In Tom Hanson's own words...
I began writing New Life Suite as a MIDI project in 2009 to make a powerpoint presentation to look back on an odyssey which began on my 60th birthday: August 29, 2005 ....... also the day hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. On that day I was busy in Hollywood, Ca., playing my trombone and copying music as I had been doing routinely for over 20 years. I had also been emailing and talking on the phone with a new E-Harmony friend, “Joyce”, who was living in New Orleans. I later found out that Joyce evacuated her home of 30 years in Gentilly about 12 hours before the levees broke and the house took 12 feet of water. She was scheduled for a shoulder cuff operation in New Orleans on September 2nd, but instead, with only one arm, packed a few items in the car, and left with the dog to get out of town. After a couple of days, when it became clear she could not return to her home, she ended up at a friend's home in Titusville, Florida, where she had to find a new doctor and set up a new operation on her shoulder, which took place in November of '05. In December of '05 Joyce flew to visit me in California so we could finally meet for the first time. I left California in January of 2006 to join her in search of a “New Life” for both of us, .............. and the Odyssey began.
New Life Suite is a personal entry into my own diary and is written for Joyce. It is a story about Joyce and Tom, Hurricane Katrina, the House in Gentilly, and New Orleans itself. New Life Suite also made a transition from MIDI Composition to become a Trombone Quartet through my involvement with the Low Brass Collective when I moved to the St Louis area. Thanks to Gerry Pagano, Tim Myers, Jonathan Reycraft, and Vanessa Fralick for all the hard work to give my writing a voice.
1st Movement – “Quartal Jig” - is about Tom and Joyce meeting and becoming two refugees roaming the country. We began at Skippy’s in Titusville, Florida, driving back and forth to New Orleans to view the damage for the first time. With no real place to live, we crossed the country a couple of times visiting California, Seattle, St. Louis, Las Vegas, all while “sort of officially living in Titusville, Florida” and staying on top of official business in New Orleans. In late 2006 we got our own FEMA trailer (24 ft) which was placed in the front yard of the devastated Gentilly house, and became our home for 2 years while gutting the ruined house with the intention of rebuilding. We eventually bought a house in Fairview Heights, Illinois, sold the Gentilly house, and rejoined the real world.
2nd Movement – “Serenade for Joyce” – Losing her house, neighborhood, city, and job was difficult. This movement is dedicated to all Hurricane Katrina losses suffered by the house in Gentilly, New Orleans, the whole gulf coast, and all the emotional cost of losing valued household possessions and a way of life.
3rd Movement – “New Orleans Landscape / French Quarter Visit” – Is more about present day New Orleans, which is recovering rather well in its quest for New Life. The opening bars express how I felt driving into New Orleans for the first time, arriving on I-10 from the east and getting a first short glimpse of the entire city from the top of the high bridge. One beautiful view.
The remainder of the movement, “French Quarter Visit” is a cluster of simultaneous traditional tunes simulating a walk down Bourbon Street where you might hear five bands at once, or any New Orleans experience you might have during Mardi Gras at a parade. The selection of tunes you may hear is very eclectic. You can hear rhythm and blues, rock and roll, Dixieland, French folk music, frontline music, and hard core be-bop. The environment is very prolific, too busy, untidy, harmonically loose, funky, and Very Creative. The influences of Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, Diz & Bird, and many others can be felt and heard daily. New Orleans is truly one of America's deepest creative musical roots. As a reflection of my own experiences in the last few years, after the rumble and intensity of New Orleans, the movement ends with St. Louis Blues as if I were to drive up I-55 and find a calmer more peaceful space at my St. Louis home in Fairview Heights, Illinois.