JazzFest ’24: First Weekend +

Posted: May 4th, 2024 | Filed under: Music, New Orleans, Rock & Roll Rewind | 3 Comments »

I’m a lifelong rock & roller. I love JazzFest. Here’s my latest report.

But first a quick explanation why this is so late. And thanks to those loyal readers who have actually reached out and wondered what’s up and where is it? Stuff happens. Strange week. Car tsouris. Reacclimatizing to Ohio Valley sludge and the allergies it petri dishes. Gettin’ my daily grove back after overindulgence in New Orleans. Etc, etc. It’s been a Larry David kind of week.

But here goes:

It permeates as it were mist rising from the reeds under a full moon in Atchafalaya Swamp.

Fragrant as magnolia swelter.

Foreboding as the gators and snakes that lurk in the bayou.

Mysterious as cricket and dragonfly crackles from the mossy vines.

Mystical as a summer night in the swamp ever is.

Phantom mosquitos hover.

Atmospheric. Melancholy.

Of all the acts I heard during the opening weekend of New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival 2024, none came close to cutting through like Dylan LeBlanc.

Musical reaction is never just about the performer’s talent. It is a product of that, also place, circumstance and the listener’s mood, state of mind. Guess I was at that wavelength.

Perhaps it was the color of the sun cut flat, uncovering the crossroad I’m standing at, but that music filleted me open like a scalpel. LeBlanc’s tuneage and I were simpatico.

I sat at the Lagniappe Stage transfixed. Immersed. Wholly enveloped.

Such that I’ve probably attempted too much poesy in my description.

But that’s what it was like for me.

Born of Blanchard, Louisiana, reared later in Muscle Shoals, the thirtysomething now on the move upward has the music in him.

I am grateful for the experience.

* * * * *

I want to mention a few other performers who resonated. There’s always this caveat: Everybody else in attendance at this potpourri will probably have a different take, other acts that were their faves. Others I surely did not hear.

Each of the Fest’s seven days is a musical buffet.

Literally. Music simultaneously on a dozen stages around the Fairgrounds Race Track from 11:30 in the morning until 7:00 in the evening.

* * * * *

River Eckert is fourteen years old, surely among the next great Crescent City piano savants. His playing is adroit, but still a little stiff. His voice hasn’t changed. Yet it’s easy to hear his future.

Eckert gets it, is ensconced in the city’s historical traditions. He knows Professor Longhair, James Booker, Henry Butler, Allen Toussaint.

Hearing him open a Fest day in the Rhythmporium Tent reminded me of hearing young Harry Connick Jr. at that age.

 * * * * *

The other extreme agewise is seventysomething Robert Finley who appeared in the Blues Tent, which for some reason always has wonky sound. But we endure.

The career of the sharecropper’s blue/ soul singing son was rejuvenated in 2016, when rediscovered by the Music Maker Relief Foundation busking in Arkansas. Later by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys, who produced his last album.

 * * * * *

One of my guidelines when choosing whom to hear: Is the performer somebody I’m not likely to see around my town? That and a love for the rhythmic and exotic has me obsessed with contemporary African performers. There are always a few at Fest.

This year Mokoomba from Senegal made it a must trip to attend in the Culture Pavilion. It was the right call. My favorite of their numbers was a mesmerizing acappella call and response in whatever native language is their default tongue.

Here’s a sample of melodic delight:


 * * * * *

I also loved a couple of stalwarts, whom I’ve heard many times, but not in the last few visits. Zydecajun master Wayne Toups. During a jam portion of one tune, he and group went from a guitar/ accordion back and forth/ duet of the Allman’s “Blue Sky” to the signature chant of Cannibal & the Headhunters’ “Land of a 1000 Dances.”

A smile as wide as Area Code 504 ensued.

He’s not afraid of cover songs.

Dirty Dozen Brass Band was tight. They’re the group that sort of invented the contemporary brass band genre, moving forward from the Second Line traditions of centuries.

 * * * * *

A note about JF weekend 2, now going on, at which I am not present.

Thursday May 2 in my neck of the woods was what the locals have started calling Thurby.

In New Orleans, this Thursday was the long awaited/ anticipated, twice-delayed Stones Day.

It has been the dream for decades of JF mastermind Quint Davis to have the Rolling Stones play the big stage at JazzFest. One scheduled performance was cancelled due to Mick’s health, the rescheduled one by COVID shutdown.

It finally happened this year the opening day of Weekend 2. Dwayne Dopsie joined the group on squeeze box for a couple tunes. The Stones vamped their way through the usual setlist, with a smattering of their new tunes.

Of course, Irma Thomas, who recorded the song first, came out for duet on “Time Is On My Side.” Of course it seems wasn’t as of course as I supposed. She didn’t get the call from Stones management until Tuesday. She rehearsed with them on Wednesday. Walked on stage with them Thursday.

I’ve watched the video of that song several times. Fascinated that she took over the tune. And that Mick stood down. Her presence on stage said, you dudes are on my turf. Which they were.

For logistical and personal reasons I really had no desire to be there on Stones Day..

But it warms my heart that so many people were really pumped, and really enjoyed it.

And especially happy for Quint Davis, who has brought more joy in my life than I could ever adequately express. Which I got to thank him for, when I ran into him walking out of Mokoomba’s set last week.

This blessed musical extravaganza has made me whole 35 times now.

— c d kaplan

3 Comments on “JazzFest ’24: First Weekend +”

  1. 1 David Neuburger said at 6:20 pm on May 4th, 2024:

    Now I wish I had seen Dylan and Mokoomba. Ya never know. I really liked Yusa Cuban Soul Band. Looking at the video of the crowds for the Stones, I don’t regret missing that mob scene. Good article my friend.

  2. 2 Jim said at 10:56 am on May 5th, 2024:

    Having some issues physically, so did not make even a weekend. Thanks for making me do my PT so I can be there next year. I know what it means to miss Jazz Fest.

  3. 3 Mitchell S said at 4:58 pm on May 6th, 2024:

    Great seeing you and thanks for the River Eckert tip! Our krewe really enjoyed him!

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