New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival 2011 (Second Weekend).

All good things must come to an end.  Actually, in New Orleans that’s not strictly true, since the end of Jazz Fest simply returns us to the normal firehouse-sized helping of daily music and festivals, but for non-locals, maybe it is a temporary ending.  In any event, we recount our best experiences during the last 4 days of Jazz Fest 2011 below.

May 5, 2011

One of the first acts we caught was also one of the most amazing of the entire festival: The Kumbuka African Dance and Drum Collective.  Beautiful drummers, a fabulous display of African dances, and a 15ft. tall stilt walker doing stage stunts that most people wouldn’t try even with their own legs, much less on 10ft stilts.  The Kumbuka squad was a huge crowd pleaser and with Thursday being a popular day for students to attend field trips to Jazz Fest, kids were pressed against the barricades in force to watch this show.  A bonus was the appearance of the Yellow Pocohontas Mardi Gras Indians.

Kumbuka African Dance and Drum Collective at Jazz Fest 2011 on day 4. (Golden G. Richard III)

Kumbuka African Dance and Drum Collective at Jazz Fest 2011 on day 4. (Golden G. Richard III)

Kumbuka African Dance and Drum Collective at Jazz Fest 2011 on day 4. (Golden G. Richard III)

Kumbuka African Dance and Drum Collective at Jazz Fest 2011 on day 4. (Golden G. Richard III)

 (Golden G. Richard III)

 

Next up:  A trip to the Blues Tent to see Little Freddie King (guilty admission:  we were actually running to make another act, since Little Freddie King plays locally very often, but the sound lured us straight into the tent).  How does this guy keep getting better and better?  Not that he needs to.   Jesus, Mr. King–want the tent to fall on us?  This man rips!   (Coverage of him opening for Morning 40 Federation coming soon, after we finish with Jazz Fest).  And his harmonica player–pictures can’t tell this story, but he’s not human!

 

Little Freddie King at Jazz Fest 2011 in New Orleans, LA on day 4. (Golden G. Richard III)

Little Freddie King at Jazz Fest 2011 in New Orleans, LA on day 4. (Golden G. Richard III)

Dashing back to the Congo Square Stage, Kirk Joseph’s Backyard Groove.   Kirk Joseph is a famous local sousaphone (locals say “tuba”) player and leads a number of groups, including a brass band:

 

Kirk Joseph's Backyard Groove at the 2011 Jazz and Heritage Festival in New Orleans, LA on day 4. (Golden G. Richard III)

A quick peek at Zigaboo Modeliste’s (famous for being the drummer of The Meters) funky show:

 

Zigaboo Modeliste's set at Jazz Fest 2011 in New Orleans, LA on day 4. (Golden G. Richard III)

and then we watched the James Booker piano tribute in the Blues Tent.  No decent photo coverage of the piano players during that set, because a Hammond B3 and a grand piano were arranged in 90 degree angle configuration, making it impossible to see anything except the player’s head, even from the photo pit.   Time for the shutter to cool down a bit.

Accidental finds are one of the most fun things about Jazz Fest–there’s so much music, that sometimes a wandering approach yields some amazing stuff.  Our accidental find of day 4: Locos por Juana, a Latin band from Miami with a unique style that draws heavily on Columbian music (scream “cumbia” in New Orleans and the feet start moving) and mixes in reggae, dub, and funk:

Locos por Juana playing at the Jazz and Heritage Festival in New Orleans, LA on day 4. (Golden G. Richard III)

Locos por Juana playing at the Jazz and Heritage Festival in New Orleans, LA on day 4. (Golden G. Richard III)

Locos por Juana playing at the Jazz and Heritage Festival in New Orleans, LA on day 4. (Golden G. Richard III)

Day 4 ended with anticipation, bitter disappointment, then completely renewed joie de vivre.  To explain:  Anticipation:  Cyndi Lauper.  WOW!  Bitter disappointment: For some reason, the only artist at Jazz Fest to completely close the photo pit.  What?  Joie de vivre:  Backup plan.  Two options: attack the crazy man dragging around a 400mm f/2.8  lens at Jazz Fest and risk OPP (Orleans Parish Prison).  Plan A rejected.  Plan B: Consumer grade 70-300mm on a cropped sensor D300.  Instant effective 450mm, photos are a go, bitterness dissolved, hip shaking resumes!  Check out Charlie Musselwhite’s face–he was practically splitting with happiness throughout her entire show.

