Wonder, Marsalis, others prepare Katrina benefit jam

From the Associated Press

Ticket sales have been far from spectacular, but Ivan Neville says performing at the same Hurricane Katrina anniversary concert tonight as Stevie Wonder is going to be incredible no matter how many people are there.

“What an honor,” said the New Orleans keyboardist and singer, and son of Neville Brothers singer Aaron Neville.

Besides Ivan Neville and Wonder, the lineup for “New Orleans: Rebuilding the Soul of America ... One Year Later” includes New Orleans trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, New Orleans bluesman Dr. John and gospel singer Yolanda Adams.

The show was spearheaded by Marsalis to benefit the trust he established after Katrina to rebuild the city’s cultural infrastructure. The concert was announced earlier this month, but getting the word out hasn’t been easy, organizers say.

“With all that’s going on, it’s kind of information overload,” said Bill McFarlin, executive director of the International Assn. for Jazz Education and one of the organizers. “It’s easy to understand how people are distracted.”


The concert will take place at the New Orleans Arena, near the Superdome. The original plan called for more than 10,000 seats but was cut to about 6,000 when ticket sales were slow. About 3,500 seats were reserved as of Monday morning, McFarlin said.

If nothing else, Neville hopes the concert will be a boost to the city’s cultural recovery efforts and possibly a step toward emotional healing for those who attend. “It might make someone smile,” he said. “It’s one small step.”

Tonight’s concert is scheduled to run about two hours, with most acts performing two or three songs. Wonder will close the event with a 30-minute set.

After the concert, Ivan Neville will perform at the historic Tipitina’s nightclub, where the Tipitina’s Foundation is donating $500,000 worth of instruments to more than a dozen music school programs in the New Orleans area.