The 16-piece NOJO is only one of myriad projects trumpeter and composer Irvin Mayfield has immersed himself in, but it's unique in single-handedly covering the broad sweep of New Orleans musical history. Founded by Mayfield in 2002 precisely to ensure the survival of that heritage, the NOJO has become even more vital in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. In response to the storm, Mayfield, whose father drowned during Katrina, wrote a piece for the NOJO called "All the Saints," whose emotional debut drew 1,200 people in one of the city's first post-hurricane public gatherings. In performances dubbed "Do You Know What It Means," the NOJO covers the Crescent City gamut from early Louis Armstrong jazz to blues, gospel, Caribbean influences, second-line parade rhythms, and the raucous call-and-response and street rhythms of the Mardi Gras Indians. Leading the way is Mayfield, a wonderful player steeped in the city's rich trumpet legacy, who also leads his own quintet (which will play the Dakota in March). With percussionist Bill Summers, Mayfield co-founded the deliciously cross-cultural Los Hombres Calientes. He's also an official New Orleans cultural ambassador and is involved on numerous boards and commissions working on the city's revival. If you do know what it means to miss New Orleans, you'll know this is not to be missed.
Fri., Feb. 22, 8 p.m., 2008