Artists are, by the nature of their business, vulnerable. There's no better illustration of that vulnerability, and of the rapid-response mechanism that fell into place after Katrina, than the Manchester Craftsmen's Guild's upcoming Celebration of New Orleans Music concerts. Not only do the artists -- jazz man Ellis Marsalis, blues singer Chris Thomas King, and traditional funky-jazz outfit the ReBirth Brass Band -- represent the city's music with vigor and history, but together, they tell the story of musicians' post-Katrina struggles.
The suddenly aptly named ReBirth band was formed in 1983, making it not just one of the funkiest and best of New Orleans' slew of all-brass jazz bands, but one of its most institutional. After Katrina hit, the band was scattered -- members wound up in New York City, others in Texas, with very little knowledge of their bandmates' whereabouts. The survival of ReBirth seemed tenuous, at best.
But there were those out to help: A grant to bandleader Philip Frazier, from the New Orleans Musicians Hurricane Relief Fund helped not just reform the band, but get Frazier and his group back into the Crescent City. There, last December, the band led the procession of Habitat for Humanity's barge tour -- bringing homes down the Mississippi to the city.
That same month, Ellis Marsalis, patriarch of America's most famous jazz family, and son Branford were putting their contacts -- and dollars -- to work, with the announcement of Habitat for Humanity's New Orleans Musicians Village. This past June, the first houses in the Village opened their doors: It will soon include 75 homes in the Lower Ninth Ward and the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music.
A Celebration of New Orleans Music, with the Ellis Marsalis Trio, ReBirth Brass Band, and Chris Thomas King. 7:30 p.m. Thu., Dec. 7. (Also 8 p.m. Fri., Dec. 8; 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Sat., Dec. 9; and 2:30 p.m. Sun., Dec. 10). Manchester Craftsmen's Guild, 1815 Metropolitan St., North Side. $40. 412-322-0800 or www.mcgjazz.org
- Philip Frazier of ReBirth Brass Band