Hannibal Lokumbe is a force of nature. Anyone who has ever worked with him, talked with him, played music with him knows that. A Texas-based jazz trumpeter and composer who has performed with the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra as well as orchestras and jazz groups across the country has returned to New Orleans for a special world premiere of his latest composition.
On Saturday, August 24 at 7 p.m., Water Too High Bones Too Low will be performed at Trinity Episcopal Church, (1329 Jackson Avenue ) in a one-night only free public performance. Joining Hannibal will be vocalist Valerie Francis, the Voices of Purpose Choir, and the Music Liberation Orchestra, a group founded by Hannibal.
Others performer are Adonis Rose (drums), James Polk (piano) David Pulphus (bass) and Trinity Church’s music minister, Albinas Prizgintas (organ). Ayo Scott, son of the late New Orleans artist, John Scott, will narrate, and the performance will be conducted by composer and former director of the Contemporary Arts Center, Jay Weigel.
The performance is dedicated to the life of Ashley Qualls, the 25-year-old social worker who was shot to death on July 9, 2013 at the corner of Esplanade Avenue and N. Roman Street. While Hannibal never met Ashley, he says he knows her.
“I know her in the same way I know Ann Frank,” he says. “In the same way I know Fannie Lou Hamer. She was someone who lived her life for other people; that makes her my relative. It gives me strength to have the privilege to dedicate this piece to her.”
Water Too High Bones Too Low is a work in four veils. “I write now in veils not movements,” Hannibal explains. “Because once a veil has been lifted from your consciousness, you are never the same.”
The first veil is about the power of Katrina; the second, Letter to my Brother with Love is based on a painting given to Hannibal by the late artist John Scott; the third, Song of Peace, is a plea for the cessation of killings; and the last is called Give Thanks.
Interspersed with the music will be the spoken word poetry of George Tobias, a recently released prisoner. The camaraderie shared in the Orleans Parish Prison pre-release program, Tobias says, affirmed for him that, even though life in many ways reflects the chaos of a storm, everyone has the ability to change.
In the eye of the storm I’m told it’s peaceful,
while everything around it is in total chaos.
Today we are caught up in this storm we call life
Destruction seems to be the one constant thing
In the lives of our children
How do we ease the pain and break through the mind of a kid
Who’s faced with grown up problems every day
– George Tobias