Irvin Mayfield

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Irvin Mayfield
Irvin Mayfield.jpg
Background information
Born (1977-12-23) December 23, 1977 (age 39)
New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S.
Genres Afro-Cuban jazz
Latin jazz
Occupation(s) Musician
Instruments Trumpet
Years active 1990s–present
Labels Basin Street
Half Note
Associated acts Los Hombres Calientes
Eric Reed
Bill Summers
Dr. Michael White
Notable instruments
B937 24-karat gold trumpet by Monette Instruments

Irvin Mayfield, Jr. (born December 23, 1977) is an American trumpeter and composer. He has 25 albums to his credit.[citation needed]


Irvin Mayfield 2.jpg

Irvin Mayfield, Jr., was born on December 23, 1977, in New Orleans, Louisiana to Irvin Mayfield, Sr., who is reported to have been drowned during Hurricane Katrina, and Joyce Alsanders Mayfield.[1] His mother was a school teacher. Mayfield, Jr. is the youngest of five brothers and has three half-brothers and one half-sister from his mother's previous marriage. Growing up, he resided in several sections of New Orleans, including the Seventh Ward. His father, a military man, was once a drill sergeant in the United States Army and also a boxer.[2]

He received his first trumpet when he was in the fourth grade, asking his father for one after seeing the success a friend of his was having with girls by playing the instrument. His father—who had played trumpet in high school—encouraged him to practice and improve as much as he could. The first song he learned to play on trumpet was "Just a Closer Walk with Thee";[citation needed] he later performed this piece at the Higher Ground Hurricane Relief Benefit Concert in 2005 and as part of a major work called "All the Saints", commissioned by Christ Church Cathedral in New Orleans as a gift to the city and commemorating the parish's bicentennial. The premiere on November 17, 2005 was hailed as the cultural re-opening of the city after Hurricane Katrina, and took place three days before Mayfield learned that his own father had died in a flood after Hurricane Katrina.

Mayfield befriended Jason Marsalis, son of jazz pianist Ellis Marsalis in public school.[2] Mayfield began his musical career in the late 1980s, playing with the Algiers Brass Band, a traditional New Orleans based street act. His early work with the band was educational for him. In the late 1990s he shared an apartment in New York City with Wynton Marsalis for a brief period. Mayfield attended the University of New Orleans but dropped out during his first semester.[2]

In 1998, Mayfield helped found Los Hombres Calientes, a New Orleans jazz group that incorporates Afro-Cuban jazz with rhythm & blues. Original members include Mayfield, Bill Summers, and Jason Marsalis. Shortly after forming, the band signed with Basin Street Records, a New Orleans-based jazz record label.[3]

His recording debut with Los Hombres Calientes was a success, and Mayfield gained national recognition as a result.[citation needed] Though the band has not released a studio album since 2005, they still play an occasional gig.[4][dead link]

He and Neufeld-Occhipinti Jazz Orchestra (NOJO) recently[when?] opened the first space built for Jazz in the city that created the music — The Peoples Health New Orleans Jazz Market.[5]

Recently[when?] Mayfield has been implicated in account records being investigated by the United States Attorney's office involving the New Orleans Library Foundation and a payment to the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra.[6][7]

Awards and honors[edit]

Mayfield was nominated to the National Council on the Arts by President George W. Bush and was subsequently appointed to the post by President Barack Obama in 2010; he served through 2014. He received The Chancellor's Award from the University of New Orleans (the highest ranking award given to a professor) in 2010 and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Dillard University in 2011. In 2002, he founded the Institute of Jazz Culture at Dillard University, having been an artist-in-residence there since 1995. The mission of the Institute is to combine several educational approaches toward jazz music, offering courses which combine music with politics and culture.[citation needed]

Affiliated with the Institute is Michael White, holder of the Keller Chair of the Humanities at nearby Xavier University (a fellow recording artist for the Basin Street Records label, also). Much of the inspiration for founding the Institute came from Mayfield's time spent living with Marsalis as Artistic Director of Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City, wondering why New Orleans did not have such a place.[8]

The most important thing I want people to understand is that coming to the concert, buying a ticket, is really participating in the rebuilding process of New Orleans. It's putting a hammer and a nail to a roof.

Irvin Mayfield.[9]

In December 2002, Mayfield founded the sixteen-piece New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, of which he still serves as artistic director, a jazz ensemble listed as a 501(c)(3) dedicated to education in the performing arts.[10] Proceeds from events related to the group help to fund organizational expenditures, and the ensemble originally worked out of the Institute of Jazz at Dillard University.

Mayfield serves as bandleader, and other members have included Evan Christopher. As of January 2006, the new home of the orchestra was at Tulane University. The orchestra also has a residency program at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) that includes educational workshops, performances and commissioned musical pieces for debut in Newark, New Jersey. Currently[when?] the orchestra is performing New Orleans: Then and Now nationwide, featuring selections from the early years of jazz in New Orleans as well as some penned by Mayfield himself. Mayfield believes strongly that supporting the orchestra helps put the musicians of New Orleans back to work.[9]

In July 2008, Mayfield received a one-year appointment as Artistic Director of Jazz at Orchestra Hall, the jazz series of the Minnesota Orchestra. In this capacity, he will oversee a five-concert jazz series and participate in education programs.[citation needed]

Strange Fruit[edit]

The cover of the album "Strange Fruit", with the Dillard University choir and his New Orleans Jazz Orchestra.

The idea for Mayfield's "Strange Fruit", a 90-minute opus based in 1920s Louisiana, came about on a visit to a photographic exhibit in Atlanta called Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America in 2002. The exhibit features photographs from the book of the same name by Hilton Als and James Allen. With him was then-president of Dillard University and Michael Lomax, who later headed the United Negro College Fund. Lomax encouraged him to develop a way to express the story through music.[11]

The piece was commissioned by Dillard University, and Mayfield took it to a number of historically black colleges and universities. The music combines jazz elements with negro spirituals and classical music. The show premiered at Dillard in 2003.[11]

The composition follows the lives of three main characters named Charles, Mary Anne and LeRoi. Charles is a 25-year-old white man from a family of bankers, just back from college and ready to start a family. LeRoi is a young black man in his early 20s from a well-to-do black family and son of a preacher, off for the summer and ready for college. Mary Anne is a young white woman courted by Charles, but who falls in love with LeRoi. When Charles discovers what has happened while he was away at college, he beats Mary Anne and reports to the sheriff that LeRoi beat and raped her. The town forms a lynch mob and the governor is set to attend. Feeling some remorse for what he had brought about, Charles confesses to the sheriff that he had beaten Mary Anne and that she never had been raped. The sheriff, unwilling to cancel due to the visit of the governor, allowed the lynching to proceed anyway.[11]

Hurricane Katrina[edit]

In 2005 he joined Wynton Marsalis and a host of other musicians at the Higher Ground Hurricane Relief Benefit Concert in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The New York Times jazz critic Jon Pareles wrote in an article on the event, "The concert's most touching moment was a performance by the New Orleans trumpeter Irvin Mayfield. His father, he said, is still among the missing. He played 'Just a Closer Walk with Thee', the hymn that becomes both dirge and celebration at New Orleans funerals".[12]


Jazz festivals Mayfield has performed at:

Cultural ambassador[edit]

The only thing that could make New Orleans more so of a cultural Mecca, is if the constitution was written there. But the music, the constitution of the music, was created... that's where jazz was born. Jazz is the music of America, and really jazz is the manifestation of democracy in the music.

