JazzFest ’16: An Early Wrap

Posted: May 1st, 2016 | Filed under: Culture | Tags: | No Comments »

jz1imagesIt rained all day/ And it rained all night/ Some folks got lost in the flood/ Some got away alright

— “Louisiana 1927” (Randy Newman)

I got away alright.

I’d like to say it was a future vision of the muck, mire and deep muddy water the JazzFest grounds would turn into during the precipitation that plagued the festival’s second weekend activities, and that’s why I slipped out of a town a couple days early.

Truth be told, enough was enough.

Three sumptuous days of Fest opening weekend, several+ incredible meals, bon homie with old pals and lots of tuneage, and I was ready to come home.

Understand, I am by nature voracious.

My inclination is if one is good, two (or more) is obviously better. Whether it’s chocolate chip ice cream. Or an especially snappy shirt, available in several patterns.

Or weekends in New Orleans for the Jazz & Heritage Festival, the love of my life. Read the rest of this entry »

JazzFest ’16: Daze Between

Posted: April 27th, 2016 | Filed under: Culture, Music, Ruminations | Tags: | 1 Comment »

jz1imagesThe Fest rests on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, before picking up again for a long Thursday through Sunday second hootenany.

The period is cannily and most aptly dubbed the Daze Between.

While there are many turista who keep decent hours — lots from Australia and China, it seems — there are also a great number of bleary eyed folks, who when visiting this partiest of the party towns welcome their days/daze here at noon and beyond.

You know, there are evening shows that start at 2:00 in the morning. Rule, not the unusual exception.

 * * * * *

Which is why I’m grateful for the shows, with starting times suitable for old farts.

Like Monday’s 7:00 PM first notes by Aurora Nealand & the Royal Roses at Maison on Frenchman Street.

The Bechet-inspired clarinetist/ vocalist is an amazing talent. Read the rest of this entry »

JazzFest Sunday: The Tradition Carried On

Posted: April 25th, 2016 | Filed under: Culture, Music | Tags: | 1 Comment »

jz1imagesThere’s a hole in the festival this year.

Allen Toussaint is gone.

Of all the incredible, important, influential artists from this town, the ones so infused with the spirit force of New Orleans music that it permeates most all their output, Toussaint was the most notable.

I sadly note that, in a year when a lot of artists are acknowledging the passing of Prince or other beloved musicians — the subdudes memorialized an influence, Papa Dooky Edwards — I haven’t yet heard a mention of Toussaint’s passing.

(Of course, since I can only be at one stage at a time, it doesn’t mean, there weren’t shout outs. And there’s a whole set of tribute for him on the final Sunday.)

So, it was a relief, and a great pleasure, to hear Henry Butler & Jambalaya’s set at Congo Square.

It was seriously New Orleans-centric. Read the rest of this entry »

JazzFest 1st Saturday: Alpha, Darcy & Van

Posted: April 24th, 2016 | Filed under: Culture, Music | Tags: | 2 Comments »

jz1imagesFor reasons too complicated and sordid to go into here, JazzFest got big about a decade ago.

Really big.

Instead of an essentially indigenous festival, featuring the music of New Orleans and Louisiana, plus national acts with ties to its focus, it went nationwide pop.

In the old days, there would be no My Morning Jacket or Pearl Jam or Red Hot Chili Peppers, as this year, or Eagles or Counting Crows or Elton John or Bon Jovi as in recent years.

The byproduct of that shift, nay, the product itself, has been bigger crowds and more “success.” Meaning the Jazz & Heritage Foundation, which owns the Fest, gets more money that ever.

Many of the actual byproducts haven’t been so positive.

The crowds can be so huge, unengaged and without focus that it impedes the ability for listeners to laser in on acts they wish to savor on the big stages. There’s more sound bleed between stages, which in some instances is not a good thing at all.

As when Pearl Jam starts, and the DeJohnette, Coltrane, Garrison set at the Jazz Tent gets Eddie Vettered. Everybody does not need to hurt.

Other than the humongous crowds, which, like yesterday, are starting to get to me, my personal biggest peeve is that the sound at some of the stages isn’t as good as it used to universally be. Until five years or so ago, I would always mention, when talking Fest to people, how righteous the sound always is.

