Steve Masakowski

Steve Masakowski - JazzAscona 2017

Mr. Masakowski, can you tell me how music and culture helped the city recover after Hurricane Katrina? What was your contribution to reconstruction as educator and musician?

Of course the effects of Katrina were devastating for New Orleans in every way including for the music culture. The storm forced virtually everyone to evacuate the city. The families that were in the lowest areas suffered the most due to flooding. It took many of those people, including prominent musicians, a long time to return, and some couldn’t return. Although our house was severely damaged, it was fortunately not flooded, so we were able to return to the city about month later. 

I was among a handful of jazz musicians that played the first gigs at two of the cities' important music venues Snug Harbor and the Maple Leaf. I remember driving to Snug Harbor when virtually the entire city was still dark due to power outages. It was pretty scary because we were not suppose to be driving the streets at night. But when I tuned the corner on to Frenchmen street, there was a single light that I could see which turned out to be the sign for Snug Harbor. I can say it was quite an emotional moment for me, and a testament to Snug’s owner George Brumat for having the commitment to reopen the club so soon, even though there were only a hand full of locals that could attend.

As a faculty member at the University of New Orleans, if was a considerable challenge to deal with the situation after Katrina. We scrambled to stay in connection with our students who were scattered around the country and help them get placed at schools in surrounding states. Also, Rotterdam Conservatory generously accepted and housed several our students following Katrina.

Can you briefly describe me New Orleans’ contemporary music scene?

The New Orleans contemporary music scene is very vibrant. There are many creative musicians in New Orleans doing all kinds for music including traditional, modern, avant-garde jazz, and even gypsie jazz. And, also lots of blues, funk, and art rock music. New Orleans is and always will be a mecca for all kinds of music.

What do you find in working with your daughter and your son compared to other collaborations?

Early on, I felt my roll was being more of a teacher and mentor.  But as Sasha and Martin have grown, they've both developed their own musical journeys that have taken them from jazz to producing art rock, electronic, and ethic folk music. I feel that they challenge me now and I learn a lot from them. But, our common music ground is always jazz, and we love playing together.

Am I asking too much if I inquire how you see the future of jazz in the next decade?

Well, I think if you don’t look at jazz as a “thing” but a way of “doing something”, you get a better understanding of how jazz has so many branches and styles. All of the elements and confluences that help shape and evolve the music are still very much present in New Orleans as was at the time when jazz first began. So, put together virtuosity, collective improvisation, a heightened sense of rhythm, the blues, and creative minds, and you get the ingredients for playing jazz. In the future, I see many very talented muscians building on what has been done, and evolving the music in new and inventive ways.