New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival 2011 (First Weekend)!

The first New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival was held in 1970 and featured, among others, Duke Ellington, Pete Fountain (appearing this year as well, and mighty welcome), Al Hirt, Fats Domino, and The Meters. Organized by George Wein (whom we saw fly by on a golf cart on the festival grounds during weekend # 1 this year) and with help from Quint Davis (still active) and Allison Miner (sadly, no longer with us), the festival has grown from roughly 350 attendees in 1970 to a multi-stage musical bonanza that draws music lovers from across the globe, with daily attendance regularly exceeding 100,000.

We can’t offer you virtual pheasant gumbo or a fried softshell crab po-boy and you can’t fondle the amazing selection of crafts from your office chair, but we can provide a peek (hey, there are twelve stages and we can only run so fast…) at a small selection of the amazing musical talent this year.  Drool on, and book your travel to New Orleans for Jazz Fest 2012.  The festival is always held during the last weekend in April and the first weekend in May (Fri, Sat, Sun, Thurs, Fri, Sat, Sun).  That’s seven days of heaven!  Click on any photo below to access the entire gallery from Jazz Fest 2011.  We’ll be adding new content throughout the festival.

 

Red Baraat playing at Jazz Fest 2011 in New Orleans, LA on day 3. (Golden G. Richard III)

 

DAY 1: April 29, 2011

Onward!  First Day.  Eleven stages. What to see first?  There’s nothing like a brass band to get the get the kinks out of the hips, so the Young Pinstripe Brass Band was up:

Young Pinstripe Brass Band playing at Jazz Fest on Day 1. (Golden G. Richard III)

Next, a mad dash to the largest of the stages (Acura), for a dose of Jon Cleary, someone we’ve showcased before and one of the funkiest New Orleanians on the ivories, joined by Matt Perrine on bass and Doug Belote on drums:

Jon Cleary playing at Jazz Fest 2011 in New Orleans on Day 1. (Golden G. Richard III)
Jon Cleary playing at Jazz Fest 2011 in New Orleans on Day 1. (Golden G. Richard III)
After channeling James Booker and Professor Longhair through Jon Cleary’s band, we had just enough time to dash to the WWOZ Jazz Tent to check out a set called MASHUP, which featured Terence Higgins (Dirty Dozen Brass Band) on drums, Grant Green, Jr. (a guitar wizard in his own right and son of the jazz legend Grant Green), and Ike Stubblefield on piano.  A bit mellower than the Congo Square stage and a great break from the sun:

Terence Higgins, Ike Stubblefield, and Grant Green, Jr. playing at Jazz Fest 2011 in New Orleans, LA on day 1. (Golden G. Richard III)

Terence Higgins, Ike Stubblefield, and Grant Green, Jr. playing at Jazz Fest 2011 in New Orleans, LA on day 1. (Golden G. Richard III)

Terence Higgins, Ike Stubblefield, and Grant Green, Jr. playing at Jazz Fest 2011 in New Orleans, LA on day 1. (Golden G. Richard III)

Back to the Acura stage for guitar god Jeff Beck, performing with Prince’s ex-bass player, the absolutely electrifying Rhonda Smith, and Grammy Award-winning drummer Narada Micheal Walden.  No reason Jeff Beck should have a second rate band and no worries on that account:

Jeff Beck playing with Jason Rebello on keyboards, Rhonda Smith on bass, and  Narada Michael Walden on drums at Jazz Fest 2011 in New Orleans, LA on day 1. (Golden G. Richard III)
Jeff Beck playing with Jason Rebello on keyboards, Rhonda Smith on bass, and  Narada Michael Walden on drums at Jazz Fest 2011 in New Orleans, LA on day 1. (Golden G. Richard III)

Jeff Beck playing with Jason Rebello on keyboards, Rhonda Smith on bass, and  Narada Michael Walden on drums at Jazz Fest 2011 in New Orleans, LA on day 1. (Golden G. Richard III)
Jeff was joined for one song by Grammy award nominee Trombone Shorty, who rocked the crowd New Orleans style. Seriously–people were speaking in tongues and hips could be heard crackin’ for a city block.

