The Minnesota Orchestra chose the Dakota Jazz Club rather than its own hall to introduce its first director of jazz on Monday.
Maybe that's because artistic director Osmo Vänskä got hooked on the power of jazz when he played his clarinet at the Dakota. Or maybe it's because the new jazz director, New Orleans trumpeter Irvin Mayfield, performed at the Dakota long before he played Orchestra Hall.
"I think there's a huge opportunity right now in a field where there's not a lot of leadership," Mayfield, 30, said Monday. "This is something that the entire country can benefit from, especially the entire jazz industry."
Vänskä recalled that when he was in Finland, he felt it was important for his orchestra to play Finnish music. Similarly, "American orchestras need to support American music," he said of the Minnesota Orchestra's heightened commitment to jazz.
Mayfield's charge for his one-year appointment will be to oversee a five-concert jazz series and participate in education programs. His plans include reaching out to the local music community and collaborating with the clarinet-playing conductor.
"This is his house and he's the daddy," Mayfield said. "We've had very interesting conversations about perhaps [how] we can be the first institution that really has European classical music and American jazz music function together."
Mayfield also knows his way around politics. In addition to leading the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra and fronting the combo Los Hombres Calientes, he sits on many boards, including the New Orleans Public Library and the Police and Justice Foundation. He also is spokesperson for UNITY of Greater New Orleans and the congressionally appointed Cultural Ambassador for the City of New Orleans. In addition, he has recorded 13 albums in the past 10 years.