JazzFest ’19, Day 4: If You Don’t Go, You Don’t Know

Posted: April 30th, 2019 | Filed under: Culture, Music | 1 Comment »

(My apologies for the late post. Had a Sunday night Crawfish Boil. And I chose not to drive and type at the same time while on my way home Monday.) 

I’m reminded of an evening years ago, at dinner with my krewe after a day at the Fest.

We pulled out our wrinkled Cubes and extolled the experience of the groups we shared and one upped each other on the ones we heard when we went our separate ways. It’s the nature of the beast, given how much music plays at the same time on so many stages. There’s more great stuff you miss, than you can possibly hear.

So, at this dinner the night I’m talking about, all of a sudden I start laughing while I peruse my scribbles for the day.

“What’s up,” my pals inquired?

“Oh, just that I totally blew off Ray Charles.”

Which came to mind as I was listening to OZ on the way out of town, and the DJ was going off on how great it was to have all the Marsalis clan — Winton, Branford, Delfayo, Jason — back in town at the same time, to honor father Ellis to close out the day in the Jazz Tent.

And when I heard what a par-tay it was at Congo Square, when the O’Jays kicked into “Love Train.”

Guess I’ll have to return next year for my 32d.

 * * * * *

Stay tuned, but before I get into the music, a shout out for all the Louisville folks I ran into, way more than any JF in the past.

The couple in line as we entered, who recognized me from wherever. He’s been coming since the early 90s, when he came down with some college buddies. His first day was a deluge.

“Water. Big puddles everywhere. Great music. Girls walking around naked.”

I must say I’ve never experienced the latter, and I have my doubts, buuuuuuuuuut . . .

He’s been back just about every year since. One year, he shared a beer in the crowd, with Jon Cleary, who was just hangin’ out.

When talking about the folks back home we haven’t been able to convince to come down to JazzFest, we agreed, “If you don’t go, you just don’t know.”

There was the fellow at Economy Hall wearing an orange velvet brimmed bicorne hat, a shirt of significant color and design, and yellow hipster aviator shades. He walked up to me as I was at the edge of the dance stage during Treme Brass Band’s rendering of “Sheik of Araby,” pointed, uttered “Louisville Kentucky,” and danced away.

On the way home, in a Subway outside Birmingham, I came upon a trio of fellows from Louisville, also on their way back from JF, including Jim Watson, a fellow I know from work years ago. (Thanks to my pal Natalie for confirming Jim’s last name for me. Don’t get old, kids, the memory fades.)

My friend Mark ran into a fellow from my home town in an Ear x-Tacy shirt. (Which will, I realize, mean nothing to those reading who don’t reside in Derby City.)

 * * * * *

That one interlude wasn’t my only stop at Economy Hall, which is the tent where the traditional New Orleans Jazz Bands play. (Think “Dixieland” if you’re not totally familiar.)

I wandered upon Louis Prima Jr.’s tribute to his father.

And what a dang hoot it was.

Despite his Vegas connections, Prima the Elder was a New Orleanian. As was the leader of his band, Sam Butera.

The all-star put together musical outfit was hot.

It is hard to describe, even for a fellow like myself who thinks he knows all the descriptors, how sweet and fun that tent always is, and especially Sunday afternoon. Octogenarians dressed in their funky Crescent garb, dancing with anybody within reach. A woman in red hight heels, bless her heart. Infants with pink headphones. Little kids dancing and running around and rolling on the ground. Parasols everywhere. All smiling and laughing.

All to “Sing, Sing, Sing,” “Zooma Zooma,” Oh Marie,” “I Ain’t Got Nobody,” and the proverbial many more romps. NO vocalist John Boutte was on board. So too primo NO trumpet player Wendell Brunious.

I’m still smilin’.

 * * * * *

Just so you’ll know, it’s not always great.

Intrigued by the band’s name — Zeke Fishhead and Los Reyes De Lagartos — I stopped by the Lagniappe Stage, which is in the Fairgrounds Grandstand Paddock. It’s, as my pal Gary said, the “most civilized” of the venues.

