The Best Party in Town at the Least Likely Place

When you hear “Orchestra Hall,” what comes to mind? White-haired patrons in crisply ironed tuxes? Prim-faced ushers shushing you? Well, I hate to break it to you, but you’re way off.

Since it was built in 1973, Minneapolis’s Orchestra Hall has become a beacon for music lovers and world-class musicians. And not just classical artists: pop, vocalists, blues, and jazz, too. Especially jazz.

Leading the charge into this wonderful world of sultry saxophones and towering trumpets is Irvin Mayfield, Minnesota Orchestra’s first artistic director of jazz. He’s more than qualified for the gig: Not only is he one of his generation’s leading jazz trumpet players, but he’s also a composer, author, and Grammy Award-winning musician along with his band, the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra.

Mayfield’s latest project is a declaration of love for his hometown of New Orleans. It’s a two-part deal: a book, A Love Letter to New Orleans, and a CD of the same name. Together, the two tell the intimate story of the influences that motivated Mayfield to become who he is today—a story he’s going to share this Friday at Orchestra Hall.

Helping tell his tale are CNN’s Soledad O’Brien, Mayfield’s friend and the writer of his book’s foreward, Aaron Neville on vocals, Bill Summers on percussion, and Jason Marsalis on drums. (Mayfield, of course, will be on trumpet.) That’s a whole lot of talent on one stage at one time.

If you’re not convinced that this is going to be one of the most unforgettable, soulful, so-good-it-hurts concerts Orchestra Hall has ever hosted, allow me to give you a few more reasons. And if you still don’t want to go after that, well, your loss.

1. This is one of the last concerts at the “old” Orchestra Hall. Starting this June, the hall will undergo much-needed renovations to make it an even more spectacular venue, reopening for the orchestra’s 2013-2014 season. (Until then, they’ll perform at the Minneapolis Convention Center.)

2. Minneapolis is about as far as you can get from New Orleans. So unless you’re one of the lucky ducks who’s able to jetset down to the birthplace of jazz and soak in the glory of America’s Music whenever you want, this is as close as you’re going to get.

3. World-class musicians. Here. In our city. Playing for you.

4. It’s going to be a lot of fun. Think about it: a bunch of friends (who happen to be crazy talented) jamming together in one of the world’s most acoustically perfect places for no reason other than they love what they do.

5. You’ll get to hear Mayfield’s newest tunes, which, if his past record is any indication, will likely draw the attention of the Powers That Be and make this year’s list of Grammy nominations. Why not say you heard it first?

A Love Letter to New Orleans
Friday, April 6
8 p.m.
Orchestra Hall, 1111 Nicollet Mall, Mpls., 612-371-5656