Cyndi Lauper plays at Jazz Fest 2011 in New Orleans on day 4, with Charlie Musselwhite on harmonica. (Golden G. Richard III)


Cyndi Lauper plays at Jazz Fest 2011 in New Orleans on day 4, with Charlie Musselwhite on harmonica. (Golden G. Richard III)

May 6, 2011

On Day 5, a brass band to get things started: the Pinettes Brass Band, one of the only (the only?) all female brass band around, although for Jazz Fest they had a brightly dressed guy in shrimp boots join them for effect:

 

Pinette's Brass Band playing at Jazz Fest 2011 in New Orleans, LA on day 5. (Golden G. Richard III)

Pinette's Brass Band playing at Jazz Fest 2011 in New Orleans, LA on day 5. (Golden G. Richard III)

And then something utterly different:  Edie Brickell.   Remember this?

Shooting Rubberbands at the Stars

 

“What I Am” was on everyone’s tongue 20 years ago, then Edie Brickell seemed to gradually fade from the public eye, though she did continue to release albums, both with the New Bohemians and with a band formed with her stepson (Harper Simon–Edie is married to Paul Simon).  Well, she’s back with two new albums and undiminished stage personality.  Edie put on a soulful show, teased the photographers (on one occasion she waited until I moved the zoom lens and then went into dancing and arm flailing hysterics and laughed), and gave anyone on the fence about her show one big fat smile to walk away with.  Cheers, Edie!

 

Edie Brickell playing at  Jazz Fest 2011 in New Orleans, LA on day 5. (Golden G. Richard III)

Edie Brickell playing at  Jazz Fest 2011 in New Orleans, LA on day 5. (Golden G. Richard III)

This day was far from over.  We moved from soulful to drumming and dancing madness on the Jazz and Heritage Stage, with Ivoire Spectacle, featuring Sequenon Kone.  Kone is originally from the Ivory Coast, but is now a New Orleans resident (How lucky are we?  Exactly.)  He plays a large wooden xylophone called the balafon and a skin-covered drum called the djembe, an instrument also played by Babatunde Olatunji, who released one of the first “world music” albums in 1960, called “Drums of Passion”.  Kone’s dance troupe is called L’Ivoire Spectacle and the translation is perfect, since these (can’t say guys–the women in the troupe are stunningly beautiful) musicians put on a jaw dropping show.  Kone spins the balafon until you’re positive he will simply fly away (check out the motion blur in the first photo as he spins).  And in this show, the audience was greeted by an even more daring stilt walker…in the final shot below, the stilt walker is completely inverted (look closely–he’s wearing a cone-shaped yellow and black mask).

Ivoire Spectacle playing at Jazz Fest 2011 in New Orleans, LA on day 5. (Golden G. Richard III)

Ivoire Spectacle playing at Jazz Fest 2011 in New Orleans, LA on day 5. (Golden G. Richard III)

Ivoire Spectacle playing at Jazz Fest 2011 in New Orleans, LA on day 5. (Golden G. Richard III)

Ivoire Spectacle playing at Jazz Fest 2011 in New Orleans, LA on day 5. (Golden G. Richard III)

Ivoire Spectacle playing at Jazz Fest 2011 in New Orleans, LA on day 5. (Golden G. Richard III)

If you like the balafon and djembe, or African music in general, check out Kora Konnection, who played on day 6 (see below, under May 7).   Next up on the same stage:  more brass, more hip action:  the Forgotten Souls Brass Band.  Why not?

 

Forgotten Souls Brass Band playing at Jazz Fest 2011 in New Orleans, LA on day 5. (Golden G. Richard III)

Before heading to the jazz tent, we caught  a bit of Lupe Fiasco (aka Wasalu Muhammad Jaco), a Chicago-born rapper and artist on the Congo Square stage:

 

Lupe Fiasco plays Jazz Fest 2011 in New Orleans, LA on day 5. (Golden G. Richard III)

…and a bit of Willie Nelson’s show at the Gentilly stage.  Check out the state of the guitar.  Although we’re not sure we’d “upgrade” from a guitar with Johnny Cash’s signature (among many others) scratched into it!

 

Willie Nelson plays Jazz Fest 2011 in New Orleans, LA on day 5. (Golden G. Richard III)

Willie Nelson plays Jazz Fest 2011 in New Orleans, LA on day 5. (Golden G. Richard III)

 

And all of this led up to one our most anticipated acts of Jazz Fest:  the return of the Mingus Big Band to New Orleans.   The Mingus Big Band is a 14 piece band with a variety of musicians rotating through the three trumpet, three trombone, five sax, piano + bass + drums arrangement.  For the Jazz Fest show, Boris Kozlov was on bass with Ku-umba Frank Lacy frequenting leading on vocals.  Frank’s spirited rendition of Mingus’ “Don’t Let it Happen Here” was one of the most memorable events of the entire festival and had the crowd worked into a frenzy in the WWOZ Jazz Tent.  We emerged from the tent absolutely shaken to the core by the intensity of this show, the virtuosity of the musicians, and the absolute genius of Charles Mingus, whom the world lost too early to Lou Gehrig’s disease in 1979.

