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The history of New Orleans in the wrenching aftermath of Hurricane Katrina can be telegraphed in one sentence. Politics failed, culture prevailed . . . .
Music is the memory of New Orleans. For all of the corruption, poverty and violence, the music is elemental, a gorgeous collective chorus to the best instincts of the human experiment. We know that The City Where Jazz Began lives on borrowed time, facing huge environmental odds in the age of climate change, a city that could be buried by one titanic flood or crippled by some long-running mayor or governor. Floods and epic storms are in our past and in our future; yet for close to three centuries the city as a human essence has prevailed. The world can be an unforgiving place, yet this maddening, charm-dripping, tragicomic town at the bottom of America registers a life force, like the Mardi Gras Indian, that won t bow down. There is abiding comfort in the words of Harold Battiste, a guiding force of the heritage jazz that came out of the little clubs in the 1950s near the Magnolia Street housing project: New Orleans, the city, has always been the focus. Musicians come and go, and their creations always seem directed at the city. Because after all is said and done, New Orleans is the star.