The national advertisement stated "calling JazzFest a musical festival is like calling gumbo soup." There is a lot of truth to this statement when you consider all of the ingredients that are needed to keep JazzFest on the cutting edge of the festival circuit with its eclectic mixture of music.
The 1st most important ingredient is the weather. The weather Gods blessed 2005 JazzFest with some sunny days with cool breezes coming off of the Gulf.
The 2nd most important ingredient is food. The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival provides visitors with a virtual outdoor food court. There were 66 food booths serving a fantastic array of the finest cuisine the state of Louisiana has to offer. Veterans of JazzFest bring a larger size wardrobe for their return trip home due to the various mouthwatering foods to be sampled during JazzFest and throughout the Crescent City.
The 3rd most important ingredient is people. Each year JazzFest attracts thousands of music lovers from all over the world. This is by far the best global music festival in the world.
The 4th most important ingredient is location, location and location. The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival is held at the Fair Grounds Race Course. Centrally located in the heart of New Orleans.
The 5th and final ingredient is music. The music during JazzFest ranges from traditional and contemporary jazz to blues, rhythm & Blues, gospel, Cajun, zydeco, Afro-Caribbean, folk Latin, rap, country, bluegrass, and everything in between.
I spent a lot of time at the stages that I felt honored the birth of JazzFest.
The Jazz & Heritage Stage presented joyous parades, vibrantly colorful Mardi Gras Indians, various exciting New Orleans Brass bands, and Second line dancers that snaked around the festival grounds. Creole Wild West Mardi Gras Indians and New Look Social Aid and Pleasure Club with the Pinstripe Brass Band were a few of the highlights that I was able to enjoy performing on this stage.
The Rhodes Gospel Tent was jumping all weekend. Dorothy Norwood a renowned gospel singer who has built her reputation with an impassioned style and poignant songs as well as Smokie Norvil who is a gospel music superstar who blends funk, R&B, blues and pop with gospel. Both singers raised the roof off of the Rhodes Gospel Tent with some foot stomping, hand-clapping, handkerchiefs waving infectious gospel music to the delight of all in attendance.
Pick up a copy of their latest CD’s- "Stand On The Word" by Dorothy Norwood, and "Nothing Without You" by Smokie Norvil.
"You can’t lose with the blues" is a popular phrase in the music industry. Popeye’s Blues Tent featured a lot of down home blues that you could use. Some of the highlights featured 71 year old blues belter Carol Fran singing "Stormy Monday", "Baby What You Want Me To Do?" "You Don’t Know Me", and " I Had A Talk With My Man Last Night." Additional highlights consisted of the scorching blues guitarists Bernard Allison and John Mooney, soulful blues of Rockie Charles, delta blues of Hezekiah Early & Elmo Williams, and a swinging, jump blues set by Deacon John. Grammy winner and Rock & Roll Hall of famer Buddy Guy displayed blistering guitar riffs on the Sprint/Sanyo Stage.
Cajun and Zydeco music has a kinship with the blues. The Fais Do Do Stage features various popular Cajun and zydeco bands that kept the crowd on the makeshift dance floor of grass dances the Cajun waltz, and zydeco two steps, and other dances familiar with both genres of music.
Different styles of jazz were performed throughout the Fairgrounds. The Economy Hall Tent presented by Rajen Kilachand served up a lot of trad jazz throughout the weekend. Trumpeter Marcus Belgrave performed a tribute to Louis Armstrong to the delight of the festive crowd. Mr. Belgrave is a member of the New York based Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra led by New Orleans’ own Wynton Marsalis.
The BellSouth/WWOZ Jazz Tent was my home base for the weekend. Standout performances were evidence in the jazz tent. Some of the performances that stood out from the rest were trumpeter Jeremy Davenport. You could hear traces of Chet Baker in his trumpet playing and a touch of Harry Connick Jr. when he sang on the following tunes-"After You’ve Gone", and "Summertime."
Vocalist John Boutte is one of New Orleans’ most accomplished jazz vocalists. He performed a splendid set dedicated to the Crescent City. "City of New Orleans", "Treme Song", "Foot of Canal Street", and "Back In Your Backyard."
Saxophonist Donald Harrison dazzled the audience with a set of original straight-ahead jazz sprinkled with some be-bop.
Don Grusin presents The Hang-that featured an all-star group of musicians, Alex Acuna, Charlie Bisharat, Pete Escovedo, Abraham Laboriel, Ricardo Silvera, Nelson Rangell and vocalist Natalie Rene performed fusion and Latin jazz.
Vocalist Phillip Manuel is another popular jazz vocalist in New Orleans. I thoroughly enjoyed his entertaining set on "Love For Sale", "Party Time", "Fragile" by Sting, and a lovely ballad "You Don’t Know Me."
2005 National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master recipient vocalist Shirley Horn transformed the BellSouth/WWOZ Jazz Tent into an intimate jazz club. You could hear a pin drop as she held the crowds undivided attention throughout her wonderful set on "I’m Just Fooling Myself", "Just In Time", "Fever", and "In The Dark."
Kermit Ruffins & The Barbecue Swingers, Educator/musician/patriarch Ellis Marsalis (father of Wynton, Delfeayo, Brandon, and Jason), Irving Mayfield & the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra and the Jazz Messengers Legacy Band under the direction of Benny Golson featuring Curtis Fuller, Buster Williams, Carl Allen, Valery Pomorov, and Mike Ledonne were audience favorites in the BellSouth/WWOZ Jazz Tent.