Jeff Beck playing with Jason Rebello on keyboards, Rhonda Smith on bass, and  Narada Michael Walden on drums at Jazz Fest 2011 in New Orleans, LA on day 1. (Golden G. Richard III)
Next up:  A trip to the Blues Tent for Keb’ Mo’.  Hailing from Compton, Keb’ Mo’ (aka Kevin Moore) started out playing steel drums, but now plays guitar (red ones) and harmonica.

Keb' Mo' set at Jazz Fest 2011 in New Orleans, LA on day 1. (Golden G. Richard III)

Calmed by his smooth sound and ready for some un-calm, we caught Wycliff Jean’s band at the Congo Square stage, where he was joined by an array of local talent, including Lady Tambourine, Donald Harrison on sax, and Irvin Mayfield on Trumpet.

Wycliff Jean and his band at Jazz Fest 2011 in New Orleans, LA. (Golden G. Richard III)

Wycliff Jean and his band at Jazz Fest 2011 in New Orleans, LA. (Golden G. Richard III)

Day 1 ended with a fantastic set, The Golden Striker Trio, consisting of Ron Carter on bass, Mulgrew Miller on piano, and Russell Malone on guitar.  What more can be said about these guys?  Ron Carter has appeared on roughly 2500 albums (that’s essentially an average of an album a week for the past 50 years of his career) and is perhaps the most famous bass player around.   Mulgrew Miller began his career with Art Blakey and Russell Malone has played with Hank Jones, Sonny Rollins, Bobby Hutcherson, Lonnie Smith, and Bill Frisell.  Meanwhile, Robert Plant and the Band of Joy was laying down a mostly Led Zeppelin set, but Ron Carter had us…there was no leaving the jazz tent.

"Go (Golden G. Richard III)
"Go (Golden G. Richard III)

"Go (Golden G. Richard III)

DAY 2: April 30, 2011

Day 2 begin with our favorite bounce musicians, Big Freedia (pronounced free-duh), Sissy Nobby, and Katey Red.  What better way to start the day than with some bouncin’?  If you’re never seen their show live, expect a semantic gap.  Freezing the action provides you with but a glimpse into a continuous stream of revelry and madness, much like the New Orleans Bingo Show (we’ll come back to that on Day 4).   Sissy Nobby started the show by performing for a few minutes on stage then jumping to continue the act in the Fair Grounds grassy field, encouraging the participation of selected female members of the audience.  Big Freedia and Katey Red then took the show back onstage, discussing the dangers of  “gin in my system” and the pleasures of “ass everywhere” (and riding his “ass chariot”, which we bring to you with exclusive photos).

Big Freedia, Sissy Nobby, Katey Red playing at Jazz Fest in New Orleans, LA on day 2. (Golden G. Richard III)Big Freedia, Sissy Nobby, Katey Red playing at Jazz Fest in New Orleans, LA on day 2. (Golden G. Richard III)

Big Freedia, Sissy Nobby, Katey Red playing at Jazz Fest in New Orleans, LA on day 2. (Golden G. Richard III)

Big Freedia, Sissy Nobby, Katey Red playing at Jazz Fest in New Orleans, LA on day 2. (Golden G. Richard III)

Big Freedia, Sissy Nobby, Katey Red playing at Jazz Fest in New Orleans, LA on day 2. (Golden G. Richard III)

Big Freedia, Sissy Nobby, Katey Red playing at Jazz Fest in New Orleans, LA on day 2. (Golden G. Richard III)

One might think…wow.  Time to relax for a bit.  Not gonna happen, because next up:  The Hot 8 Brass Band, one of the hottest bands in the city.  All born and raised in New Orleans (and we’re keeping them) and many began playing together as early as high school.  Unbuckle the belt a bit, get those hips ready, raise your beer to the memory of Dinerral Shavers, and dance right in.

Hot 8 Brass Band playing at Jazz Fest in New Orleans, LA on day 2. (Golden G. Richard III)

Hot 8 Brass Band playing at Jazz Fest in New Orleans, LA on day 2. (Golden G. Richard III)

Next up: Alvin Youngblood Heart’s Muscle Theory in the Blues Tent.  A Grammy and W.C. Handy award winning blues guitarist, vocalist, and composer, his guitar and vocals lift you to another place, where thoughts of a single thing wrong…  Or work.  Or taking photos.  Or just about anything else except where Alvin’s taking you.  Pay attention or you’re gone, son.  And just like that, all the energy that Big Freedia and the Hot 8 borrowed is back and we spring back to life.

