It’s hard to imagine a more complementary pairing than Mayfield and Marsalis (no offense to Wynton or any of the other brothers Marsalis), with the youthful energy and zest of the former highlighted by the ease and excellence, seasoned and refined with time, of the latter. But of course, while Mayfield is young, only 30 in fact, he’s also taken it upon himself to take on a mantle of experience and responsibility: as official cultural ambassador of New Orleans, founder and leader of the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, and with his service on boards including the New Orleans Public Library Foundation.
All of us who are committed to not forgetting about New Orleans and to contributing to its recovery, however we can, can be grateful to Mayfield, the Blind Boys of Alabama, and all the musicians, both stable and struggling, who, like them, are keeping the soul of the city alive. As Mayfield told the CBS Evening News in May, music is, after all, “about communicating to people—what is the best about New Orleans, what is the best about America and how can we come together.” It’s a message that needs hearing, maybe now more than ever.
Tracie Fellers is a writer and editor who lives in Greensboro, N.C.