Author Ernest Gaines Paid Homage to in Original Score for New Orleans Jazz Orchestra

Ernest Gaines reading from his classic novel, ‘A Lesson Before Dying’

When I heard that master trumpeter Irvin Mayfield had created an original jazz score to pay tribute to the books of master Louisiana storyteller Ernest Gaines, I was fascinated: How do you turn a collection of memorable stories into music?

“It’s been a really exciting process,” Mayfield said, when we talked by phone. “Ernest Gaines is a brilliant mind and a hell of a character.”

He described the process of creating more than an hour’s worth of music based on Gaines’ entire life’s work as “a collaboration.”

“I’ve been visiting with him for about three years,” said Mayfield, who is the artistic director of the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra. “His art is words and mine is music. This is the work that binds two artists together.”

The New Orleans Jazz Orchestra’s premiere performance of Mayfield’s major commission “Dirt, Dust and Trees” will be Friday, Nov. 30, at the renovated Joy Theater on Canal Street, which reopened last December. It’s part of the Pirate’s Alley Faulkner Society’s annual “Words and Music” arts festival, which honors Gaines this year. The concert also celebrates the 10th anniversary of the jazz orchestra Mayfield founded.

Read more: NOLA


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