And home to an eclectic mash up of performers, most very good if relatively unknown.

Zeke Fishhead is actually Ed Volker of a member of the fondly remembered, mostly disbanded Radiators.

I listened to a song, and found the music devoid of any energy whatsoever, stale and lugubrious. The smattering of folks at the stage were hippy types old and young, and there was lots — I mean lots of pot smoke. (Not that that’s a bad thing.)

I was outta there ASAP.

 * * * * *

I’d been wanting to hear Naughty Professor for awhile, having missed them last year.

The group of hot young mostly music school grads, some from Loyola and Tulane, play what I feel compelled to dub Big Band funk. Big tight horn section, a killer rhythm section with Big Papa Sam on traps and Noah Young on bass. Great guitarist, who listened and learned from the jazz greats, and Hendrix. And a fellow on keys with a sublime singing voice.

The last artist I heard making accessible music with this many stops and time changes was Frank Zappa.

The ultimate compliment from my pal Mark, “They could play my Bar Mitzvah.”

It was a seriously energetic way to kickstart the day at the Gentilly stage.

 * * * * *

Favorite t-shirt of the day: “Jeremiah was a Bullfrog.”

 * * * * *

Mdou Moctar is not a guitar player you’ll find gigging regularly on Tuesday nights at the bar up at the corner.

He’s from Niger, a country in NW Africa, that is 80% Sahara Desert.

His style, played left handed, is mesmerizing, hypnotic, serpentine — think: snake charmer — danceable, insistent, exotic and propulsive.

 * * * * *

Rance Allen is my favorite gospel singer.

He’s a man of considerable bottom-weighted heft.

And an even bigger voice, though it was a shade off Sunday, probably because of recent health issues, caused, he advised from the platform, by vertigo.

He’s significantly charismatic, flirty and has the most surprising, impish grin one can expect from a septuagenarian. He was part of the Stax Records gospel stable, and actually appeared on stage and in the documentary of WattStax, the iconic ’72 benefit in the wake of the riots at the LA Coliseum.

Before one number, “I Belong to You,” he advised, “I feel a slow dance coming on.

“You can praise the Lord, doing a slow dance.”

He finished with his classic, “There’s Something About the Name Jesus,” but cut it and his set short, obviously because of health issues.

(A word of advice to the two Gospel Tent MCs, who felt compelled between groups to engage in loud, inane, incessant and egregiously annoying, indulgent banter: Shut Up!!!)

 * * * * *

What can I say about Van Morrison?

He’s my favorite, and I cannot be objective.

Especially when he’s on, as he was closing out on the Big Stage.

Of course, this is not the “Caravan,” “Into the Mystic,” “St. Dominic’s Preview” Van Morrison of decades ago. I mean, the guy is 73 years old.

And, while he’s been known to throw in clunkers of disengaged concerts, he was present and locked in Sunday.

The band flowed, and Morrison in fine voice, sailed. There was mucho swing.

Along with his own stuff, he covered John Lee Hooker, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Lester Young, and my favorite of the day, Willie Nelson and Webb Pierce’s “There Stands the Glass.”

Plus, a mash up of “Cleaning Windows/ Be Bop A Lula,” during which, for all we old farts, he scat/ name checked a bunch of old rock & rollers and their tunes.

 * * * * *

Like I said, the Lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise, I’ll be back.

‘Cause if you don’t go, you don’t know.

— c d kaplan



One Comment on “JazzFest ’19, Day 4: If You Don’t Go, You Don’t Know”

  1. 1 Dr. Jawn said at 11:18 am on May 3rd, 2019:

    As usual you’ve captured the heart of the fest. Let’s have a lemonade sometime and I’ll tell you Louis Prima stories from my Grandpa Jake who grew up on the streets with Louis (in New Orleans the Sicilian-Jewish connection is strong). Maybe we’ll talk a little about how I worked a beer tap at the first fest in 1970. It was in Beauregard Square and I think 200 people showed up.

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