The Jazz.com Blog
May 02, 2009 · 0 comments
We continue Zoie Clift’s coverage of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival with her report on day two of the festival. For her update on day, click here. T.G.
The combination of music and lack of sleep from round one of the festival found me a bit tired at the opening of day 2 (April 25). I made a push for the gospel tent to jump-start my body. Even if it is not something you would normally listen to, groups in this tent usually put on some of the highest energy shows and I have never left this venue disappointed.
From here, I went to the Acura Stage, the largest stage and viewing area at the Fair Grounds, to see folk legend Pete Seeger. Seeger is not someone I would normally see but I took a lesson learned from the past (‘Some of the best shows aren't necessarily the names you came for’) to heart and decided to check him out for a bit.
He performed with a six-piece group including his grandson, Tao Rodriguez Seeger, folk duo Mike and Ruthy, and Preservation Hall tuba player Ben Jaffe. Dressed in blue jeans and armed with a banjo, Seeger definitely looked the part of folk legend but didn’t look like he was about to turn 90 (on May 3) in a few days. The set opened with "Midnight Special," which he sang with his grandson. The group's version of "I Don't Want Your Millions, Mister " was a popular shout out to the recession and thousands joined in the singing to unleash their feelings about the troubled economic times.
After my Seeger introduction I ventured to the WWOZ tent to take in Astral Project. The co-op featured Joe Dagradi on both tenor and soprano saxophone, Johnny Vidacovich on drums, Steve Masakowski on guitar and James Singleton on bass. After spending the last hour outside immersed in the sounds of folk, the jazz ensemble provided a crisp intro into the realm of modern jazz. The improvisational style of the group is what jazz is all about and the sounds covered the spectrum of genres, from funky to exotic. Needless to say, the crowd was into it and gave standing ovations after each song.
I wandered outside after the set and ran into “Uncle” Lionel Batiste, a jazz/blues musician (and much loved local) with the Treme Brass Band. He had just played in the Economy Hall tent with the Young Tuxedo Brass Band and I took the opportunity to catch up with him and see how his day was unfolding.
After the catch up, it was back to the Acura stage to quickly catch a glimpse of Irma Thomas, aka the “Soul Queen of New Orleans”. I had seen Thomas perform before so I didn’t stay long. I just needed a quick fix of her blues and soul. I viewed her as a resilient character, like Jazz Fest itself. In 2007 she earned her first Grammy after over 40 years into her career for After the Rain. I grabbed a few photos and headed back to the Economy Hall Tent to see clarinetist Pete Fountain. Fountain was on the bill at the first Jazz Fest so I thought it fitting to end the day with him. Fountain (who is in the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame) grew up in town and is known around town as “Mr. N’awlins.”
Fountain brought his signature New Orleans Dixieland flavored jazz to the tent, and hearing his version of Louis Armstrong’s “Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans” made the day more than complete.
Overall the day was an endearing tribute to the city’s legacy as the birthplace of jazz. For many visitors, Jazz Fest is New Orleans. The people, the music, the attitude. The festival (much like the city itself) has the ability to get under your skin. Everyone takes something different from their experience but a common factor seems to be that once you experience Jazz Fest, it’s a safe bet it won’t be your last one.
This blog entry posted by Zoie Clift.