Greetings from the heart of the French Quarter where we are staying directly across from Armstrong Park—and its Congo Square—a pivotal place for the beginnings of jazz since it was the only place where displaced Africans (slaves) were allowed to gather together to play music, sing and celebrate their culture. It is a powerful place to visit, as a jazz musician, and as someone who has read about those times and been heavily influenced by a long list of musicians steeped in that culture. Louis Armstrong, Kid Ory, King Oliver, Luis Russell, Barney Bigard, Sidney Bechet, Irma Thomas, the Meters, the Neville Brothers, Idris Muhammad, Allen Toussaint, Dr. John, and many more…. I’m looking forward to going to a concert in the park tonite.
We are here to help work on some homes being built by the organization Habitat for Humanity New Orleans. They are getting ready for, and we’re helping, for their first Build-a-Thon in NOLA “Rebuilding America Street”. The goal is to build 10 homes in 10 days. Many other volunteers are there, too and there is plenty to do. Gotta remember to drink LOTS of water, put on the suntan lotion, and don’t strain too many muscles.
Our group consists of 7 fantastic staff members (Laurie McFarlane–our group leader, Ashley Macchia, Jessica Halton, Jordan Lockaby, Julia Polanco, Andrew Crawford, Sue Buzzard) and myself—plus we had help from percussionist Tom Schmidt before he had to leave for a gig with the Portland Symphony. We are having a great time as a group…walking the city, experiencing the unique and delicious food only N’awlins can dish out, and taking in the music and the sights.