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Miles Davis’ snakeskin jacket to be auctioned

Jazz Foundation of America holding auction to help New Orleans musicians
/ Source: The Associated Press

More than two months after Hurricane Katrina, all 21-year-old trumpeter Terrell Batiste has is a temporary home, a donated horn and a chance to eke out a living by playing New Orleans music in other parts of America.

On Wednesday, the Jazz Foundation of America is holding an auction to help Batiste and hundreds of other hurricane-displaced musicians with food, clothes, housing and jobs.

Among those playing at the fund-raiser will be 95-year-old tenor saxophonist Max Lucas, who once performed with Louis Armstrong, and 91-year-old alto saxophonist Fred Staton, who played with Art Blakey, Count Basie and Billy Strayhorn.

On the auction block are more than 50 jazz treasures including Miles Davis’ boa constrictor snakeskin jacket and the Boesendorfer grand piano from Manhattan’s Blue Note club. Auction items also include guitar lessons from Bucky Pizzarelli, sax tutoring from Joe Lovano, and a 1961 New York Times photo that shows Armstrong playing for his wife in front of the pyramids in Giza, Egypt. Roberta Flack is offering a vocal coaching session, and Billy Taylor a jazz piano lesson.

The presale estimates range from $200 for the Times photo to $65,000 for the Blue Note piano.

An online component of the fund-raiser offers the chance to record a track with the bass player and drummer for Jimi Hendrix’s original Band of Gypsies.

Members of the Hot 8 Brass Band — Batiste, who lives in a Red Cross-sponsored apartment in Atlanta, and nine other young men whose edgy new jazz was at the heart of pre-Katrina New Orleans — were flown in for the evening at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill at Times Square.

The New York-based foundation, which fields up to 20 requests a day for help, already has delivered more than $120,000 worth of new instruments. More than 100 musicians have been relocated into new homes or helped with mortgages on destroyed homes.

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With money from the band Pearl Jam and other donors, the foundation will pay 126 New Orleans evacuees to perform in the next six months for schoolchildren in Louisiana, Texas, Georgia, Illinois and New York.

“People are hearing a lot more of what was just in the streets of New Orleans,” said Hot 8’s manager, Lee Arnold. “It’s a good opportunity both for the country and the musicians.”

The foundation was created in 1989 by Taylor and businessman Herb Storfer to help elderly jazz musicians.

Young and old, the New Orleans musicians are rooted in America’s homegrown soundtrack, said Wendy Oxenhorn, the Jazz Foundation’s executive director.

“This music was born out of the atrocities of slavery, when families were tortured and separated,” she said. “They became these magnificent, strong, powerful people who ended up giving back a gift to the world that has gotten all of us through life. The musicians will survive.”