Nan Mason is an extremely talented singer/entertainer and she has an extremely big heart to match. Fat Tuesday night at The Park West, we attended “Chicago Sings for New Orleans”, a benefit for New Orleans Musicians Clinic Emergency Fund. The proceeds will benefit the many musicians affected personally and professionally by hurricane Katrina.
I thank Nan, because I have a great appreciation for the New Orleans contribution to American music, both historically and as a place where musicians flourish. I thank Nan because this wonderful Mardi Gras evening would not have happened without her passion and hard work. Of course, anyone who has ever seen this Chicago Diva at work, (five nights a week at the Chestnut Grill) knows she is capable of both. I thank Nan because it afforded us a way to contribute to the Katrina cause and to music. Also to be thanked is everyone who helped Nan especially Eric McCool, a guy I’d always want in my corner on any project. Of course Porsche Exchange of Highland Park for underwriting everything allowing more bucks to go to the NOMC. I will definitely be buying my next Porsche from them.
The second we arrived at The Park West, the celebratory spirit of Mardi Gras was evident. Bright colors, feathers, masks and beads and gorgeous dancing ladies in little more than feathers, masks and beads is always a great touch. Uh Huh!
The line up included Chicago performers who donated their time like, Ron Hawking who did impersonations as well as his trademark Ole Blue Eyes, The Chicago Rat Pack, jazz pianist/vocalist Judy Roberts, song stylist Frieda Lee and the amazing Russ Long on piano who never ceases to amaze us with his virtuosity and versatility. Show stoppers, Lynne Jordan & The Shivers brought in the blues with a number that made you think of a down home juke joint. We loved it! Then Jordan rocked the hell out of Proud Mary.
Nan’s husband is the phenomenal horn player Terry Higgins. I mean this guy just lines up the damn horns, woods and brass, and blows his ass off. Terry blows cool, mellow, soulful, passionate, and takes you to a soaring, roaring, dazzling expansion of any horns vocabulary. I spent most of the night yelling, tear it up Terry!
The special guest, New Orleans trumpet player Kid Merv really brought the feel of New Orleans to the stage as well as the reason for the show. His Armstrongesque scatting and playing got folks out of their seats and dancin’.
Merv’s new baby was born during Katrina and they were forced to remain in the hospital until it was unsafe to stay any longer. He and his family escaped to Baton Rouge and now are living temporarily in Arizona.
At the end of the performances all the musicians jammed together while the audience danced. Yes Nan, Monica and I danced.
Nan sang Over the Rainbow and at the end of the show This Is My Life. My dear Monica has an annoying as hell habit of handing me tissue when I get emotional which is often. It’s annoying because she always knows when it’s going to happen. I love when Nan sings that song and that night she was wonderful so here come the tissue and the tears. Thanks Nan you’re the greatest.