Alvin Youngblood Hart Set at Jazz Fest 2011 on day 2. (Golden G. Richard III)

Back to the Congo Square stage for Emeline Michel of Haiti, whose voice travels through your mind like a velvet knife, singing in both French and Creole, and whose elegant yet mad dancing weaves a spell from which you can’t escape (more on this in a minute).

Emeline Michel of Haiti's set at Jazz Fest 2011 in New Orleans, LA on day 2. (Golden G. Richard III)

Emeline Michel of Haiti's set at Jazz Fest 2011 in New Orleans, LA on day 2. (Golden G. Richard III)

 (Golden G. Richard III)

Regret sets in.  Ensnared by Emeline, we’ve missed John Boutte’s set..too much going on!    We vow to “improve” our behavior and move on to Ahmad Jamal.  Mr. Jamal is a lesson in competing with prodigies.  He began playing piano at age three and completed the equivalent of masters classes in piano in high school, and at age 80 has completely undiminished skills, continuing a career that has already spanned more than 70 years.  Joined by New Orleans drummer Herlin Riley, in our opinion one of the most electrifying drummers ever to walk the Earth, James Cammack on bass, and master percussionist Manolo Badrena, this became one of the Jazz Fest performances to beat.

 

Ahmad Jamal with James Cammack on bass, Manolo Badrena on percussion, and Herlin Riley on drums at Jazz Fest 2011 on day 2. (Golden G. Richard III)

Ahmad Jamal with James Cammack on bass, Manolo Badrena on percussion, and Herlin Riley on drums at Jazz Fest 2011 on day 2. (Golden G. Richard III)

Ahmad Jamal with James Cammack on bass, Manolo Badrena on percussion, and Herlin Riley on drums at Jazz Fest 2011 on day 2. (Golden G. Richard III)

Ahmad Jamal with James Cammack on bass, Manolo Badrena on percussion, and Herlin Riley on drums at Jazz Fest 2011 on day 2. (Golden G. Richard III)

Ahmad Jamal with James Cammack on bass, Manolo Badrena on percussion, and Herlin Riley on drums at Jazz Fest 2011 on day 2. (Golden G. Richard III)

Ahmad Jamal with James Cammack on bass, Manolo Badrena on percussion, and Herlin Riley on drums at Jazz Fest 2011 on day 2. (Golden G. Richard III)

Ahmad Jamal with James Cammack on bass, Manolo Badrena on percussion, and Herlin Riley on drums at Jazz Fest 2011 on day 2. (Golden G. Richard III)

DAY 3: May 1, 2011

Damaged slightly by a late night reunion show of the Morning 40 Federation at One Eyed Jacks (photos coming), we arrived at Jazz Fest and immediately headed for Boukman Eksperyans, a huge Haitian band formed two decades ago by Lolo and Mimerose Beaubrun.   The name of the band is derived from Dutty Boukman, a vodou priest who lived in the 18th century and the Creole word for “experience”, as a tribute to Jimi Hendrix.  Eyes wide open!   The solidarity between Haiti and New Orleans was in full effect at Jazz Fest 2011 and the festival was greatly enriched by the presence of fantastic Haitian bands like Boukman Eksperyans.  Positive vibrations and gettin’ our dance on!

 

Boukman Eksperyans playing at Jazz Fest 2011 in New Orleans, LA on day 3. (Golden G. Richard III)

 

Deacon John might not be widely known outside New Orleans, but is a wildly popular crowd pleaser locally and has made a career as a session musician since the 1950’s, playing with Allen Toussaint, Ernie K-Doe, and others.   We saw him most recently at Fess Fest, where he put on a guitar fireworks show.  The Jazz Fest performance was more playful and at 69, the Jump Blues man is still jumping, with only an umbrella to establish a comfortable terminal velocity.

