed, devastating the city, the world's complete attention was suddenly focused in on the cradle of jazz, and several benefit relief concerts were quickly organized, including the concert that is presented here, held September 17, 2005, at P. Rose Hall in New York City. The album itself is an elegant and measured affair, opening with a burst of energetic gospel from Shirley Caesar and Eric Reed, who deliver a stirring version of "This Joy," followed by trumpeter Terence Blanchard's stately, beautiful, and meditative "Over There." Other highlights include the Marcus Roberts Trio's take on Jelly Roll Morton's "New Orleans Blues," which is really a rather joyous rendition; Buckwheat Zydeco's stomping "I'm Gonna Love You Anyway"; and Norah Jones' stunning version of Randy Newman's brilliant and poignant "I Think It's Going to Rain Today," with its powerful and repeated refrain of "Human kindness is overflowing/I think it's going to rain today." In the wake of the tragedy many wondered what might become of New Orleans' unique culture and music, and this concert gives listeners a clue. It will not only survive, it will circle back on itself and draw strength and vitality from its storied past. The smooth sophistication of jazz might at times make it appear fragile, but it is anything but, and has always fed on the wild and unpredictable elements of its improvisational DNA. It will take a lot more than a storm surge to wash it away.

By Bob Karlovits

"Higher Ground: Hurricane Relief Benefit Concert" (Blue Note) Various artists. This album is a continuation of a September relief concert at the headquarters of Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City.

It features jazz stars such as Wynton Marsalis, Diane Krall, Dianne Reeves and Terence Blanchard. But it also has some other-genre visitors such as the Neville Brothers, James Taylor, Bette Midler and Buckwheat Zydeco.

Whatever the style, the performances are sincere and strong. Midler gives "Is That All There Is?" a great sense of irony in a rendition with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra.

Marsalis does a Louis Armstrong-flavored "Dippermouth Blues" with his Hot Seven, Reeves is soulful on "The House I Live In" and Irvin Mayfield provides a gospel-rich version of "Just a Closer Walk With Thee."

The Daily News
JAZZIN' AROUND: 'Higher Ground' show aided Katrina victims

We have even more reason to give thanks this year, after seeing what hundreds of thousands of Americans in the Gulf Coast have suffered in recent months.

The devastation of New Orleans, the cradle of jazz, and much of America's musical fiber, has especially moved jazz and blues musicians.

You might recall the stellar line-up who performed at Lincoln Center in September for hurricane relief.

Billed as the "Higher Ground" benefit concert, it boasted of Sonny Rollins, McCoy Tyner, Abbey Lincoln, Jon Hendricks, Paquito D'Rivera, Paul Simon, Peter Cincotti and at least a dozen others.

Blue Note Records now has released an album of that historic concert. New Orleanians Terence Blanchard, Marcus Roberts, Art and Aaron Neville, Idris Muhammad, Irvin Mayfield, Buckwheat Zydeco, Kent and Marlon Jordan, Marcus Printup and Jazz at Lincoln Center director Wynton Marsalis get featured on the album.

Also making the record are stirring performances by Cassandra Wilson, Norah Jones, Bette Midler, Dianne Reeves (with perhaps the album's highlight), Diana Krall, James Taylor, Shirley Caesar, Joe Lovano and Marc O'Connor, plus the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. Album cover art is an original by Leroy Nieman, too.

The concert already has raised $2 million.

The album should raise lots more.

This Week's Hot CD: 'Higher Ground'
Tuesday, December 6, 2005

Higher Ground (Blue Note Records)

From the funky "Go to the Mardi Gras," featuring Art and Aaron Neville, to Cassadra Wilson's prayerful version of Duke Ellington's "Come Sunday" (with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra), "Higher Ground" pays tribute to hurricane-devastated New Orleans and its rich musical heritage. The 15-song collection was recorded at Lincoln Center on Sept. 17, three weeks after Hurricane Katrina, during the Higher Ground Hurricane Relief Benefit Concert. Artists include Norah Jones, Diana Krall, Wynton Marsalis, Bette Midler, Dianne Reeves, James Taylor and Buckwheat Zydeco. There are joy and hope as well as sadness and reflection in the individual performances. But no song expresses the heart and soul of this album better than Reeves' powerful, uplifting "The House I Live In." It sums up what Marsalis calls America's "transcendent and abiding soul." (Gene Stout)