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Irvin Mayfield

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Irvin Mayfield Takes a Sentimental Journey for Longue Vue House & Gardens

The multi-Grammy Award-winning jazz trumpeter teams up with Longue Vue House and Gardens for the sure-to-be spectacular Sentimental Journeys 2013: Venetian Carnevale Gala on Friday, April 19

irvinmayfieldNew Orleanian Irvin Mayfield is best known for his outstanding command of the trumpet and the breathtaking music he creates in the name of jazz. Mayfield has been fortunate to play countless performances on notable stages throughout the world, and since the opening of Irvin Mayfield’s Jazz Playhouse, a luxurious venue inside the Royal Sonesta Hotel in the French Quarter, New Orleans has been able to enjoy his idyllic, angel-food-for-the-ears sound live in concert more often, especially since he and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra are usually in residence at the Playhouse on Wednesday nights. Besides his heartfelt commitment to the beauty of music, Mayfield dedicates himself to many worthwhile endeavors; the jazz great serves on numerous boards such as the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation, the University of New Orleans College of Education and Human Development, the New Orleans Police and Justice Foundation, the Youth Rescue Initiative and Tulane University’s School of Architecture, to name a few.

Mayfield is also devoted to preserving the tranquil exquisiteness of Longue Vue House and Gardens, a truly iconic and integral part of New Orleans. He is a committee member for the unparalleled Sentimental Journeys 2013: Venetian Carnevale. The dazzling gala will be held at 7 pm on Friday, April 19 at the magnificent Uptown home of Mr. and Mrs. Andre Robert to raise funds for Longue Vue’s artistic, educational and civic programs. The classy event will boast champagne by Champagne Taittinger, a Ferrari display, remarkable fire-eaters, a cigar bar, a sumptuous menu created by Executive Chef Michael Sichel of Galatoire’s that will be paired with fine wines, fabulous local musical entertainment and live and silent auctions featuring first-rate travel opportunities, art, antiques and jewelry, helmed by celebrity auctioneer Bryan Batt.

The limited-ticket benefit, presented by IBERIABANK and chaired by Caroline Robert and Daphne Berger and honorary chairs Peggy Laborde and Susan Johnson, promises to remain one of the most marvelous annual galas held in New Orleans. “New Orleans Living” spoke with Mayfield, and can clearly see why he’s one of the greatest cultural ambassadors ever for the people, places and things wholly beloved in this city!

Irvin, how great is it to play with the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra at your namesake club, Irvin Mayfield’s Jazz Playhouse at the Royal Sonesta Hotel almost every Wednesday night? We’ve had some great times there!
Good! I love hearing that, Christine. It’s always great when you play for your home audience. I started touring, and when you start not having to play at home, you stop. I felt like I lost a little something not playing as often here for people, just coming back and playing Jazz Fest once or twice a year. I love when folks from my street say, “I’m bringing my family down to see you play.” From my perspective, the people at home should benefit from you the most, so I like to play more at home. Playing Carnegie Hall is great, but I like having that weekly relationship at home. And for me, it’s not a show; I’m sharing part of myself with the folks I live with.

Sentimental Journeys 2013, Longue Vue House and Gardens’ famed gala, will take place on Friday, April 19. You are on the committee for this astounding event. Why is it important for you to be involved?
I think the mission that the Sterns, who founded Longue Vue, came up with to provide young people with beauty to enrich their lives is really important to me. When I think about all the young folks you see murdering one another, and you think about the soaring crime rate in the city, the reason that happens is because a lot of these young people haven’t had beautiful experiences in their lives. I think that any balanced person has had a long range of beautiful experiences. Beauty can be assessed in a lot of different ways, from food to music, and also just through the true beauty of nature and the experience of going to Longue Vue.

Sentimental Journeys is an opportunity for folks in the community to enjoy a beautiful, tremendous experience with great music, great food and great opportunities. The things that help us take advantage of the finite amount of time we have here are memorable experiences like Sentimental Journeys.

The theme for Sentimental Journeys 2013 is “Venetian Carnevale,” which will feature wonderful auctions with jewelry, antiques and amazing travel opportunities, not to mention spectacular food, libations and entertainment—sounds like an evening not to be missed!
I think Caroline Robert is so generous to open up her home, which is amazing and on such a beautiful and historic street, for Sentimental Journeys. I believe it to be the party of the year. Also, I think the type of crowd that’s coming is really great. I love going to events where you can have a large range of people. People who are eccentric, people who are prestigious, people who are local fixtures will be there–it’s a great mixture of what this town is about.

