Jazz Festin’ on a Sunday afternoon
Nothing puts me in a better mood than when my shoes are on my feet and headed to the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.
I know its only a music and food festival, but I like it, love it, yes, I do.
Admittedly, mixing jazz and food is a little strange. You listen to jazz with all your senses in play, and food dulls the senses.
Jazz Fest solves that issue by bringing in all kinds of music, rock, pop, alternative and performers that celebrate New Orleans’ own special take on what music is and should be. If you don’t want to eat while listening to jazz, eat while listening to something else.
Going to Jazz Fest with too many preconceived plans can cause heartache. I really wanted to see the Dave Matthews Band this year, but it was not to be. Thankfully, I’ve been to the festival enough that I can roll with punches.
With few exceptions, the musicians I caught during this 40th Anniversary year were New Orleans originals, performers as unique in their own way as Professor Longhair, and just as irreplaceable.
I’ve seen Dr. John a number of times, both as a headliner and as a sideman with his friends. Once at a State Fair in New Mexico, I walked into a tent and found him playing solo on his piano as an unannounced act in front of about 100 people.
Saturday at the Jazz Fest, he performed in front of a crowd of 25,000 or more at the Acura stage.
The doctor, Mack Rebennack, looks older than I’ve ever seen him, but sounded as good as he did under that small tent out west.
Allen Toussaint opened his set with a song written for the 40th Anniversary. It sounded great even though I’d never heard it before, and he may never play it again. If you’ve never been to Jazz Fest, and plan to go one day, I would suggest that Toussaint, alone, is worth a trip.
The New Orleans Klezmer Allstars are the most fun band when they’re on stage. If there was not already a definition for the word “unique” the band’s name would work just fine.
One group I had no intention of missing this year provided the biggest surprise. I’d been looking forward to seeing Big Chief Bo Dollis and the Wild Magnolias for a long time. I last saw them pre-Katrina in 2004 with my son, who was hearing them for the first time. The two of us refer to that performance as the day they earth shook in front of Gentilly stage on the Fairgrounds.
The group has been having financial difficulties and Bo Dollis had fallen ill, and Sunday was to mark his return to the lineup.
It was a very emotional comeback. Bo Dollis was on stage part of the performance and he sang a bit. But the energy he once put into his shows and use to drive the band were gone.
A teary-eyed Bo Dollis literally appeared to be singing himself out of the group.
If that turns out to be true, there will be a hole in the next Jazz Fest.
Hopefully, we’ll all be back at the festival next year to help fill it.