 

The Mingus Big Band plays at Jazz Fest 2011 in New Orleans, LA on day 5. (Golden G. Richard III)

The Mingus Big Band plays at Jazz Fest 2011 in New Orleans, LA on day 5. (Golden G. Richard III)

The Mingus Big Band plays at Jazz Fest 2011 in New Orleans, LA on day 5. (Golden G. Richard III)

The Mingus Big Band plays at Jazz Fest 2011 in New Orleans, LA on day 5. (Golden G. Richard III)

The Mingus Big Band plays at Jazz Fest 2011 in New Orleans, LA on day 5. (Golden G. Richard III)

The Mingus Big Band plays at Jazz Fest 2011 in New Orleans, LA on day 5. (Golden G. Richard III)

May 7, 2011

Two days to go.   We were front and center at the Gentilly stage before the crowds even started to arrive, waiting for R Scully’s Rough 7.  Ryan Scully was one of the front men and guitarists for Morning 40 Federation, one of our most beloved bands.  The Rough 7 has a different angle on stirring up the crowd than the 40, but is one rock solid band.  Emphasis on rock.  Ryan Scully is on lead vocals and rhythm guitar. Rob Cambre on lead guitar is a madman.  Want to take rockstar shots of guitarists?  Point at Rob and spray.  80% of the shots will be jaw dropping.  Want target practice?  Shooting Ryan Scully when he goes into “insane rabbit mode” on guitar is as challenging as freezing a bullet in mid-flight. Add CJ Floyd on bass, Mike Andrepont on drums, Ratty Scurvics on keys (don’t break the piano, Ratty!), and Meschiya Lake and Erika Lewis on backup vocals and you have the most hard-hitting rock group in New Orleans.  These. Guys. Kick. Ass. 

R Scully's Rough 7 playing at Jazz Fest 2011 in New Orleans, LA on day 6. (Golden G. Richard III)


R Scully's Rough 7 playing at Jazz Fest 2011 in New Orleans, LA on day 6. (Golden G. Richard III)

R Scully's Rough 7 playing at Jazz Fest 2011 in New Orleans, LA on day 6. (Golden G. Richard III)


R Scully's Rough 7 playing at Jazz Fest 2011 in New Orleans, LA on day 6. (Golden G. Richard III)

Time for some reggae, courtesy of the Revealers, providing rasta jams to New Orleanians since 1996:

 

The Revealers playing at Jazz Fest 2011 in New Orleans, LA on day 6. (Golden G. Richard III)

 

…and then RAM (Richard A. Morse) of Haiti, described by Morse as “vodou rock and roll”:

 

RAM of Haiti playing at Jazz Fest 2011 in New Orleans, LA on day 6. (Golden G. Richard III)

RAM of Haiti playing at Jazz Fest 2011 in New Orleans, LA on day 6. (Golden G. Richard III)

…followed by a trip to the Jazz Tent for Khris Royal and Dark Matter.  Khris is a graduate of NOCCA, which has spawned numerous New Orleans musicians, such as Wynton Marsalis, Terrence Blanchard, and Donald Harrison.  Khris was then awarded a full scholarship to Berklee at age 16.  Expect more coverage shortly–Khris also recently played a gig at Lafayette Square with Meters’ bassist George Porter, Jr.

 

Khris Royal and Dark Matter playing at Jazz Fest 2011 in New Orleans, LA on day 6. (Golden G. Richard III)

 

Then a mad dash to the Lagniappe Stage, which sits inside the courtyard of the Fair Grounds Grandstand, for Kora Konnection, a combo consisting of Thierno Dioubate on balafon and djembe, Morikeba Kouyate (from Senegal) on kora, an amazing 21-stringed African harp,  local jazz greats Tim Green on sax, Vince Mitchell on bass, and African percussionist Jeff “Papafrog” Klein on drums.  More African music goodness and it’s local, y’all!

