A who’s who of New Orleans musicians played “Musicians for Mitch” last night at the House of Blues, and it was hard not to be bowled over the non-stop star power of the show. Still, there was little music played that I remember today; it was all good, though little was inspired. I was impressed by how well Trombone Shorty can use short spaces, and I admired Amanda Shaw’s nerve as she fronted a band that included Allen Toussaint and George Porter, Jr.
What was memorable was the obvious pleasure that many of the musicians took in playing something that wasn’t their regular gig. James Singleton looked as happy backing Ronnie Kohl as he seems with Astral Project and on his own gigs. No matter the band or the music, George Porter, Jr. settles comfortably into his role as traffic cop onstage, signalling solos, endings, and at one point moving Walter ‘Wolfman” Washington out of the way because he obscured the drummer’s view of Irma Thomas. Terence Blanchard had just won a Grammy on the weekend, and he hung around to be part of the horn section, even if it was just to be part of the ensemble. Allen Toussaint sang “Yes We Can Can” and played “Big Chief,” but he looked like he could have happily played another few hours as part of the band. That visual reminder of why musicians play music in the first place had at least as much power as the music they played Wednesday night.