From NYC to NOLA: the story behind "The Christmas Sessions"

Many of you know the story by now - but it's worth (re)telling. 

In late August of 2005, Hurricane Katrina dropped an unimaginable amount of rain onto the Mississippi River delta. The levies gave way. New Orleans flooded. The waters rose with no where to go - turning the Crescent City into a wide, shallow lake. The city was devastated. I sat on my sofa in NYC - helplessly watching the heart-breaking footage on the evening news.

I've long had a love-affair with New Orleans - much of it directly tied to my love of music. I started attending JazzFest in the early 90s. While I always loved seeing the big-name acts on the main stages - something special regularly happened to me when I encountered (often accidentally) the music coming from the smaller stages. Cajun and Zydeco at the Fais Do-Do Stage. . .vocal quartets from the eastern Carolinas and 40-member strong choirs from Chicago's south-side at the Gospel Tent. . .New Orleans trad-jazz and dixieland royalty at the Economy Hall tent.

It washed over me (and still does to this day). . .the music I love. . .the music at our collective American roots. . .the music that moves us to fits of joy. . .that music that moves us to tears. . .the music that often does both within the same song. It's the through-line that extends over decades. . .over centuries. . .those that came before. . .this unique place at an unusual time in human history. African, caribbean, latin-american, european. . .they all converged here. New Orleans is America. All of of its beauty. All of its failures. Its sins. Its salvation. And from that - from that place. . .everything we hear today. . .the music. . .every beat, style, melody. . .born on the banks of the bayou.

As I watched the news - frustrated by the people's desperation and the apparent lack of action by our elected officials, I decided to not sit idly and settle for a feeling of helplessness. It was time to act. I reached out to my NYC-based musician friends and we quickly recorded, mixed, mastered and printed a small number of CDs - knows as "Xmas '05". All the revenue generated from CD sales and downloads went to Habitat for Humanity - New Orleans and The Edge's (U2) Music Rising.

The entire experience was fantastic. The can-do spirit of all the talented musician - who all gave selflessly of their time and talents. . .the by-the-seat-of-our-pants process (this was a crazy-tight timeline to get an entire album from concept to completion). . .the wonderful people that mentored us along the way. We quickly sold out of CDs and we did good for the people of New Orleans and those that serve them.  

New Orleans and the gulf coast was still reeling well into 2006. That was readily apparent at that year's JazzFest. Everywhere I went in the city that weekend, countless locals - musicians and otherwise - were reuniting with family & friends all around me. On every street corner, restaurant, bar, street-car and park-bench I heard the same conversations. "Oh my goodness - I didn't know if you were alive or dead!". . ."How are Bob and Carol - did they make it?". . ."Oh no! I'm so sorry to hear about your momma.". . ."Are your cousins still over in Houston?" And at the JazzFest itself, music about trials, tribulations, mourning and resilience - they all took on an entire added level of poignancy. Many hugs were exchanged that JazzFest weekend. . .many smiles were shared. . .many tears were shed. I left knowing I had to do my part again - bigger and better. 

Back to NYC, with more time to prep and plan. Many of the same musicians - some that were new. We had more time to record & mix. And we did a bigger press-run this time. The results. . . ."The Christmas Sessions from NYC". 

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This time we put on a benefit concert to raise additional funds and to promote the CD, Again - it was of the charts. Even more folks joined in, we generated even greater revenue then the year before and we had some great mentors help us through the entire process. (J. Chris Griffin and his wife Janet being a couple of the biggies). It was a great success. I couldn't have been more proud of what we achieved.

More than a decade on, we see a sales bump every December from the two album (mainly - of course - from digital downloads and streams). . . .and that is fantastic. To this day, every dime from sales goes to Habitat and Music Rising (who continue to do good work - most recently in Houston and Puerto Rico).

If you'd like to purchase either "Xmas '05" or "The Christmas Sessions from NYC", you can get them both on iTunes (search "Glen Muñoz"). Every penny that comes to me will go straight on to Habitat and MR. Or - you can simply contribute to the directly. 

Either way - thanks for reading about the journey, thanks for your support and have a very merry Christmas. 

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