JazzFest Day #1: Sidi, Samantha, Flutes, Fiddles & Tres Hombres

Posted: April 28th, 2018 | Filed under: Culture, Music, Ruminations | 1 Comment »

My favorite t-shirt of the day is as good a place to start as any.

While walking in my direction the clean shaven, apparently pretty middle of the road kind of fellow, saw something in the crowd that brought a bemused smirk  to his face. It was obvious he was, like all, having a great time, reveling in his presence at Fest and soaking in the scene.

In black Times Courier on his plain white t-shirt, it read, “Not In The Office.”

Which was akin to my thoughts earlier on a gloriously temperate, humidity-free opening day. At 12:17 when the sun was high, Breaux Bridge’s Yvette Landry and her contingent, including a boffo pedal steel guy and fiddler Beau Thomas, took the Fais Do Do stage.

A big down beat kicked off their suitably rockin’ cover of Wanda Jackson’s classic.

“I never kissed a bear/ I never kissed a goose/ But I can shake a chicken in the middle of the room/ Let’s Have A Party.”

With a mile as wide as Ponchetrain, I looked at my watch, noted the midday hour, and wondered what was happening back home at the courthouse where I used to spend my days. But, only for a second.

For at those many incredible moments, when I’m grateful of being right here, right now, I think back to what Richard Thompson proclaimed one day between songs on the Gentilly Stage, “Where else in the world could you possibly want to be than in New Orleans for JazzFest?”

Not in the office. You betcha.

 * * * * *

There are no words really to describe the entrancing, melodic, poly-rhythmic songs of Mali’s Sidi Touré and his contingent.

I will just say that I danced beneath the diamond sky with both hands waving free, danced like nobody was watching and left the blues tent with my soul cleansed and a full heart. Sated. Serene.

I love contemporary African music. And have been blessed to hear more than my fair share of such rare stuff in the states, most of it here. There was Ali Farke Touré, no relation that I’m aware of, and his duet with Ry Cooder at Congo Square in the mid 90s. And Youssou N’Dour and Super Etoile, the couple of times they played Lonesome Pine back when.

This matched those experiences.

So taken and sated was I after that interlude yesterday, I chilled for an hour before seeking other tuneage. I hydrated. Crawfish Strudel. Chocolate Snowball. Fresh coat of sun screen.

If I could hear just an hour of that entrancement once a year, I’d be a constantly serene man.

 * * * * *

For years, my friend and former contractor Jim back home has been telling me to go hear John Rankin play the guitar.

Yesterday, Rankin, along with Jimmy Robinson and Cranston Clements took the Lagniappe Stage as The New Orleans Guitar Masters.

After listening to the their sublime picking, who am I to disagree?

These fellows, geniuses all on the five string, were in sync, generous to each other and mesmerizing. They played their own songs. A few classics. A Meters cover that was more elegant than funky. And seemed to have the most fun near the end of their set when they rocked a medley of tunes they’d played in high school bands. It started with Del Shannon’s “Runaway,” morphed into the Ventures’ “Pipeline,” then into the rock & roll beyond.

 * * * * *

Peripheral non-musical sidenote: I was so happy and relieved when I pulled up at my usual parking place along the backside, and my buddy Joe was there waiting with my space as he has been for, what, a decade now.

My worry was that Joe might not have made it through the year. He revealed last year he was 93.

But there he was hanging with his two best neighbor pals. We hugged, and chatted about how grateful we are to still be around.

Joe shared that he had some issue with his neck, and was doing physical therapy for it, but said he really couldn’t complain, he was doing pretty well for an 88 year old guy.

I need to be drinkin’ what Joe drinks.

 * * * * *

Remember this name. Samantha Fish.

She is on the rise, and shall sooner rather than later be a blues rock guitar-playing and singing superstar.

Do not be confused that she looks all Katy Perry on stage with her cool shades and red, white and blue spangled mini dress and knee high boots.

The lady is The Deal. She can play. She can sing. She kicks butt. She doesn’t take names.

Her slide style is more Sonny Landreth than Elmore James. Her song styling is mostly subtle, rarely diva. Her group of mostly New Orleans players includes a violin and flute along with horns and keys.

Her opening tune was something about the American Dream. Even though the traditionally murky sound in the Blues Tent is vastly improved this year, I still couldn’t make out all they lyrics.

Then she took Barbara Lewis’s “Hello Stranger” and with reverence made it her own.

Seems like a mighty long time.

Shoo bop shoo bop my baby ooooooo.

The tent was jammed to the gills, to busting point and blissed out. The usual overbearing security folks were gentler less overbearing this year when clearing the ever filling aisles to make the fire marshals happy.

Many left, declaring they needed to get some Fish CDs.

 * * * * *

Peripheral non-musical side note deux: While I was checking out the New Orleans Nightcrawlers on the Heritage Stage, a fellow was walking through the crowd, stopping at each person and declaring, “I’m bringing back the High Five,” while demanding one.

I, of course, started to regale him with the tale of how Wiley Brown and Derek Smith invented it, but the guy just kept moving. Guess he’s not a history buff.

If you saw “The Simpsons” last week, the episode where Homer and familia end up in New Orleans, you might remember that it was the Nightcrawlers on stage at the Spotted Cat that helped Lisa get her sax mojo back.

They also have a guy who plays flute in a couple songs.

 * * * * *

During a walk by Congo Square while Big Chief Donald Harrison’s contingent was playing I got an infusion of the local classics.

“Iko Iko.” “Hey Pocky Way.”

The group includes “The Legendary Bill Summers.” ????? Who knew?

  * * * * *

Just in case you’re wondering, today is Day 2.

The Culture Maven will not be in his office.

— c d kaplan

One Comment on “JazzFest Day #1: Sidi, Samantha, Flutes, Fiddles & Tres Hombres”

  1. 1 Gary Becker said at 12:22 pm on April 28th, 2018:

    Call me!

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