Weekend Guide: Hurricane Katrina Survivor and Jazz Musician Warren Battiste Returns to the Puffin
Also, Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes at Mexicali
Following a sold-out performance in February, jazz guitarist Warren Battiste returns to the Puffin Cultural Forum Saturday night to perform selections from “The Great American Songbook.”
Battiste, who was born in New Orleans in 1925, learned how to play the guitar from his father, who was a talented banjo player. Battiste has been playing the guitar for more than 75 years and has performed with legendary jazz artists such as Dizzy Gillespie, Barry Harris, Jimmy McGriff, Charlie Parker and Sarah Vaughn.
Joining him on the stage area at the Puffin will be Rave Tesar on piano, Ron Naspo on bass, Danny Johnson on drums and vocalist Ellen LaFurn.
In 2005, Battiste had to be rescued from his third-floor balcony after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast. He said the morning after the hurricane, the sun was shining and it looked like things would be OK, until the levees broke and water flooded the entire area where he lived.
“I got on one of the boats, and as we were heading to higher levels of land, I saw dead people floating on their stomachs; I saw cats, dogs, snakes – this was a sight,” he said. “I had to leave everything; I lost everything.”
Rescued residents, including Battiste, were dropped off at a highway overpass where they waited for two days until busses would arrive and shuttle them to Houston.
“It was 110 degrees outside,” Battiste said as he described the conditions on the overpass. “I had a little food, potato chips, tuna fish, a gallon of water – I was afraid to eat it because people were so angry and some were begging for cigarettes. Two guys got into a fight over cigarettes, and some people got shot. The anxiety was so high. There were no bathroom facilities. There were hundreds and hundreds of people there. I wanted to eat food, but people were so ruthless; I would’ve gotten killed if they knew I had food. I gave my food and water away because I knew there was going to be problems for me. I gave it to some people who needed it, and I just walked away. I was hungry and thirsty myself, but I didn’t want any confrontations.”
Once in Houston, arrangements were made for him to fly to New Jersey to stay with his daughter in Teaneck. He lived with his daughter briefly before moving to an apartment in Dumont.
He said it’s been difficult finding work as a musician, but he travels into New York City frequently to jam with other musicians “to keep active.” He also travels to New Orleans at least once a year to visit family and friends. Battiste said he’s grateful for gigs like the one at the Puffin, especially because he can share what happened to him during Katrina through his music.
“This experience has helped me to project my experience into the music,” Battiste said. “I’ve been told the audience feels that.”
Warren Battiste and his quartet will perform at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Puffin Cultural Forum. There’s a $10 suggested donation. The Puffin has stated that the concert is currently sold out, but there is a chance to get seats if visitors arrive at 7:30 p.m. and sign up to be on a waiting list. Seats may be made available to those on the list after 7:45 p.m.
Other events this weekend:
FRIDAY, OCT. 7:
- The Bell Bottom Blues (Eric Clapton tribute band) and Sean Faust’s Mostly Pink Floyd hit the stage at Mexicali Live at 6 p.m. Tickets can be purchased here.
- Cup of Culture will host a presentation titled “Who Was Roy Cochran Wilhelm?” that will discuss the history of The Evergreen Cabin at 7 p.m. at 126 Evergreen Place. The event is free and open to all.
SATURDAY, OCT. 8:
- Teaneck High School’s Boys’ Cross County and Girls’ Varsity Cross Country will be in action through the day. For details, click here.
- Saturday Storytime at the Library begins at 11 a.m. at the Teaneck Public Library. Recommended for ages 3 and older.
- Guitarist Warren Battiste and a quartet of musicians will perform jazz music at the Puffin Cultural Forum at 8 p.m. There’s a $10 suggested donation, and reservations are recommended. The event is sold out, but visitors can sign a waiting list at 7:30 p.m. for a chance to get any unclaimed seats prior to the start of the concert.
- Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes and Reflections will play at Mexicali Live at 9 p.m. Doors open at 6 p.m., and tickets can be purchased here.
SUNDAY, OCT. 9: