Big Easy to benefit from Rialto collabo

By Susan Bonicillo
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, November 10, 2005

You always allow a degree of eccentricity when talking to an artist, but when I was going to leave a voice message for Nick Luca, of the Tucson band the Nick Luca Trio, I wasn't expecting to hear an original piano composition.

Described by Luca as odd noodlings on a keyboard, it sounded like someone opened up a jewelry box with one of those slowly revolving ballerinas on the other end of the line.

Yet, he was serious as an accountant when he talked about the upcoming Hurricane Katrina Benefit concert that he and Craig Schumacher, owner and operator of WaveLab Recording Studio, organized.

"It was Craig's idea to throw this benefit concert," Luca said. "One of the big reasons is that we're really close to New Orleans as we host a conference for fellow engineers, music producers from around the country, and we've done it in New Orleans two years in a row."

The conference to which Luca referred is the TapeOpCon Conference, an annual meeting that brings in music industry insiders for discussions on better recording techniques and for a spot of fun.

"A lot of these guys are old-school, stuffy guys, and then we go to Bourbon Street, and then they have to stumble home to their hotel. It was great," Luca said.

Luca and Schumacher's connections to New Orleans run deep, and the two-day benefit concert starting Saturday at the Rialto Theatre hopes to alleviate some of the rebuilding costs for residents. All donations will be directed to Habitat for Humanity. They will also be collecting food donations (particularly those of the non-perishable variety) for Tucson Community Food Bank, since reserves have been depleted in assistance to the Gulf Coast region.

Credited as the birthplace of jazz, New Orleans continues to be a haven for musicians, according to Luca, who cited the city's support of the arts as well as the festive environment that surrounds the city even during the off-season for tourists.

"We know a lot of bands, studio owners, hotel owners, theatre owners, a lot of people and friends of ours have been directly affected," Luca said. "We had to do something here to raise some money and all the bands are volunteering their time and Rialto is giving a super rate. The community has really stepped up."

All nine bands performing for this event have contributed their services free of charge.

"It's one of the most diverse places in America - it's had more flags of more countries than any other place in country. It's a genuine melting pot," Luca said.

With English, Spanish, French and Creole spoken in the city and a vibrant black community, New Orleans is one city that has resisted homogenization, Luca said.

"You get the sense that it's a very tough city and a utopian city. It's one of the last places in America that has a mystique," Luca said.

Even though he has made 10 visits to the Big Easy, Luca still said that there are things he still looks forward to seeing, which is why the rebuilding of New Orleans is a cause that is near and dear to his heart.

"They have beautiful, great old buildings filled with special people and this amazing food and there is so much to see. I just hope they can rebuild and don't turn things into stripmalls," he said.

Of course, after talking with some of the natives there, Luca could tell that they knew a hurricane would come but that it added to the excitement and the thrill of living there.

For Luca, the complaint that New Orleans residents shouldn't have been living there in the first place due to their precarious position doesn't agree with him.

"A thing that bugs me is that people here in Arizona blame those in the Gulf Coast for their situation because they chose to live there and it's like you live in Arizona. Take away electricity and water one week in summer and everyone's dead," Luca said. "We're way stupider than them and that argument doesn't float there with me."

If you want to forestall the building of generic strip malls in one of the last bastions of culture in America, then go to the two-day Hurricane Benefit Concert Saturday and Sunday. Saturday night the bands Luca, Sunday Afternoon, Chango Malo and Hailey Jane are playing. Sunday night features the Four Killer Flats, Neko Case, Rum Tenor, The Determined Luddites and Paul Wild. Doors open at 6 p.m. and the show starts at 7 p.m. Tickets are $11 for both nights, or $7 per night and $9 at the door.