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 Jazz, Afro-Cuban jazz, Latin jazz
Occupation(s) Musician, composer, educator
Instruments Trumpet
Years active 1990s–present
Labels Basin Street, Half Note
Associated acts Los Hombres Calientes, Eric Reed, Bill Summers, Michael White

Irvin Mayfield, Jr. (born December 23, 1977) is an American trumpeter who leads the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra.


Irvin Mayfield, Jr., was born on December 23, 1977, in New Orleans, Louisiana to Joyce Alsanders Mayfield, a teacher, and Irvin Mayfield, Sr., who is reported to have drowned during Hurricane Katrina.[1] His father was a drill sergeant and boxer in the U.S. Army. Mayfield has four older brothers, 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. [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 played trumpet in high school, encouraged him to practice. The first song he learned was "Just a Closer Walk with Thee".[citation needed] Mayfield befriended Jason Marsalis, son of jazz pianist Ellis Marsalis in public school.[2]

Music career[edit]

Irvin Mayfield 2.jpg

He began his musical career in the late 1980s with the Algiers Brass Band, a traditional New Orleans based street act. In the late 1990s he shared an apartment in New York City with Wynton Marsalis. He 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 record label in New Orleans.[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]

In December 2002, Mayfield founded the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra a sixteen-piece jazz ensemble listed as a 501(c)(3) dedicated to education in the performing arts.[5] 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.[6]

Mayfield has performed at the Atlanta Jazz Festival, Clifford Brown Jazz Festival, Newport Jazz Festival, French Quarter Festival, New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, and Mardi Gras.[5]

On June 26, 2006, in commemoration of Black Music Month, Mayfield performed at the White House in Washington, D.C. with fellow musician Ronald Markham.[7]

Strange Fruit[edit]

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.[8] 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.[8]

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.[8]

Hurricane Katrina benefit concert[edit]

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.[6]

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".[9]

In 2005, he performed "Just a Closer Walk with Thee" at the Higher Ground Hurricane Relief Benefit Concert 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 father had died in a flood after the hurricane.

Other work[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]

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.[10]

Mayfield was nominated to the National Council on the Arts by President George W. Bush and was appointed to the post by President Barack Obama in 2010; he served through 2014.

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]

He and Neufeld-Occhipinti Jazz Orchestra (NOJO) recently[when?] opened The People's Health New Orleans Jazz Market.[11]

"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."[12]


Mayfield was implicated in account records investigated by the United States Attorney's office involving the New Orleans Library Foundation and a payment to the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra.[13][14]

Awards and honors[edit]

  • Grammy Award for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album, Book One, New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, 2009
  • Contemporary Latin Jazz Album of the Year, Los Hombres Calientes, Billboard, 2000
  • Appointed Cultural Ambassador of the City of New Orleans[15]
  • Chancellor's Award, University of New Orleans, 2010
  • Doctor of Humane Letters, Dillard University, 2011
  • Gordon Parks Award, 2014


As leader[edit]

  • Irvin Mayfield (Basin Street, 1998)
  • Live at the Blue Note with Jaz Sawyer (Half Note, 1999)
  • How Passion Falls (Basin Street, 2001)
  • Half Past Autumn Suite (Basin Street, 2003)
  • Strange Fruit with the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra (Basin Street, 2005)
  • Love Songs, Ballads, and Standards with Ellis Marsalis (Basin Street, 2008)
  • Book One, with the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra (2009)
  • A Love Letter to New Orleans (Basin Street, 2011)
  • A New Orleans Creole Christmas (Basin Street, 2014)
  • Dee Dee's Feathers with Dee Dee Bridgewater, New Orleans Jazz Orchestra (Okeh, 2015)[16]

With Bill Summers

  • 1998 Los Hombres Calientes, Vol. 1
  • 1999 Los Hombres Calientes, Vol. 2
  • 2001 Los Hombres Calientes, Vol. 3: New Congo Square
  • 2003 Los Hombres Calientes, Vol. 4: Vodou Dance
  • 2005 Los Hombres Calientes, Vol. 5: Carnival

As sideman/guest[edit]


  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". Archived from the original on 2007-05-03. 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. ^ a b "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-06-08. Retrieved 2007-05-28. 
  6. ^ a b "New Orleans:Then and Now" (PDF). Archived from the original on 2012-12-09. Retrieved 2007-06-20. 
  7. ^ "President Bush Celebrates Black Music Month". 2006-06-26. Retrieved 2016-12-10. 
  8. ^ a b c Smiley, Tavis. "Irvin Mayfield's 'Strange Fruit' Opus". Retrieved 2007-05-28. 
  9. ^ Pareles, Jon. "Marsalis Leads a Charge for the Cradle of Jazz". The New York Times. Retrieved 2005-05-27. 
  10. ^ 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. 
  11. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-07-11. Retrieved 2015-08-05. 
  12. ^ "Take a Tour @ New Orleans Jazz Market". Retrieved 2016-12-10. 
  13. ^ David Hammer (2016-06-22). "Irvin Mayfield charged $18K hotel stay to library donors, records say; foundation demands repayment". Retrieved 2016-12-10. 
  14. ^ "Irvin Mayfield charged $18K hotel stay to library donors, foundation demands repayment". 2016-06-22. Retrieved 2016-12-10. 
  15. ^ "Mayfield named cultural ambassador". UPI. 10 November 2003. Retrieved 24 July 2017. 
  16. ^ "Irvin Mayfield | Album Discography". AllMusic. Retrieved 28 February 2017. 
  17. ^ "Irvin Mayfield | Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved 28 February 2017. 

External links[edit]