And this fabulous night provides critical funding for Longue Vue and its educational programs and for all the cultural resources that it offers New Orleans. It’s fantastic that you are aligned with this event.
I think the approach with Sentimental Journeys is that Caroline is making it very easy for people to be thrilled to support Longue Vue. The fact that 100% of the funds raised are going to Longue Vue speaks to her generosity and also to the culture of New Orleans, where people are really considerate, we love one another and at the same time we really know how to celebrate. I’m thrilled to be supporting this event; I’ve always been a big fan of Longue Vue Gardens. I would put it on my top ten list, because allowing folks to experience beauty is what it’s all about.

You grew up in New Orleans visiting Longue Vue House and Gardens …
Absolutely. I think it’s something we take for granted—be it Longue Vue, be it City Park, be it Audubon Park, be it the river—these types of experiences are what bring diversity, because anybody can experience them. I think we take for granted how important that really is in developing the model citizen. It’s very important if we want folks to feel like they have a level of ownership of our city.

You serve on the boards of many great organizations. How did public service become so near and dear to you?
I think that by nature, the artists in this town are doing a public service. If you’re a jazz musician, you play jazz funerals and a lot of times you’re not paid. You just show up because the person who died deserves to be recognized.

I’ve been fortunate to have been invited to serve on boards, but there are so many different ways to help. I’m always amazed about how many different folks come together to help one another. Look at Sentimental Journeys—everyone’s doing their part, from the folks who are serving the drinks to the musicians playing.

I had an interesting experience when I was about 22 years old: I became the first musician to serve on the Chamber of Commerce. Dan Packer was chairman of the board at that time and he put me on the Chamber. I learned about what volunteering and public service can really do, and I saw how different organizations come together to address issues and challenges in the community.

It’s amazing that you were nominated to the National Council on the Arts by President George W. Bush and then appointed to the post in 2010 by President Obama. Congratulations on such a wonderful honor!
Well thank you! Yes, it’s a great honor. I’m the first jazz musician to serve on the endowment board. I wish we had more money to give across the country for the arts. I think we’ve done a great job in funding stuff in New Orleans. That’s made me proud. I’m also proud of the funding we’ve done for places that don’t have a lot. We invest in rural locations to make sure they have access to the arts. That’s important. The endowment’s mission is to make sure every American has the opportunity to experience great art. A great country deserves great art.

That’s amazing. As a professor at the University of New Orleans, where you also serve as Director of the New Orleans Jazz Institute, what do you want your students to take with them after they’ve had you as an instructor?
Our goal at the University of New Orleans is to offer a really creative environment so that the leadership of ideas can thrive. We want students to take their creative ideas and put them to use. One of the steps in doing so is simply knowing there are options and that there is a path. Also, we tell students to be interested in being interesting. I think that’s the most important thing, no matter what they’re doing, be it architecture, urban planning, film or jazz. They also need to be lovers of great ideas because, as you know, great ideas take time. That’s the new environment that we’re creating at the University of New Orleans. Every semester when I get a class, I always think, “Man, this is the best class I’ve had yet!” (Laughs) I think that’s just the power of young folks and their ideas and creativity.

You have 15 albums to your credit, so let me ask: when are you not making an album?
(Laughs). Well, I am pretty backed up on recordings, and some of those recordings I have to finish this year. I’ve been doing a lot of performances and music writing, but I’m also looking forward to kicking up the recording.

We’ll definitely be looking forward to that! Irvin, you travel extensively around the world to play for others, but what makes it easy for you to come back home every time to New Orleans?
I love my town. I belong to this place. Even when my dad was missing after Katrina and we were starting to recognize the severity of the situation, I knew that I was born in New Orleans and I‘m gonna die in New Orleans. It’s a place that I just love, and the reason is because I want to. This is my town, and my belief is to invest back in the place that gave me so much. Anywhere else, I’d just be a guy playing trumpet. Here, I get to live a beautiful, artistic, democratic experience. I’m a blessed and lucky person.

For tickets and more information about Sentimental Journeys 2013: Venetian Carnevale, visit www.longuevue.com or contact Jen Gick at (504) 293-4723 or jgick@longuevue.com. For more information about Irvin Mayfield, visit www.irvinmayfield.com