JazzFest Day 3: Dirty Notes & a Gulp of Chocolate Milk

Posted: May 1st, 2018 | Filed under: Culture, Music | 1 Comment »

My apologies for the lateness of these musings on the first weekend’s final day. Sleep deprivation and the exigencies of being beamed back from that other universe to real life are my excuses. Sorry for any inconvenience it may have caused.

Truth is not every day at JazzFest is magical. Sometimes just being there, with a few musical moments here and there through the day, has to suffice.

For me, Sunday was that type of day. Not that there wasn’t a lot of incredible music being offered, it’s just that I never fired. My sleep schedule was way off. I was never able to hook up with my peeps as our texts crossed. Etc, etc.

That said, the worst day at JazzFest is better than any day in real life, but for a few exceptions. Those days when your granddaughter runs up and hugs you. When the Cards beating the Cats in any sport. And, well, that’s about it. JF beats the rest.

 * * * * *

Aaaaaaaaaand, after essentially ignoring their annual set for decades, I caught Johnny Sketch & the Dirty Notes on the big stage to start the day.

Several years back, I caught their last song, which was smokin’, and made a mental note not to miss them again. Which, of course, I forgot until Sunday, when I was reminded of their supreme chops as they were soundchecking as I entered the Fest site.

“Oh yeah,” I says to myself, “Johnny Sketch, do it, Chuck.”

So I did, and the band ripped it from the get go. Better at 11:20 in the a.m. than five shots of espresso. (Though I was sipping my traditional daily starter, a frozen café au lait.)

Burly Sketch plays guitar mostly and sings. The Dirty Notes are tighter than Jane Fonda’s plastic surgery. The horns were funky and precise. Like Tower of Power. Like Chicago in their heyday. Orange-tressed Sage Rouge — is that name real or stage? — rips it on the sax. Andre Bohren holds it all together and propels the whole machine on traps.

This is not your average white band.

What it may be is the tightest band in the land.

Hot. Hot. Hot.

Of course, JS endeared himself when he bantered about how New Orleans is everybody there’s home, wherever they may reside.

Then there was the oh so naughty song about “misbehavin’ on the dance floor.” The title: “Stop It.”

Then the curve ball. During a really extended piece, which was essentially played in movements, Sketch displayed his obvious classical training on an electric cello. Still rockin’. Still funky. But, you know elegant, like forefathers Amadeus and Ludwig von.

So the day kicked off just fine.

Anything else would be lagniappe.

But . . .

 * * * * *

. . . the Electrifying Crown Seekers, as hard as they worked to make it work, never could stir those present in the Gospel Tent.

It was early, and I guess folks weren’t lit enough yet to feel the energy from the stage.

The Gospel Tent was a different place back in the day. It was cheaper to get in and there may have been tickets passed out at local churches. So the tent would be full all day of church ladies and their grandkids. A real legit revival vibe.

Not that the venue isn’t special a lot these days. Just that it ain’t a sure thing like it was back when.

More’s the pity.

 * * * * *

And then I went chasing after it. To little avail.

The Magnificent 7, a mash up of local rock & roll stalwarts — the Malone Brothers, John Papagros +++ — didn’t do much for me, though they had come highly recommended.

Lacee, a new school soul songstress, was a little too shrill at Congo Square.

Henry Butler, among the most eminent of the current piano masters in the vein of Longhair, James Booker, Fats and Toussaint, has had health problems in recent years. He’s a bit worn out. And, any momentum his set might have developed was cut short when his bass player busted a string in the second song, stopping proceedings for ten minutes.

And, instead of pulling out my Cubes and really giving them a good look, I wandered about like Harry Dean Stanton in “Paris, Texas.”

So I missed Mitch Woods in the Blues Tent, and the Ben Sandmel celebration of Fess at the Allison Miner interview stage, and Helen Gillet at Lagniappe, etc, etc.

I ate well, that’s a given. the softshell crab po boys were especially tasty this year, and mine included not one but two of the delectable crustaceans.

I was just flat.

 * * * * *

But, it’s not like there weren’t moments. Though not boffo, the day still had its charm.

The Panorama Jazz Band did a delightful Hanukkah song on the Heritage Stage. The singer, whose name, shame on me, I forgot to write down, had a great voice and was wearing a turquoise dress that exactly matched her turquoise hair.

The song was sung in landino, a language I’d never heard of that’s a combo of Spanish, Catalan, Aragonese, Ottoman Turkish, Hebrew, Aramaic and honestly many more.

It was sweet and saucy and had folks, me included, swaying along.

Band leader Ben Schenck described how they learned the song during some gig at a nearby synagogue, and that “it’s 5-1-5-1 in a minor key and we can do that all day, it’s our jam.”

The group also has a Song of the Month Club, and sends its “members” a free download every month. They finished their set with May’s tune.

A suitably sprightly version of Mungo Jerry’s “In the Summertime.”

“When the weather’s fine/ You got rhythm/ You got rhythm on your mind.”

 * * * * *

The Treme Brass Band had the parasol crowd up and second-lining to Fats Domino’s “I’m Walkin'” at Economy Hall.

And New Orleans 70s soul band of choice, Chocolate Milk, had the folks engaged at Congo Square.

Lead singer Frankie J or Jay — Frank Richard — has a great voice and was ready to party. In the broiling sun, he was wearing a shiny gold tux jacket over a red shirt, while wearing red leather gloves.

Their finale had all their old fans up and dancing and singing along. They called it New Orleans “anthem.”

“Groove City.”

The band broke up in the early 80s, but reformed several years back and is a JF regular now. Much to the delight of the denizens of Groove City.

 * * * * *

Soooooooo, upon second thought, maybe the day wasn’t as fallow as I thought.

It’s just that it was hard to rival Friday and Saturday, which are two of maybe the best 15 days of the 125 or so I’ve attended through the decades.

Calling it an afternoon way before closing time — enough even for me can be enough — I exited to Irma Thomas doing “It’s Raining.”

Which is as appropriate a way as any to bid farewell to another year of JazzFest, which remains the gravitational pull of my year.

I’ve already had to promise several of my krewe that we’ll hook up again next April.

It’s not like they had to threaten me to make the commitment.

— c d kaplan


One Comment on “JazzFest Day 3: Dirty Notes & a Gulp of Chocolate Milk”

  1. 1 mitchells said at 3:09 pm on May 4th, 2018:

    “The Dirty Notes are tighter than Jane Fonda’s plastic surgery.”

    2nd best line of the week!

    Best line was from one of my newbie friends:

    “I’m trying to stay downwind of the stuffed beignets to catch the powdered sugar.” 🙂

    And I agree on the softshell’s. They were especially good this year.

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