A Phil Brodie Band
~ Info Page
My name is Ben Rosow and I live in New Orleans. I am an engineer and a musician. I am one of the lucky ones because my Uptown house in the Sliver by the River did not flood after Katrina, although it did receive extensive damage that remains un-repaired to this day, due to the scarcity of contractors.
Today is Sunday so this afternoon I decided to take a bike ride around the neighborhood to get some exercise and to force myself to get closer to the reality of what is going on all around me in my city in limbo. I tooled around the Tulane University campus where I saw a huge sports complex that occupies about half the ground area undergoing a massive renovation. This includes a brand new football practice facility which will double as a soccer and track stadium, and a total renovation of the baseball diamond. It made me question the shutting down of so many university departments (including mechanical engineering) and the essential gutting of many departments that the public has been told are being retained. We know so many professors who are leaving that it makes me wonder if Tulane can survive the harsh cuts that most residents feel are horrible management decisions.
But enough about
I next tooled up across Claiborne Avenue where the flooding
really got bad. I got my fill of deserted houses and the spring weeds
that are starting to turn into jungles in the front yards. The hopeful
signs I did see were that where 4 months ago I would see maybe one house
every 2 blocks with some activity, now I was seeing about 5 houses with
residents, trailers, or workers per block. This is MUCH better than
what we had back then and I feel nothing but awed admiration for the
families that can survive such total losses and still come back to destroyed
neighborhoods to make our city whole again. They embody the resilience
and determination that we Americans like to think we possess. We need
to treat these people right, even when their neighborhoods are not fit
for flood-free existence. If its not practical for them to have
their neighborhoods back, I feel that we owe it to them to find a way
for these courageous flood pioneers to come back to rebuild
our city. If you lived in a disaster area, wouldnt you want the
most determined folks, who are willing to gut it out, to be the ones
to help you rebuild?
So I stood on my
bike on the sidewalk below the band room at McMain and I imagined that
I heard the band playing, horribly out of tune, scratching out a new
chart for the first time. I imagined I heard a loud sax player enthusiastically
showing off his favorite tune of the week. No
No, I was actually
hearing a sax player, and playing exceptionally well. It wasnt
coming from the band room, but the auditorium was right next door so
I moved a few feet down the street toward the auditorium door. But it
wasnt coming from there either. It was coming from across the
street at the Ursuline Academy. Now the ground around Ursuline is about
2 feet lower than that of McMain so where McMain took on about 4 feet
of water, Ursuline took on about 6. But there is no flood line left
on the walls of Ursuline and I noticed a few cars parked in a back access
lot. So I crossed the street and started following the sound on my bike.
I couldnt tell if it was coming from inside the chapel or if the
music was outdoors but this was a seriously good player with a very
full sound. The tune was something I definitely recognized but I couldnt
quite place it. I followed the sound around a few corners until I came
to a dead end between two wings of the building with a formidable plank
door at the other end. THAT was where the sound was coming from.
Well I heard it on the street but it isnt so loud there, I said. I like it.
like to come in? she said, motioning to the heavy wooden door.
No, no I love it. Thank-you. I was already starting to be overcome by emotion. I loved this, especially the fact that this event was so gracefully and calmly integrated. I began to walk to where I could see the sax player whose sound was much clearer inside the courtyard. His style was becoming more recognizable to me as I listened. When I got close enough to see a black man with a shaved head I began wondering. I turned to a guy in a folding chair. Is that Gary Brown? I asked. He just shook his head that he didnt know.
Now Gary Brown is a national treasure who has worked five nights a week down at a French Quarter clip joint for the last twenty plus years. He always has a wonderful band and he is a most charismatic performer, in addition to being a most lyrical and flat out hot horn player. He mugs for the women and looks into your eyes when he thinks that you need to really hear what hes about to play. A business associate from Denmark once said to me, How come he plays in a dump in the French Quarter? If he played in Europe, hed be famous. Hed play to sold out theaters. How come nobody knows him here?
So there was Gary
Brown on a stage in the middle of the beautiful courtyard on a sunny
day playing to a harmoniously integrated crowd of families. He had a
little boombox CD player patched into the PA system playing the backing
tracks from one of his his CDs. A most cheesy setup but he was PLAYING
FOR KEEPS. And that doesnt mean playing loud and honking. He was
playing sweetly with every melodic trick he could think of. By this
time there was a ring of about 6 little kids sitting on the patio right
in front of the stage. So Gary pulled out his Sopranino, a tiny little
sax, and began to play an exquisite ballad called Paper Mache. He came
off the stage and stood directly in front of the kids and played just
to them as if they were the most important audience in the world. He
would go up to each one of them in turn, the bell of his horn a foot
from each little face. Hed take a breath and play special phrases
directly to each one. And the children just sat there, mesmerized, gazing
into his face. And this went on for song after song.