 

Deacon John and his band play at Jazz Fest 2011 in New Orleans, LA on day 3. (Golden G. Richard III)

Deacon John and his band play at Jazz Fest 2011 in New Orleans, LA on day 3. (Golden G. Richard III)

 

Even photo credentials couldn’t get us near the Acura Stage for Dr. John’s show, which would normally be packed, but with an appearance by Dave Bartholemew increasing crowd size by an order of magnitude.  We shed a tear, but quickly recovered and headed to see DJA-Rara, another of the Haitian bands appearing at Jazz Fest 2011.  Billed as “part-carnival, part-social protest, part- vodou ceremony”, the show is both incredibly visual and a bit sonically jarring to the initiate.  Check ’em out live and also check out the documentary film on DJA Rara by Jeremy Robins and Magali Damas, called The Other Side of the Water.

DJA-Rara from Haiti playing at Jazz Fest 2011 in New Orleans, LA on day 3. (Golden G. Richard III)

DJA-Rara from Haiti playing at Jazz Fest 2011 in New Orleans, LA on day 3. (Golden G. Richard III)

DJA-Rara from Haiti playing at Jazz Fest 2011 in New Orleans, LA on day 3. (Golden G. Richard III)

 

Meanwhile, in the WWOZ Jazz Tent, Terence Blanchard was laying down an effects-infused trumpetscape.   Blanchard, a New Orleans native and graduate of NOCCA, which has spawned countless New Orleans musicians,  is an extremely talented trumpet player, bandleader, and composer.  He first rose to prominence as a member of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and then as part of a trio with saxophonist Donald Harrison and pianist Mulgrew Miller (who also played Jazz Fest this year).  Recently, Terence Blanchard served as the artistic director of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz.

Terence Blanchard's Set at Jazz Fest 2011 in New Orleans, LA on day 3. (Golden G. Richard III)

In the Economy Hall Tent, which is home to traditional jazz acts at Jazz Fest, Pete Fountain was blowing clarinet, with accompaniment from his granddaughter on washboard and a full backing band.  Pete Fountain was famously fired by Lawrence Welk for excessive “jazzing” (we withhold commentary, but I’m sure you get our mental drift) and went on to a wildly successful career playing dixieland in New Orleans.   Notably, he’s also the founder of the Half Fast Walking Club, a marching krewe for the New Orleans Mardi Gras, and certainly one of the top guests on The Tonight Show, having appeared more than 50 times.  And the man blows a sweet tone, ladies and gentlemen…

 

Pete Fountain playing at Jazz Fest 2011 in New Orleans, LA on day 3. (Golden G. Richard III)

 

Pete Fountain playing at Jazz Fest 2011 in New Orleans, LA on day 3. (Golden G. Richard III)

 

To close out day 3, Arlo Guthrie, John Mellencamp, John Legend and the Roots, Kenny <<cough cough>> G., the Decemberists, and others, but for us, there was only Red Baarat.   An explosively energetic group, they sound quite a bit like a New Orleans brass band (and that’s a good thing), with one infectious difference–the dhol drum.  The band consists of Sunny Jain on the dhol, Rohin Khemani on percussion, Tomas Fujiwara on drums, Arun Luthra on soprano sax, Mike Bomwell on baritone sax, Sonny Singh on trumpet, MiWi La Lupa on bass trumpet, Smoota on trombone, and John Altieri on sousaphone, an international gathering that had a huge crowd at the smaller Jazz and Heritage stage in a furor!  We tried…seriously…to stop dancing and hold the cameras still and mostly, we succeeded.  Check these guys out and buy their CD, which comes very close to capturing the energy of their live show.

 


Red Baraat's Chaal Baby

 

 

Red Baraat playing at Jazz Fest 2011 in New Orleans, LA on day 3. (Golden G. Richard III)

 

Red Baraat playing at Jazz Fest 2011 in New Orleans, LA on day 3. (Golden G. Richard III)


Red Baraat playing at Jazz Fest 2011 in New Orleans, LA on day 3. (Golden G. Richard III)

 

Red Baraat playing at Jazz Fest 2011 in New Orleans, LA on day 3. (Golden G. Richard III)

 

Stay tuned for coverage of the 2nd weekend of the 2011 Jazz and Heritage Festival.

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