August 21, 2009 — WTJU-FM is calling on a who's who of New Orleans music to commemorate the fourth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina's devastating visit to the Gulf Coast.
For David Eisenman, jazz and blues director of WTJU (91.1 FM) at the University of Virginia, the weeklong observance, which starts Monday, will be like one long holiday. This is the fourth time Eisenman and fellow volunteer DJs have orchestrated the bayou-flavored boogaloo.
"This is special programming to get people to remember what happened," he said. "And I'm really celebrating the music of New Orleans and what it represents in the history of jazz.
"For me, it's just like Christmas."
The week will feature 32 hours of programming, with the classic R&B of New Orleans, funk, Dixieland, modern jazz, zydeco and more. The first hour of Eisenman's show, aired Thursdays from 9 to 11 p.m., will feature a live in-studio performance by the Chicken Head Blues Band, a Charlottesville group led by guitarist Aric van Brocklin.
Van Brocklin lived in New Orleans during what he calls his "formative years," from ages 10 to 17. The Neville Brothers played his junior prom, and he went to Al Hirt's house for a birthday party once. "A lot of the music I do today, it's stuff that stays with you," he said. "It's memorable and remarkable music."
Some of WTJU's other "Big Easy" programming includes a Dixieland show at 9 a.m. Monday and Louis Armstrong at 9 a.m. on Tuesday and Friday. The entire Marsalis family – father Ellis on piano with sons Branford on tenor and soprano saxophones, Wynton on trumpet, Delfeayo on trombone and Jason on drums – will be featured on one show at 9 p.m. Tuesday. Fats Domino will be the focus on Friday at 9 p.m.
On Saturday at 4 p.m., there'll be two hours of contemporary roots rock, blues, zydeco and brass band music by artists from New Orleans and South Louisiana. Gospel is on tap for 9 a.m. Sunday, and at 9 p.m. Sunday, you can tune into some early Cajun music.
The schedule is available on the WTJU Web site.
One person who is looking forward to the festivities is Michael Gourier, who was at WWOZ in New Orleans, but fled Katrina and is now a DJ and jazz director at WRIR-
FM in Richmond.
The programming, he writes in a letter on the WTJU Web site, "is all inclusive and very thorough in its salute to a city that is so important in the origin and development of so many musical styles."
Gourier, who just returned from a music festival in New Orleans, reported that the city is continuing to rebound. "Much work remains to be done to bring the city back to its former grandeur," he said. "However; it is a slow and arduous process. There is still a vibrant music scene, although some former venues are no more."
Eisenman noted, "For the people who have left, it's hard for them to get back because there are no jobs."
A U.Va. alumnus (McIntire '75), Eisenman has been a WTJU volunteer since 1995. The Katrina programming, he said, demonstrates what WTJU is all about: musical diversity.
"I wish we did this every week, but even once a year is a great way to revisit music that doesn't get the attention it deserves," he said. "WTJU provides music you can't get anywhere else."