The Jazz.com Blog
April 29, 2008 · 0 comments
Below Zoie Clift continues her coverage of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, with her account of day two of the event. The 39th Jazzfest comes to an end this weekend. T.G.
Tribute to George Lewis(photo by Zoie Clift)
Saturday was a day for the die-hard fans at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. The rain started coming down at around 2 in the afternoon and never let up. According to reports, it was the soggiest day at Jazzfest in recent memory, but fans seemed to go with the flow. Mud and standing waters had formed throughout the venues. Ankle deep water could be found in some sections of the Fair Grounds Race Course and everywhere one looked the scene was of mud, people carrying multicolored umbrellas and makeshift rain gear.
Despite the weather, the grounds were filled with fans and a festive attitude and atmosphere prevailed. As one attendee waited outside in the downpour for a set to begin, he looked up at the sky and shouted: “Is this all you’ve got!” Rather than let the rain drench their moods, most fans seemed to tackle the scenario with a ‘make do and deal with it’ attitude.
Though arriving at the festival later in the day this time around, I quickly settled on the Economy Hall Tent (which hosted traditional New Orleans jazz) as my home base for the afternoon. The first set to greet my ears was Norwegian trad jazz band Ytre Suløen with singer, Tricia Boutté. Boutte is a New Orleans native and the international ensemble was initially inspired by the jazz from New Orleans, which continues to be the foundation of the band’s musical style.
Tricia Boutté (photo by Zoie Clift)
This band is not afraid to experiment, which has helped them form the distinctive style, known in Norway as “the Suløen Sound.” This ensemble, which has been around since the early 1970s, was the first Norwegian band ever to be invited to an American jazz festival when it initially came to Jazzfest. The tent was packed and patriotic for their performance on Saturday. At the completion of every song, a host of Norwegian flags would shoot up and start waving throughout the crowd. The group ended their set with a gospel-tinged encore fueled by the powerful vocals of Boutte.
The rain was coming down hard outside -- so the covering of the tent was a much appreciated bonus for fans. It also provided a nice ambiance for the next set, a tribute to clarinetist George Lewis, featuring Dr. Michael White, Tommy Sancton and Sammy Rimington. The three clarinetists paid fitting homage to one of New Orleans' legends. Lewis is the celebrated figure behind such songs as "Burgundy Street Blues." Dr. Michael White has played with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and founded The Original Liberty Jazz Band with a specific mission of preserving the musical heritage of the city. White’s music has been inspired by Lewis, Sanction wrote a book about Lewis and New Orleans jazz, and Rimington is one of Europe's top players of New Orleans-style jazz. The crew played to a packed crowd as the rain poured outside.
The night ended with the sounds of the Harlem Blues and Jazz Band with guest Gunhild Carling. The group’s jazz roots are based in the classic period of the 20s and the 30s and the inspiring sounds is produced by a cadre of veteran jazz musicians who embody the spirit and authenticity of early Swing Jazz. Though we were dry under the tent, when venturing outside my field of vision was lined with ponchos, umbrellas, plastic boots and muddy shoes. Even with umbrellas it was easy to get soaked by what had become an intense, cool rainstorm.
The rain continued Sunday and rain is in the forecast for the upcoming second weekend of the festival (which starts May 1st) as well. Rain is usually bad news for an outdoor festival, but the Jazzfest – like New Orleans itself -- has proven to be resilient. It seems no matter the weather, the fans will be there in high spirits and continue to go with the flow.
This blog entry posted by Zoie Clift.