 

Kora Konnection playing at Jazz Fest 2011 in New Orleans, LA on day 6. (Golden G. Richard III)

Kora Konnection playing at Jazz Fest 2011 in New Orleans, LA on day 6. (Golden G. Richard III)

Kora Konnection playing at Jazz Fest 2011 in New Orleans, LA on day 6. (Golden G. Richard III)

Kora Konnection playing at Jazz Fest 2011 in New Orleans, LA on day 6. (Golden G. Richard III)

Rapper Mystikal was up next on the Congo Square stage:

 

Mystikal at Jazz Fest 2011 in New Orleans, LA on day 6. (Golden G. Richard III)

 

…followed by Nicholas Payton, son of the local traditional jazz legend Walter Payton, playing with his band called the Nicholas Payton SeXXXtet.  Nothing XXX about this set, which was fairly straight-ahead jazz, though oozing with talent:

 

Nicholas Payton's set at  Jazz Fest 2011 in New Orleans, LA on day 6. (Golden G. Richard III)

 

We ended the day by catching a few songs from the Strokes set (not our thing, really, although no more curious a choice than Kenny G. for Jazz Fest) and then splitting the sets of Bobby “Blue” Bland in the Blues Tent and Fourplay, an established  jazz quartet, in the WWOZ Jazz Tent, both more our style:

 

The Strokes playing at Jazz Fest 2011 in New Orleans, LA on day 6. (Golden G. Richard III)

Bobby "Blue" Bland set at Jazz Fest 2011 in New Orleans, LA on day 6. (Golden G. Richard III)

Fourplay playing at Jazz Fest 2011 in New Orleans, LA on day 6. (Golden G. Richard III)

Fourplay playing at Jazz Fest 2011 in New Orleans, LA on day 6. (Golden G. Richard III)

Fourplay playing at Jazz Fest 2011 in New Orleans, LA on day 6. (Golden G. Richard III)

And then there was rest, for some of the best was yet to come!

May 8, 2011

This is it.  The day where you either lament the passing of another Jazz Fest, wishing for just one more day, or are so tired that you feel like you might not make another Jazz Fest.  Of course we’re in the former camp.

Roughly six hours until Sonny Rollins, the Colossus, plays.  How to deal with the anxiety?  Dee-1, with arguably one of the most coherently positive messages that hip-hop has to offer, and backed by a solid band.  No leaving this set–we stayed for the whole show and then bought CDs.

 

Dee-1 playing at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in New Orleans, LA on the final day of the festival. (Golden G. Richard III)

Dee-1 playing at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in New Orleans, LA on the final day of the festival. (Golden G. Richard III)

Dee-1 playing at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in New Orleans, LA on the final day of the festival. (Golden G. Richard III)

Sonny Rollins in 5 hours.  Heart racing.  Tabou Combo of Haiti!   These guys have been playing Haitian Compas music for over forty years and brought friends of ours who don’t normally attend Jazz Fest (you know you you are) rushing to the gates!   Check out the Fridge on bass!

 

Tabou Combo of Haiti playing at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in New Orleans, LA on the final day of the festival. (Golden G. Richard III)

Tabou Combo of Haiti playing at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in New Orleans, LA on the final day of the festival. (Golden G. Richard III)

 

Our second to last set was Michael Franti and Spearhead.  We’ve been fans for a long time and turned on some friends who were attending Jazz Fest who had never heard him.  Welcome to our world, friends–they were instant fans.  Spearhead hails from San Francisco, but Franti is now backed by a guitar god from Lake Charles LA (in Cajun country, in West Louisiana)  This is another set where we stayed until the end, long after we were kicked out of the photo pit.  No problem with coverage there, since Franti spent a significant part of the set running through the crowd…does it get more fun than almost being run over by Franti as he dashes by?

 

 (Golden G. Richard III)

 (Golden G. Richard III)

 (Golden G. Richard III)

 

 (Golden G. Richard III)

 

Then the moment arrived. 5:40p and time for Sonny Rollins, and with apologies to performers on the other 10 stages, we weren’t going to miss a single second.  Clearly aging and with some serious difficulty walking (although he played the whole show standing), the Colossus didn’t disappoint.   Sonny Rollins has had a profound influence on jazz, creating the piano-less jazz trio, “retiring” from playing to take practice sabbaticals when he didn’t think his playing was completely up to snuff, and playing with some of the other greatest jazz artists to walk the planet.  If you’re somehow not yet turned on to Sonny Rollins, check out at least Saxophone Colossus, Tenor Madness (with John Coltrane), Sonny Rollins Plus 4, and The Freedom Suite (check out the mad riffs by Max Roach on the title track), and then move your addiction forward from there.   Embarrassed to have cried during Sonny’s set at Jazz Fest 2011?  No.   See him while we still have him.  Walk, bicycle, take a zeppelin, skateboard, steal a car (OK, don’t–we’ll drive you)…do what you have to do.

Sonny Rollins playing at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in New Orleans, LA on the final day of the festival. (Golden G. Richard III)

Sonny Rollins playing at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in New Orleans, LA on the final day of the festival. (Golden G. Richard III)

 

See you at Jazz Fest in 2012.  We’re the people with the funny hats and big cameras.

Leave a Reply