Last week while watching the Hope for Haiti 2010 telethon, I happened to catch one of my favorite performers Sting with a smokin’ band behind him that included the Roots. During the instrumental riff, Sting and a guitar player from the band had this fierce thing going. Something familiar caught my ear. And low and behold the guitar player was Mark Whitfield. The last memory I have of Mark Whitfield was a dinner I hosted for a jazz group led by writer James McBride author of The Color of Water, Miracle at St. Ana, and Song Yet Sung. [Note: James McBride’s mother, Ruth McBride Jordan, the inspiration for his highly acclaimed memoir, The Color of Water, passed away this month.]

Just before their set at the old DC Space (now occupied by a Starbucks at 7th & E), the band members were rehearsing on my piano, ironing clothes, shooting the breeze on not so serious topics, and Mark was in the kitchen window practicing without an amp. Can’t disturb the neighbors too much. Mark credited George Benson as an influence on his own style. Not long after that pre-gig dinner, I heard Mark and his wife moved back to her home state Louisiana. This was waaay before Katrina.

I had to call another friend who knows Mark Whitfield from back in the day. We all lost touch, but Mark has a website, and according to his bio he’s teaching part time at the Berklee College of Music in Boston (a prestigious music school for contemporary music including jazz – lots of jazz guys go there). One thing I always liked about Mark’s playing was it didn’t have the “Berklee Sound” of the time. I always thought everyone aimed to sound like Weather Report.

But what a treat to see people pop up and make the music good again.

Hope for Haiti Now! reports that they’ve raised more than $57 million for emergency relief to people in Haiti following their most devastating earthquake ever. The benefit concert was organized by actor/director George Clooney in partnership with MTV Networks and broadcast on nearly all major television outlets. For more information, visit the Hope for Haiti Now website. Donations will be accepted through June and donations to Haiti relief programs are tax deductible for 2009 per legislation signed by President Obama. (This applies to donations made through March 1, 2010)

A “Hope for Haiti Now” album is available with the songs from the benefit concert. It is reported to be topping the charts. You can also download songs from itunes. This blog also has a list of organizations contributing to relief efforts here.