Irvin Mayfield: Keeping Dad Close While Moving On
JOHN YDSTIE, host:
In the chaos following Hurricane Katrina, more than 5,000 people were reported missing, including a 65-year-old postal worker name Irvin Mayfield, Sr. His family searched for three months before they found him in a morgue miles away. Mr. Mayfield's son, trumpet player Irvin Mayfield, Jr., is director of the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra
Reporters Heather Smith and Samantha Grant spoke with him. And on this Father's Day weekend they bring us a story about holding on and letting go.
Mr. IRVIN MAYFIELD, JR. (Director, New Orleans Jazz Orchestra): My dad, he had a very good sense of humor. He was a true New Orleanean. You know, he loved red beans. He loved to eat. And he loved music.
(Soundbite of jazz music)
Mr. MAYFIELD: We had an ongoing chess game. And I like to say that the last game we played, he tried to cheat me, because I was winning.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. MAYFIELD: Yeah, we had an ongoing chess game. Yeah.
(Soundbite of jazz music)
Mr. MAYFIELD: The storm came. It passed. My mother talked to him on the phone and said everything is fine, the storm is cool, roof still is on the house, see you when you get back. Two hours later, the levees broke. And obviously there was no more communications; we didn't have a cell phone.
Until he was identified at the morgue, which is in Saint Gabriel, every night we dedicated this song to him just to remind people that, you know, hey, it's not like we're just out here playing music. People are dealing with real issues and tragedies. The song is called Just A Closer Walk To Thee, which the first song that he ever taught me how to play. It goes...
(Singing) Dah, dee, dee, do, dee, dee, dee. Dee, dee, dee, do, dee, dee, dee, dee. Dee, dee, dee, dee, dee, dee, dee, dee, dee, dee, dee, dee.
(Soundbite of trumpet)
Mr. MAYFIELD: We did a service with the governor and the mayor and the lieutenant governor at the SuperDome. And, you know, they asked me to play the song. And I said, at this point, I just wouldn't play it. I did want to memorialize him, but I felt that people only want to get caught up in the story of, okay, here was a guy, he died, look how painful this is. A famous son, he's going to play this song. Oh my God, it's painful. I mean, you know, he's my dad, you know.
When you celebrate, it's something that happens as a group. But when you mourn, sorrow is something that you handle as an individual. That's partially what jazz teaches us about. I mean, jazz deals with the fact that you're required to be an individual and a group at the same time.