Irvin Mayfield "Just a Closer Walk with Thee"

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Various Artists. Higher Ground: Hurricane Relief Benefit Concert (Blue Note, 2005)

I picked up the "Higher Ground" NOLA benefit CD last week, and was struck in particular by the trumpet-and-piano rendition of "Just a Closer Walk with Thee." While thumbing through the liner notes today, I was astounded to learn that trumpeter Irvin Mayfield dedicated that song to his father, who at the time of the concert (17 September 2005) was missing in New Orleans. Sadly, the elder Mayfield has since been declared a victim of drowning as a result of hurricane Katrina.

I certainly don't wish the belittle the skills of trumpeters Wynton Marsalis or Terence Blanchard, both of whom I admire and appreciate, but Mayfield stole the show. Two reviews of the "Higher Ground" CD at praise Mayfield's heart-wrenching performance: Sandy Ingham

The most riveting performance was by trumpeter Irvin Mayfield, who dedicated "Just a Closer Walk With Thee'' to his father, Irvin Sr., who was missing at that time and whose death by drowning has since been confirmed. Mayfield, leader of the brilliant New Orleans Jazz Orchestra and the city's official cultural ambassador, played the somber hymn with grace, but imbued it with pain, and even rage, over what he and so many others had suffered.

and R. Emmet Sweeney:

Even more remarkable is trumpeter Irvin Mayfield's take on the traditional hymn "Just a Closer Walk With Thee." With Ronald Markham on piano, it is light-footed and joyous, a celebration not only of Mayfield's enormous technical ability, but also of turning the self-abnegating tone of the original into a tune of idiosyncratic bliss. The performance was dedicated to his father, Irvin Mayfield, Sr., who was missing due to the hurricane at the time of the concert. Since then he has been declared another victim of the disaster, his son's performance now standing as a shimmering, rafter-shaking memorial.

Mayfield was quoted in the Times-Picayune on 17 November, at which time his father was still missing, as saying:

"Everybody's been asking me, 'How do you deal with this thing with your dad?' Moreso than ever, we've got to do what it is that we do. What I do is play the trumpet and write music. So that's how I'm dealing with this."

The CD is selling well (it's currently #54 at and raising money for an important cause. As described on the Blue Note website:

All net profits from the sale of the CD will be donated to the Higher Ground Relief Fund established by Jazz at Lincoln Center and administered through the Baton Rouge Area Foundation to benefit the musicians, music industry related enterprises and other individuals and entities from the areas in Greater New Orleans who were impacted by Hurricane Katrina and to provide other general hurricane relief.

I have no doubt that a DVD of the concert would also be successful.

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This page contains a single entry by cognitivedissident published on January 9, 2006 11:21 PM.

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