No more. Read the rest of this entry »

JazzFest Day I: Boffo Beginning

Posted: April 23rd, 2016 | Filed under: Culture, Music | Tags: | No Comments »

jz1imagesThere have been days before down here when I left the Fest grounds totally sated, when I didn’t need to hear another note to head into the evening with a full heart and serene soul. When I didn’t even need to hear the last offerings from the headliners for completion.

It happened in ’88 on my first return to JazzFest after an eight year hiatus. I ran from stage to stage like a junker at his pusherman’s place, attempting to ingest every last lyric, every piano solo. During the day and all through the night.

It was like I was obsessed. No, there was no “like” to it, I was obsessed.

The Neville Brothers Band, then at the top of their considerable game, the kings of New Orleans, ended one of the days on a big stage. As they did then, brother Aaron sang a few of his tunes mid set with only older brother Art backing him on keys.

He shredded “Arianne,” a tune with inconsequential, almost silly lyrics, but doo wop beauty that was Aaron’s forte. It cut like a laser. My body chilled, then absolute serenity.

I’d heard enough, even though their set wasn’t over. Read the rest of this entry »

Meg, OZ & A Neville to the Rescue

Posted: April 20th, 2016 | Filed under: Culture, Music | Tags: | No Comments »

jz1imagesSo, yeah, I dunno why I chose to drive to New Orleans from Louisville.

Stoopid I guess.

Save a little $$$ on air fare and a car rental. Geesh, what am I thinking,  what am I gonna do, take it with me?

Of course, I (and several miles of other vehicles) come to a dead stop on I-65 south of Nashville for an hour while they clear up a wreck. Along then route, there’s about 485 “Road Work Next 16 miles” flashing signs. Fortunately only about a tenth of them are telling the truth, but it was enough to try a man’s soul.

Meg Grffin, one of the DJs on Sirius XM helped ease some of the angst. She’s a big fan of this little music festival, commencing here on Friday. So, on “The Loft,” she ques up Professor Longhair and Jon Cleary, declaring this is “for all of you heading to JazzFest.”

But the joyous reality starts to sink in, when I can finally hear 90.7 WWOZ, and the DJ there is playing a bunch of artists who will be in the Blues Tent, and generally carrying on about, you know, JazzFest.

(Perspective on OZ, New Orleans’ public music station and its importance to the city’s heritage. There was a character in David Simon’s “Treme” on HBO, an honest cop, who has to leave New Orleans because it’s not safe when he attempts to right some departmental wrongs. Has to move to Indy no less. Talk about culture shock.

Anyway, he laments the move. He loves the town. As he’s driving away, he’s got OZ on the box in his car. About thirty miles up the I-10, the station fades, and the look on his face tells the tale of his sorrow.)

Anyhow, so, I’m calming down a bit, when . . .

. . . I get to where I’m staying, a groovy spanking new boutique hotel on Camp Street, overlooking the Hale Boggs Federal Courthouse. My original room was smaller than my closet at home. But funky cool hip

Operative word: “was.” Thanks to Michael at the desk I got an upgrade. Still funky. Still no closet. (That’s not a typo.) But bigger than a closet. Still cool. And still hip.

And I elicit a smile from Michael, when he asks if I need any tips about New Orleans or the Quarter, and I respond, “This is my 29th JazzFest.”

“I guess you know the drill then,” says he. Read the rest of this entry »

Springtime, New Orleans, JazzFest & FOMS

Posted: April 18th, 2016 | Filed under: Culture, Music | Tags: | 2 Comments »

jazzfest2New Orleans JazzFest starts this coming Friday. As I have for the last decade or so, I intend to blog daily about the city, the music, and the food.

So the lyrics I’m about to quote were going to be at the top, like some real literary essay deal or something.

They’re from Pete Seeger.

No, actually that’s not true, they are Ecclesiastical, from King James’ take on the ancients’ wisdom, and Seeger turned them into a folk song. About taking things as they are, when they are and accepting the vagaries of all there is. But savoring that which is of the moment.

There’s talk about different seasons and different purposes.

To everything there is a season (Turn, Turn, Turn)/ And a time for every purpose under heaven.

Which speak to me especially now that the honeysuckle is blooming, the dogwoods too, you know, springtime.

And in Printemps, a not so young man’s fancy turns to New Orleans and that which I have dubbed the “gravitational pull of my year,” a descriptor I stole from a wise and observant writer, somebody whose name I can’t recall.

New Orleans JazzFest. Read the rest of this entry »