JazzFest #30: It’s Too Late To Stop Now

Posted: April 24th, 2017 | Filed under: Culture, Music | No Comments »

The winter of ’05-’06 was not easy.

Every day or two I’d have a sad sad moment. I would suddenly abandon whatever was present and break down with uncontrolled sobbing.

It was not that my beloved Louisville Cardinal hoopsters were suffering through a mediocre at best campaign. The season ended with thirteen losses, the last one ignominious in the NIT. Though that was bad enough.

The real catalyst for my despair was that New Orleans, my beloved New Orleans, was vacant and drowning.

Six feet of water on the streets of Evangeline had come to truth again.

Would she survive? What would become of this, the most unique city in America, a town with as much personality as any around the globe?

A town where the holy trinity of cajun cuisine — onions, bell peppers and celery — is as revered as father, son and Holy Ghost.

A town where the quirky lingua franca pronounces the word calliope, cal-eee-ope not kah-lie-oh-pee.

A town that fostered musical icons, Satchmo Armstrong, Mahalia Jackson, Professor Longhair and Fats Domino.

The town that time left alone to proceed at its own out of sync with the rest of the land pace.

The town that hosted the event that had become the gravitational pull of my year, the epicenter of my musical being, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.

Katrina had laid her low with a furious sideswipe.

The good news. The Crescent City, a place way more hardscrabble than its genteel reputation might indicate, used its grit and character to survive. And flourish.

So too JazzFest.

Which has carried on without missing a syncopated Second Line beat and, to the chagrin of some, grown. Though not as bucolic as back in the day, with its smattering of big name acts having little if any connection to spirit force that is the New Orleans musical tradition, it remains guided by that blessed light.

Danny Barker’s gone. Also Allen Toussaint, my favorite musician of forever. And Bobby Marchand. And Johnny Adams. And so many more who made New Orleans the force that it became.

But, so strong is that power, it is being carried on. Sidney Bechet lives in every note Evan Christopher plays. The weight of every horn player who ever blew in this horn town lives every time Tuba Skinny’s Shay Cohn fashions her embouchure to cornet, or Bonearama rips into “When the Levee Breaks.”

And, thanks to the musical gods, it is the end of April, JazzFest’s time has come again.

It is my staff of life.

This will be #30 and still counting. It’s too late to stop now.

— c d kaplan

It is my intention to blog daily about New Orleans and the festival later this week, Those musings will be posted at culturemaven.com, culture maven c d kaplan Facebook page and WFPK’s Facebook page. 

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