Irvin Mayfield
NPR Morning Edition (September 2, 2005)

Mayfield was appointed Cultural Ambassador of the City of New Orleans by state and local governments in September 2003.[citation needed]

The Peoples Health New Orleans Jazz Market[edit]

"NOJO's first building project, The Peoples Health New Orleans Jazz Market is a performing arts venue and Jazz community center in Central City New Orleans. The Jazz Market features music education experiences for all ages, a New Orleans Jazz Archive, tributes to current and past Jazz Masters, and performances by Irvin Mayfield, NOJO and other renowned musicians."[14]


Irvin Mayfield albums[edit]

Year Album Notes Label
1998 Irvin Mayfield debut as leader Basin Street
1999 Live at the Blue Note Irvin Mayfield Sextet Half Note
2001 How Passion Falls - Basin Street
2003 Half Past Autumn Suite Tribute to Gordon Parks Basin Street
2005 Strange Fruit Irvin Mayfield & The Orleans Jazz Orchestra from the original 2003 performance. Basin Street

Los Hombres Calientes[edit]

Year Album Notes Label
1998-06-30 "Los Hombres Calientes, Vol. 1"
group debut
Basin Street
1999-11-09 "Los Hombres Calientes, Vol. 2"
Basin Street
2001-04-17 "Los Hombres Calientes, Vol. 3: New Congo Square"
Basin Street
2003-03-25 "Los Hombres Calientes, Vol. 4: Vodou Dance"
Basin Street
2005-03-15 "Los Hombres Calientes, Vol. 5: Carnival"
Basin Street


  • 2000 - Billboard Contemporary Latin Jazz Album of the Year for the debut album Los Hombres Calientes.
  • 2003 - Made a Cultural Ambassador of The City of New Orleans by the U.S. Government[citation needed]
  • 2009 - Grammy Award for New Orleans Jazz Orchestra C.D. Book One (Mayfield's original compositions)
  • 2010 - Chancellor's Award, University of New Orleans
  • 2011 - Doctor of Humane Letters (doctorate diploma) Dillard University
  • 2013 - Legends Award from the Faulkner Society[clarification needed] (for major collaboration with writer Ernest Gaines)
  • 2014 - Gordon Parks Award


  1. ^ Yanow, Scott (2001). Trumpet Kings: The Players Who Shaped the Sound of Jazz Trumpet. Backbeat Books. p. 250. ISBN 0-87930-608-4. 
  2. ^ a b c Berry, Jason. "Irvin Mayfield Interview". Retrieved 2007-05-27. 
  3. ^ Yanow, Scott (2000). Afro-Cuban Jazz. Backbeat Books. p. 65. ISBN 0-87930-619-X. 
  4. ^ "Hombres featured at last 'Jazz Notables' concert". Archived from the original on 2007-09-28. Retrieved 2007-05-27. 
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-07-11. Retrieved 2015-08-05. 
  6. ^ David Hammer (2016-06-22). "Irvin Mayfield charged $18K hotel stay to library donors, records say; foundation demands repayment". Retrieved 2016-12-10. 
  7. ^ "Irvin Mayfield charged $18K hotel stay to library donors, foundation demands repayment". 2016-06-22. Retrieved 2016-12-10. 
  8. ^ Hamilton, Kendra (2003). "Dillard university and all that jazz: New Orleans-based HBCU seeks to set itself apart with creation of new jazz institute, orchestra". Black Issues in Higher Education. Retrieved 2007-05-27. 
  9. ^ a b "New Orleans:Then and Now" (PDF). Archived from the original on 2012-12-09. Retrieved 2007-06-20. 
  10. ^ a b "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-06-08. Retrieved 2007-05-28. 
  11. ^ a b c Smiley, Tavis. "Irvin Mayfield's 'Strange Fruit' Opus". Retrieved 2007-05-28. 
  12. ^ Pareles, Jon. "Marsalis Leads a Charge for the Cradle of Jazz". The New York Times. Retrieved 2005-05-27. 
  13. ^ "President Bush Celebrates Black Music Month". 2006-06-26. Retrieved 2016-12-10. 
  14. ^ "Take a Tour @ New Orleans Jazz Market". Retrieved 2016-12-10. 

External links[edit]