Favorite JazzFest Musical Memories, Part Trois

Posted: April 30th, 2020 | Filed under: Culture, JazzFest, Music | No Comments »

There’s a chat room where JazzFest obsessives like myself hang out.

For the acolytes, the Jazz Fest Forum  is a year round thing.

The denizens are called Threadheads, and most seem to know each other from hookups during Fest. Or otherwise. Liuzza’s seems to be the official unofficial meeting place. They also have a party every year during Fest called the Patry. With boffo lineups.

I’m sort of an outlier, an auxiliary Threadhead if you will, having come to the dialog later than most of the regulars. On the way to the Fest a few years back, in the Charlotte airport, I did meet a couple that helped start the Forum. And there’s the NRBQ-loving regular I chatted up a couple years ago between acts at the Gentilly Stage.

It’s a year round deal, but, as you can imagine, conversations ratchet up with the lineup announcement in January, and the posting of the Cubes a month out.

One of the regular threads will deal with lesser known, obscure acts that somebody’s heard in concert with a hearty “You gotta hear this group.”

I check them all out on youtube before making my daily plans. Weeks in advance, I must admit. Plus, disciple that I am, I also check out the ones I don’t know that might not have been recommended.

Which brings to my favorite tip of recent years . . .

. . . Bombino.

Real name: Goumar Almoctar. His lineage is that of a Tuareg tribesman. They’re nomadic, as I understand. Though my research is limited.

What I know is when I watched and listened to the first video, I put a big square around his time block on my Cubes. Which essentially means, “Don’t even think of meandering to another stage, and be there at the start.”

Whoever told us in that thread he was a must see was absolutely correct.

Bombino’s style is evocative and hypnotic. Think snake charmer music.

What I remember about his set, other than being transfixed and transformed, eyes closed, to another reality, is the guy who shouted as exiting the Blues Tent when the set was over, “Now that’s what JazzFest is all about.”

So I present this video of him at JazzFest, though I don’t remember if this was his first or second appearance. As you’ll note, the sound of the music is somewhat fuzzy, yet it’s a cool presentation.

Because it gives a real sense of what it’s like in the Blues Tent. Jammed. People locked into the music. People milling about looking for seats. People trying to dance in the aisles, and get up in front of the stage. The mix of hubbub and hot tuneage.

 * * * * *

You had to really experience the ultimate New Orleans personality Ernie K-Doe in person to observe the true glory of his hubristic smile-inducing provenance.

The fellow was a character.

I recall hearing him in a small club, almost completely empty, in New Orleans in the early 70s before JazzFest became a thing. He prattled on about the old days, when he was the King of the Tulane frat house parties. And the magnificence and importance of “Mother In Law” of course.

To attempt to convey K-Doe’s engaging, cocky personality, I present a photo of his grave marker.

My favorite of the several times I heard K-Doe was at a Doo Drop Inn Revisted gig in a New Orleans hotel back in the 90s.

For a time, this was an annual evening show that was part of the festival, where they celebrated the iconic Crescent City rhythm and blues club.

There’d be a hot big band, conducted by Wardell Quezergue or Allen Toussaint or some New Orleans musical genius. Then they’d trot out the Dixie Cups and Al “Carnival Time” Johnson and Benny Spillman, and other hitmakers from the 50s and 60s.

The year I’m talking about, not sad to say the one in the video below, K-Doe was apparently in his cups a bit more than usual.

He did a couple of tunes. Ended with “Mother in Law,” during which he vamped, hoping to hold the stage as long as possible.

At some point, he admonished the crowd, “On your feet for Ernie K-Doe.”

Then, “Wave your handkerchief for Ernie K-Doe.”

Finally and emphatically, “On your knees for Ernie K-Doe.”

At which blissful oh so New Orleans moment, he was given the hook.

Here’s K-Doe at another year’s Doo Drop Inn Revisited. It gives a good sense of the fellow’s personality.

What I love about this set is that band leader Allen Toussaint is getting such a kick out of K-Doe, he can’t stop smiling.

K-Doe’s gravestone does get one thing so very right.

After him, there’s no other.

 * * * * *

I have no recollection of exactly how I came to the music of Daniel Lanois. Whether I knew he was a producer of a bunch of name acts like U2 and Dylan, or whether that came later?

But I got his own CD “Acadie” in the late 80s.

Loved its melancholy feel. Loved the unique sound of his guitar. His brooding songs struck a chord. Still do.

When I saw him on the schedule at JazzFest I rejoiced. One of my most anticipated performances there ever.

It was gray day, the clouds outlined in black, or so it seemed.

Perfect for Lanois.

There’s actually a CD of his JF performance from ’89, which I just discovered when doing some research for this. But the cost of same was a bit much.

Nor could I find a video of his gig there.

But . . . I did come upon this video of a searing performance of his signature tune, “The Maker.” You may know the song from Willie or Emmy Lou.

 * * * * *

Along with some other recordings, I gave a CD of Olu Dara’s album, “In The World: From Natchez to New York,” to some friends as a gift after I’d stayed at their home.

“How did you hear about this guy?,” I was asked.

Again, I hadn’t the slightest remembrance.

Again, I cherished the moment he’d be at JazzFest on the Congo Square stage. The Mississippi native made a second appearance a few years later.

During that first performance, my pal and I taunted a friend back home, whom we had been trying to get to come to Fest for years, and whom we knew loved Olu Dara. We phoned him during the set and let him listen for a moment or two, and abruptly hung up.

Olu Dara is Yoruba for “God is good.”

The jazz cornetist’s real name is Charles Jones III. Doesn’t have the same exotic ring, does it?

Through the years, he had a couple of zestily named ensembles. The Okra Orchestra. The Natchezsippi Dance Band.

Anyway, by the time he released that album and played Fest, his music had morphed into a truly intriguing mashup of jazz and blues and folk and African and reggae.


For reasons which should come obvious, this tune was all the rage for a good while after his performance at Fest.

The video is obviously from another gig.

More to come. Maybe. We’ll see if listening to classic sets over the next four days instigates more memories.

— c d kaplan

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