Two Benefits Tonight

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New Orleans is a city of dichotomy and irony.  One needs to look no further for proof than the two benefits that are scheduled for this evening.  The first, from 8-11 PM at the Howlin’ Wolf, is to raise money for the family of the 22-year old saxophonist and assistant bandleader Brandon Franklin who was tragically shot in a domestic dispute.  Several brass bands including the Dirty Dozen and Franklin’s group, the To Be Continued (TBC) Brass Band, will perform to raise money to pay for his funeral and to support his two young children.  Franklin was a promising young musician cut down because of a misunderstanding about a woman.  He was the assistant band director at O. Perry Walker High School and was being groomed by the legendary Wilbert Rawlins to eventually lead the band himself.

The second benefit is scheduled at D.B.A. to raise money to buy a new truck for Mr. Okra (pictured).  My Graveyard Jaw, King James, Guitar Lightnin’ Lee, the Happy Talk Band and the Morning 40 Federation will perform in that order beginning at 6 PM.  Mr. Okra is the last of the roving produce vendors who used to dot the city of New Orleans.  His truck broke down some months ago and most of the musicians used to purchase fruit and vegetables from him as he roamed the downtown neighborhoods calling out his selections on a loudspeaker.  In an unwitting homage to the vestiges of the old time ethnic boundaries in the city, Mr. Okra famously declared that he never crossed Canal Street.

If you’ve read this far, you are probably wondering where the irony comes in.  Mr. Okra was featured at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival since he is part of the folkways of New Orleans culture.  His truck, which was painted by the illustrious Dr. Bob (of “Be Nice of Leave” fame), was parked near the Jazz and Heritage Stage all seven days and Mr. Okra was present, with produce on display, on the second Sunday.  His truck was towed there.

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