Solange, Dev Hynes & Trombone Shorty Bring the Spirit of New Orleans to New York at Arts Fundraiser

Leandro Justen/
Solange Knowles hosts a benefit for the Contemporary Arts Center in New Orleans, held at at the historic jazz club Minton’s in Harlem on March 23, 2016.

As one might expect, everything was just a little vintage at the legendary Minton's jazz club in Harlem on Wednesday night, where Solange and a few of her friends gathered to celebrate the spirit of New Orleans while raising money for the city's 40-year-old Contemporary Arts Center. DJ and fashion world regular Mia Moretti spun vinyl while clad in a floor-length, '20s-style patterned dress, as guests in similarly artsy (but eminently tasteful) attire sipped gin fizzes and martinis.

"Because my mom is from Louisiana -- my grandparents are from New Iberia -- growing up I went there quite a bit," the younger Knowles told Billboard of her love for the Big Easy. "During my teenage years, a lot of my friends went to Xavier or Dillard, so I would visit them for Mardi Gras or Bayou Classic. I think I fell in love with New Orleans over a long evolution of my life. I romanticized moving there, and at one point my husband and I were just on a trip, like, 'This is home, let's just do it.' So tonight is really special because the CAC means a lot to us. We go there frequently and bring our son. They're really awesome people, and I think that's what shines through."

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The music followed the evening's "old-meets-new" theme to a T -- the evening's first live performance, the local Bendji Allonce Trio, paid tribute to A Tribe Called Quest's Phife Dawg (who died Tuesday) with a cover of the group's "Electric Relaxation." Dev Hynes watched appreciatively from a side banquette, a black Metropolitan Opera baseball cap his tribute to the event's modern vintage theme.

Soon after, the audience got an unexpected treat. "They asked me to speak, and I said, 'Tonight isn't about me,'" Solange began soon after CAC director Neil Barclay's remarks. She continued by introducing the night's next performer, singer/songwriter Leyla McCalla -- whom Solange discovered while riding her bike on the streets of New Orleans but was actually, originally, a New Yorker. "The thing I love about New Orleans is the respect for music, not just love and admiration," she concluded before McCalla began her evocative performance. Switching between cello and banjo, and singing in French, Creole and English, McCalla had most of the audience captivated (though one of the hosts did have to yell, "Shut the f--- up," to guarantee appropriate reverence).

Trombone Shorty wrapped up the evening with his signature take on New Orleans jazz -- within minutes, the whole crowd (at this point likely a few martinis in) was dancing. As eager guests vied for a moment with the evening's star ("I just want to swing back and say hi," one said with studied nonchalance), the band wrapped up with an extra-groovy take on "Gypsy Woman."