[by Phyllis Shaikun]
Five years ago, when New Orleans was in the midst of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Congregation Adath Jeshurun’s cantor, David Lipp, extended a hand of friendship by inviting four displaced musicians from the city to play in Louisville. Dr. Michael White, a renowned musician and professor at Xavier University, and three of his fellow “Big Easy” jazz colleagues took him up on the offer and had the opportunity to play at Adath Jeshurun and other venues around the community.
Now, five years later, Dr. White returned to Louisville on Saturday, September 4, to again lead a quartet of highly regarded musicians (Mark Baud, Mitchell Player and Seva Venet) in a free concert at AJ in hopes of raising money to support clean-up efforts in the Gulf not covered by British Petroleum. Louisville jazz pianist Harry Pickens also performed during the evening.
The concert was held in conjunction with WFPK’s Kentucky HomeFront radio show with John Gage and was taped for broadcast some time in October. Donations and sponsorships for the event benefited The Gulf Oil Spill Fund supported by the Greater New Orleans Foundation and the National Wildlife Federation’s Gulf Oil Spill Restoration Fund.
White reported that musicians in that New Orleans region are still struggling, but their music helps keep spirits alive. He has written three dozen songs since 2007, which have helped “let his emotions out,” but that evening, he did not dwell on the negative. Wonderful music filled the air ranging from trumpet and clarinet solos to a superb group of favorites from Porgy and Bess. Cantor Lipp got into the act by accompanying the group in King of the Second Line.
“Jewish music and jazz tunes use similar scales,” White explained, “and he made the point by playing Avinu Malkeinu, the High Holiday anthem through which Jews ask God for forgiveness, to a jazz beat.” It was truly a wow moment!
He also accompanied the cantor as he sang El Nora Alila, a hymn recited before Ne’ilah (the final service) on Yom Kippur, to the tune of Muskrat Ramble. For a change of pace, the evening included a short play (“And the Angels Sing”) scripted and narrated by Bob Sachs that featured Donald Stern, Ralph Green and the cantor relating the very funny story of an angel that became a synagogue hazzan.
Cantor Lipp remarked that “Despite the hard economic times in our community, we all desperately want to help the Gulf region. Charities to receive support from this concert are being carefully screened to ensure that all the monies raised will go to preeminent organizations that provide the best care for area residents and for the wildlife affected by this disaster. Donations can still be made through a secure website, www.adathjeshurun.com/jazz.
An hour-long dessert reception and bourbon tasting followed the concert in the Shapira Auditorium. Selichot services were held in the synagogue’s chapel from 11 p.m. until midnight.