Jazzfest in The Big Easy took place in spite of the damage that Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita ravaged the state of Louisiana with last year. The city of New Orleans would not be denied of its beloved Jazz & Heritage Festival, which show cased New Orleans as one of the largest tourist attractions in the United States. New Orleans is the original birth place of jazz with the greatest jazz sound in the world and home to some of the greatest jazz musicians that ever lived past and present.
The Jazzfest got under way with a great start and a fine line up Keb’ Mo’, Bob Dylan, and Dr. John graced the Acura Stage one after another keeping the crowd on their feet and dancing in the aisles. BellSouth WWOZ Jazz Tent, highlighted pianist Jonathan Batiste as a rising star in the jazz genre. Batiste, at the young tender age of nineteen, played the piano with plenty of enthusiasm, exciting his audience, and holding their interest while asking for Batiste to give them more and more. Jazz lovers could hardly catch their breath when Charmaine Neville embellished the stage with her combustible style of performance. Neville grabs your attention right away and holds you hostage with her energy, artistic abilities, and great vocals.
Irvin Mayfield & the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra gave the closing performance on the jazz stage for the first night of the Jazzfest. The creative talent alone brings the audience to their feet under the direction of Irvin Mayfield an established trumpeter, arranger, writer and composer in his own right. Before the evening was over Mayfield himself, as well as his guest trumpeter, kermit Ruffins, trombonists, Tory Andrew and Steve Walker, would delight the audience with his great artistic trumpet playing. The first day of Jazzfest was a good day, great music from ten stages free from thunder storms and lighting.
As Jazzfest continued, the weather held nicely and everyone was enjoying the moment with great food, ice cold drinks, good conversation, and plenty of fantastic music in just about every genre. Dave Matthews band on the Acura Stage offered rock while Etta James and the Root Band gave you blues on the Southern Comfort Blues Stage. Two stages over, Hugh Masekela provided the massive crowd with meticulous trumpet playing. Herbie Hancock Quartet consisting of drummer Brian Blade, bassist Marcus Miller, and himself a dynamic pianist, fired up the jazz stage and had the crowd frozen in time. Following Hancock, was the creative and artistic trumpeter Terence Blanchard. Always the crowd favorite, Blanchard gives his all never a disappointment, but quite the opposite, pleasing his fans with great compositions and incredible improvisations.
Bruce Springsteen with the Seeger Sessions Band, Allen Toussaint with special guest Elvis Costello, and Sonny Landreth all performed on the Acura stage in front of one of the largest crowd at Jazzfest. The Meters gave a rousing jam session on the Southern Comfort Blues Stage, and one stage over was gospel singer Yolanda Adams, who sang divinely for the crowd at the Congo Square Louisiana Rebirth Stage. Christian Scott, one of the hottest and charismatic trumpet players in New Orleans, pleased the over flowing jazz crowd with straight ahead jazz and a mixture of jazz and R&B. The jazz tent continued to offer the audience great music, as jazz vocalist Leah Chase performed on stage with guest saxophonist Wess " Warm Daddy" Anderson. Chase offered toe tapping arrangements a well as soft heartfelt ballads, complimented with the warm deep sound of Anderson’s saxophone.
Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews with special guest trombonist Steve Turre, gave a slightly different approach to jazz, more of a rock spin than straight ahead jazz. Andrews, a very skilled trombonist and trumpeter, entertained the crowd just like a rock star running and leaping around the stage throwing up his arms with trumpet or trombone in hand on occasions. Some of the fans seem to love it while others wonder if Andrews was crossing over to a new genre. Only time will tell, "but let’s hope not, it would be a shame to lose such a creative and innovative young jazz musician."
The second week of Jazzfest resumed to offer more great music and entertainment, the fans continued to flood the gates with expectations of having a good time in spite of the damage to New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina and Rita. Sunshine for everyone as the weather fair’s well. Red hot was the Jazz Tent as the Books Family Project got under way. it was truly a family affair. brother Detroit on guitar, brother Mark on bass, and sister Juanita Brooks singing vocals. Brooks sang so beautifully and passionately, catching the pure essence of the moment with precise timing and phrasing. Brooks’ performance was so pleasing to the audience and over much too quickly! The Jazz Tent flowed on with a set from trumpeter Jeremy davenport thrilling the audience with his skillful playing. Stephanie Jordan with special guest pianist Doug Carn, also joining Jordan on stage was brother Kent, Flutist and brother Marlon, saxophonist. The crowd loved Jordan’s performance, she was elegant as well as sophisticated; she sang so wonderfully as she flowed across the stage gracefully and took a moment to reminisce about the late great jazz vocalist Shirley Horn. Jordan has established herself in the jazz world as a prominent young jazz vocalist. I’m sure you will see a lot more of her in the near future.
Over on the Southern Comfort Blues Stage the ladies were making themselves known to the many fans that crowded around the stage to hear some great sounding blues pianist Marcia Ball, vocalist Marva Wright & the BMW’s, and the queen of the blues, Koko Taylor & Her Blues Machine.
As the Jazzfest comes to a close and the sun begins to set you can’t forget the fantastic music that makes New Orleans the great city that it is. In the Jazz Tent violinist Michael Ward’s set was so energetic that it brought the crowd to their feet several times during his performance. Vocalist John Boutte’ shares how deeply rooted he is in New Orleans as he sings the "Louisiana song", (penned by Randy Newman). Pianist Ellis Marsalis with special guest Saxophonist Lew Tabackin, shared the jazz stage bringing the sound of modern jazz with plenty of wisdom and experience to compliment their artistic flow.
The Acura Stage shined bright with Irma Thomas even through there was a twenty minute rain delay. However, this did not really seem to brother anyone. After it was over Thomas began singing one of her old tunes "It’s Rainin," quite fitting for the moment. Thomas went on to give a great performance as always. Paul Simon continued to captivate the large crowd while they waited for the closing act of the legendary Fats Domino. However, that was not to be. Domino 78 years old wasn’t feeling well. Domino made a brief appearance and apologized to his fans for the last minute cancellation. Moments later the decision was make for Lionel Richie to move from the Southern Comfort Blues Stage to fill in for the ill Fats Domino, and Sam Moore’s set on the Blues Stage would be extended to fill in for Richie. That just goes to show you, when great minds work together everything turns out alright!