Sunday, April 30, 2006


Jazzfest: Day 2

Thousands of Jazzfest fans encountered windy, overcast conditions on Saturday, in contrast to the sun-tan hot opening day. But the only rain that materialized came second after the Dave Matthews Band closed out Day 2's amazing program.

To understand the extent of Jazzfest, know this: a total of 48 bands performed on the fairgrounds' 10 stages yesterday. I saw 19 of them. The stages have very distinct flavors. Two feature non-stop jazz (Jazz Tent and Economy Hall Tent), one is strictly devoted to gospel music (Gospel Tent), another to brass bands (Jazz & Heritage Stage), one to cajun and zydeco (Fais Do-Do Stage), one to black world music (Congo Square Louisiana Rebirth Stage), one to blues (Blues Stage), one to interviews and storytellers (Lagniappe Stage), one for the youngest attendees (Kids Tent) and lastly, one for the biggest-name bands Jazzfest has to offer (Acura).

Most Jazzfest aficionados set up lawn chairs at the big stages (Blues and Acura) and use that as home base to wonder to and fro throughout the day. For me and other members of the media, home base is the Press Tent, which provides a refuge from the sun, necessary information, free computer stations and clean restroom facilities. Yesterday, festival founder Quint Davis conducted a press conference at 11:15 am in the tent.

As Davis laid out the difficulties him team faced to produce this year's Jazzfest, he explained, "The festival has a 37-year mission to be an indigenous self-celebration of our culture. But coming into this year it had these other missions, because our fate has changed. Can we restart tourism? Can we prove that New Orleans can have an event of this size and scope? It's incredible that we had a normal festival day [on April 28], not some strange partial-Katrina day. Normalcy is a non-existent term. We had no idea what to expect. We don't know what's normal anymore."

When I asked a question, identifying myself as a High Times, and the assembled press seemed to snicker a bit, Davis took offense. "When I said, 'Oh, cool' [to me], I want you know that going back to the very early years of this festival when very few people knew about this outside of New Orleans, High Times magazine was the first national publication that ever wrote a national story about the festival in the mid-'70s."

That said, I left the Press Tent with a big smile on my face and began my Day 2 tour of Jazzfest duty. This is what I saw and ate, in order, starting at high noon:

Crawfish Bread
New Yorkers might call this cheesy delight stuffed with little mud bugs a calzone. I call it delicious; $6.

Jambalaya Cajun Band
Fiddle, accordian and acoustic guitars, songs sung in French.

Mahogany Brass Band
Trumpet, trombone, saxophone, tuba, bass drum, trap drums. Instead of playing hip-hop like most other urban youth, New Orleans's African Americans pick up horns and march the second line; moving version of "St. James Infirmary."

Tony "Oulabula" Bazley
Jazz drummer Bazley dates back to his days with Eric Dolphy. Tight ensemble with sax and trumpet.

Clarence "Frogman" Henry
Funny bluesman who croaks like a frog on such classics as "Aint Got No Home," which speaks volumes at this year's Jazzfest.

Dwayne Dopsie & the Zydeco Hellraisers
The son of zydeco legend Rockin' Dopsie (pronounced Doopsie) leads this band as the washboard player. For those who don't know, zydeco is cajun's funky cousin - electrified and usually including horns.

Big Chief Peppy & the Golden Arrows Mardi Gras Indians
Feather-clad black Indians the likes of which you may only see at Mardi Gras; tribal.

Lighthouse Gospel Singers
My daily visit to the Gospel Tent has me dancing with revival fervor once again; sensational.

Still not used to this band minus singer "Houseman." Sax-player Skerick joins for purposeful "When the Levee Breaks" finale.

Chops Funky 7 Brass Band
Trumpet, flugelhorn, trombone, tuba and funky drummer.

New Birth Brass Band
Closer to hip-hop than the other brass bands with calls to the audience to "get your hands in the air" and "somebody scream." U2's The Edge makes guest appearance.

Luther Kent & Trickbag
White blues big-band led by the honey-voiced Kent; "Hey Pocky Way" at 4:20.

The Iguana
Alt-cajun rockers mix in Latin, Caribbean and Tex-Mex flavors.

Hugh Masekela
South African musical great, trumpeter Hugh Masekela has crowd singing and dancing along to mbweli beats.

Chief Iron Horse & the Black Seminoles Mardi Gras Indians
Incredible costumes and awesome jam on "Mardi Gras Mambo"; the real deal.

Herbie Hancock
Keyboard whiz Hancock gets funky with the help of Marcus Miller on bass and trumpeter Terence Blanchard (guests on Miles Davis' "Tutu). Finishes with Headhunters' classic, "Chameleon."

Crawfish Etouffe
Everyone at Jazzfest swears by creamy Crawfish Monica, but I prefer this spicy, tomato-based rice dish; $5.

C.J. Chenier & the Red Hot Lousiana Band
Son of another zydeco legend, Clifton Chenier, C.J. plays accordian with drive and soul just his dad; cream of the crop.

The lone hip-hop act on the Jazzfest schedule is a big hit with local African-Americans and wiggers. Juvenile "keeps the party going" all set long.

Bill Summers (with members of Los Hombres Calientes)
Latin-jazz with percussionist Summers up front, backed by full horn and rhythm sections. "Like the Water" jam rivals "Mardi Gras Mambo" for best of the day.

Dave Matthews Band
I arrive just in time to catch The Edge sit in on "Slow Rider." On stellar "Jimmy Thing" > "For What It's Worth." DMB seizes the jazzy moment with horn solos by LeRoi Moore on sax and a guest trumpeter, and Matthews scatting. "Louisiana Bayou" finale ends Day 2 at 7:19 pm.

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