JazzFest ’19, Day 2: Sometimes Enough is Enough

Posted: April 27th, 2019 | Filed under: Culture, Music, Ruminations | 1 Comment »

There are now two days at JazzFest when I have been simply sated, had my fill even though there was tuneage left to be heard, when I was OK to bid adieu before the music stopped.

In 1988, I felt comfortable enough to return to the indulgent charms of New Orleans and rejoined the Fest for the first time since I’d cleaned up my profligate act six years earlier.

I couldn’t get enough, running from stage to stage, heading into the night for more on the Riverboat. By the time the Neville Brothers Band, then at the height of their power took the stage the last day, I was just about consumed . . .

. . . then I heard for the first time Aaron, with only brother Art accompanying him on the piano, singing the lustrous “Arianne.”

Swooping. Soaring. Soulful. Shiver inducing. The Ultimate Aaron.

There was room for nothing more. I was full with satisfaction.

I turned, walked to the car, where I waited for an hour or so for my pals who stayed until the day’s end.

There was a redux of sorts this Friday.

 * * * * *

I’ve always believed that a band can’t have too much percussion. Other than boring, laborious, too long drum solos that is.

So the prospect of hearing Zigaboo Modeliste and the Santana Band back to back had me salivating.

They were capping the day on the big stage, which is rarely my favorite of the dozen plus stages, but there are times, you know.

Before that double bill, I eased into the day.

Starting with the youthful, energetic and profoundly harmonic McMain’s International Singing Mustang Choir in the Gospel Tent, which is always a spiritual way to commence the proceedings. Duh.

Then I hooked up with a trio of pals at the Blues Tent. (One of which, a newbie friend of a friend — that’s how it works here, krewe members begat new krewe members — who has has a skin condition which mandates maximum protection from the sun. So he has a hat that actually wraps around his head and snaps under his chin. For which his bicycling pals back home bestowed a most clever sobriquet, Lawrence of Suburbia.)

The band, my personal Tip of the Day, was Moonlight Benjamin.

Which it turns out is the actual name of the lead singer, a Haitian. The four Caucasians in support, all dressed in all black with sport coats like some NY hipster group, I’m now advised, are from France.

They play Voodoo blues rock.

And intrigued, but not enough to dissuade us after several tunes from strolling over to the Gentilly Stage for the last few tunes from NO’s Bonerama, always a blast, given they’re trombone-led and ever a treat.

They were ripping through Fats Domino’s “I’m Walkin'” when we got there.

Because of which my pal in his sacred Santana shirt looked over, nodded, and opined, “Good move.”

 * * * * *

At that stage, we got to chatting with a fellow in an NRBQ shirt. That group’s from my homme town Louisville, so we bantered about Terry and Steve and Joey and Tom, and I soon realized this was Kemp, a fellow I’d been dialoging with for awhile in the JazzFest Forum.

All together now, “Isn’t it a small world?”

 * * * * *

Soon enough it was time for the Foundation of Funk set, centerpieced by the rhythm section of the real and true founders of funk, the Meters.

George Porter Jr. on bass.

My favorite drummer, Zigaboo Modeliste on drums.

The group included Tony Hall on guitar. And two generations of Neville. 2d G Ivan Neville on the B3, and 3d G Ian Neville on guitar. Three hot horns added a lot, but, sadly, I don’t know their names.

Though Zig was on from the start, a syncopated marvel, it was a rocky set for a bit, which often happens with these put together ensembles. But when they moved to some Meters classics, they found the groove.

“Hey Pocky Way” was a start. “Just Kissed My Baby” kicked it up a notch.

Unusual but truly vexing sound problems somewhat solved, all was in place for “Fiyo on the Bayou.” Which put the psychedelicized funk in the trunk. Guitars and organ ripped off in every direction, a symbiotic mashup, while George and Zig held it all together at the bottom.

 * * * * *

Here’s what I must own about Carlos Santana and his band’s righteous two hour set. I can’t tell you what the final 45 minutes were like, so overwhelmed was I by what they played until then.

Sometime, like I said at the top, enough is enough.

Before the band came on stage, there was a light show on the big video screens to each side. Lots of clips from “Woodstock,” leading to the movie’s section that leads into Santana’s searing intro to the world.

Going live, percussionists Karl Perazzo and Paoli Mejías ignited the affair with the intro of “Jingo.” and the band and crowd were off.

“Evil Ways.” “Black Magic Woman/ Oye Como Va.” “A Love Supreme.” The canon essentially, with Carlos traditional homage to Jimi, a few notes of “Third Rock from the Sun.” “Samba Pa Ti.”

They mixed in a couple of Latin tunes with which I’m less familiar.

During which, incredible drummer Cindy Blackman played what I believe to my soul to be the best drum solo I’ve ever heard. Technically it wasn’t a solo. Perazzo and Mejías provided context.  But she found the hot spots against the beat in the searing rhythm. Less strikes meant more.

Can something so powerful be so subtle? Indeed.

When the band slide into John Lennon’s “Imagine,” a total surprise inclusion to me, with Ms. Blackman providing beguiling, femininely guttural vocals, I was transfixed to the point of grateful tears.

So, I will reiterate, if I might, I was full and took my leave.

If thereafter, Ms. Blackman was able to propel the proceedings to the stratosphere, so be it.

My soul was satisfied.

 * * * * *

Ran into Philip, my hotel’s really helpful concierge early in the day. He was with his sig oth, and they were attired the same, head to toe in last year’s Bayou Wear. Too sweet.

 * * * * *

One of the great benefits of JazzFest is that it employs thousands of locals. This is a big event. Lots of crowd control. Logistics. Etc, etc.

The folks are always nice, coming and going. “Have a great day.” “Be sure to hydrate and use sunscreen.” “Be careful driving home.”

So, as I’m walking out, one African American “usher,” a fellow at least my age, maybe older, kept uttering “Stagger Lee.” To nobody in particular really.

When I reached him, I pointed and said, “You mean the guy who shot Billy down?”

The fellow jerked his head back, looked quizzically at me, “How you know about that?”

Allow me to reiterate for the zillionith time: I love this place.

— c d kaplan


One Comment on “JazzFest ’19, Day 2: Sometimes Enough is Enough”

  1. 1 David Neuburger said at 6:24 pm on April 27th, 2019:

    You hit it on the head.

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