Now that’s commitment …

New Orleans” cultural luminaries have stepped up in the wake of the post-Katrina levee failures to help preserve the heritage of a city where heritage matters most.

Harry Connick Jr. and Branford Marsalis have spearheaded the Musicians” Village Habitat project; Wynton Marsalis gave the city “Congo Square”; honorary New Orleanian Harry Anderson has turned his French Quarter club into a political Speakeasy and a bunch of local celebrities joined the Come fall in love with Louisiana all over again campaign.

And with Jazzfest kicking off today, the musicians of New Orleans have the chance to really make the city shine. Dr. John will be there, of course. As will Allen Toussaint, The Meters, Irma Thomas and of course The Radiators. Fats Domino turned down a 2005 slot but will close the festival this year – eight months after he was rescued from his flooded 9th Ward home.

But noticeably absent this year are the Neville Brothers. Why?

And because Aaron Neville fears that post-Katrina air may aggravate his asthma, the Neville Brothers opted to skip Jazzfest entirely.

That”s right. Aaron Neville – who posed as someone who cares about the city by recording “Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans” after Katrina – can”t be bothered to play the city”s most important Jazzfest because he”s worried about his asthma.

I”ve never liked Aaron Neville or the Neville Brothers, but it would have been nice if they played next Sunday – since I”ll be there and they”d pull some of the crowd away from whatever stage I”d be at. But if there was ever a family, an act or a person that has built a career solely on being from New Orleans, it”s the Nevilles and specifically the amazingly thick Aaron. For him to bail on Jazzfest because of his lame asthma excuse is an insult to the city.

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