We made it! Day 1 in New York City is a wrap! After an early (4 a.m.) meet up at MSY, our group of 17 boarded the first flight to Newark, and arrived in downtown Manhattan in time for lunch at the Italian market, Eataly, just down the street from where we are staying by Freedom Tower. Then we all hit the subway, taking the A Train to Greenwich Village and into the iconic Blue Note jazz club.
Our host, Alex Kurland, who books the Blue Note and also co-manages the Soul Rebels, put together an amazing afternoon of musical education and entertainment for us. Once he gave our group a history of the neighborhood and the club and explained his role as the Blue Note’s talent buyer, legendary jazz/funk guitarist John Scofield took the stage and captivated us with a Master Class that included his discussing his deep respect for New Orleans, playing with Miles Davis and then calling our students to the stage for a funky jam session.
Scofield mentioned that his Mom was from New Orleans and went to high school with Louis Prima and knew him well. Our music director, Asia Muhaimin, who is also the band director at Warren Easton, told him that Prima was an alumnus and Scofield happily exclaimed, “Now I know where my Mom went to school!” Coincidentally, our trip’s presenting sponsor is the Gia Maione Prima (Louis’ widow) Foundation, and we look forward to seeing the foundation’s director, Anthony Sylvester, during tomorrow’s activities. Small world here in the big city!
After the Master Class, we hit the West Village shrine, John’s Pizza, and then had an hour to walk around before heading back to the Blue Note for Scofield’s early set. As we walked through Washington Square Park, the Shorty students took out their horns and drums and began to play. After launching into Rebirth’s “Why You Worried Bout Me?” it didn’t take long until a group of about 100 onlookers gathered around the band and suddenly it felt like we were back home. These young musicians came to play and to represent New Orleans! Check out footage of their performance in the park here!
We capped the night with an incendiary performance by Scofield and his stellar ensemble (Gerald Clayton on keys, Bill Stewart on drums and Vicente Archer on the bass). Seeing a show in such a revered listening room with a rich history really put us in a jazzy New York state of mind. Then it was back on the A Train, as we arrived at our hotel exhausted yet inspired!
We’ll be up bright and early Friday morning for a visit with executives at Sony Music, and then on to Lincoln Center…more on that in the next update!