On Oct. 26, a year and a half after its last public performance, the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra (NOJO) returned to the New Orleans Jazz Market to kick off a new season—this time, without its founder and former artistic director, Irvin Mayfield.
The trumpeter resigned in July 2016 amid an ongoing scandal: Mayfield was accused of redirecting more than $1.1 million in funds from the New Orleans Public Library Foundation toward his non-profit orchestra and the $10 million venue he had built to serve as its home base. (Both Mayfield and his business partner, NOJO’s former president and CEO Ronald Markham, who also resigned from his position as director of the New Orleans Public Library Foundation board after the scandal broke, reportedly drew six-figure salaries.) After the alleged fraud was exposed, Mayfield stepped down and the orchestra ceased all activity. On Dec. 14, he was indicted by a federal grand jury on 19 counts, including conspiracy, money laundering and fraud; Markham was named as co-defendant. Until recently, it was unclear whether the band would reconvene and, if it did, whether it could overcome the shadow cast by Mayfield’s ignominious exit.