Thursday, May 31, 2012

Sazerwrap Part 2: Jazzfest

The Sazerwrap has been RtBE way of rounding up all the amazing things that happen down at our annual trip to Jazzfest in New Orleans.  This year we spent a week in town so we will breaking the review up into a few parts.  Only 11 Months until next years festival! 
Now we get to focus on our two days (Sunday April 29th & Saturday May 5th)  at the 2012 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival specifically the tunes we were lucky enough to catch, and let us just say now it was pure Boosh! 

SUNDAY APRIL 29th 2012

Opening things up for us this year was the Mahogany Jazz Band.  Fronted by Brice Miller who mentioned this was the 20th year the group was playing the festival, a great milestone for some fantastic musicians.  Their version of "My Blue Heaven" was a real winner and took place right before the Ninth Ward Hunters Parade rolled by.
The Indians were dressed up this year in native gear, offset by black and yellow NY Yankee's caps...I can leave NY, but Yankee fans are everywhere.  Heading over to main stage we saw that the whole state of New Jersey had traveled south and staked out their spots for Bruce later in the day with their lawn chairs, it was already a mob scene.

Before that though two of NOLA's finest elevated things into the sunny sky.  RtBE fav's Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue were up first as the troopers tuned up for an extra long time before bringing the Supafunkrock to the masses:

Their fiery playing via their own "Suburbia" was so massive that they broke into a "Bull's On Parade" Horn drenched instrumental cover of Rage Against The Machine.  Also giving a nod to the great Allen Toussaint the band did their soulfully smooth cover of "On Your Way Down" before vamping under the noon day sun.

Retreating from the heat found the gospel tent in full swing as Lois DeJean Gospel Diva and Friends had the masses believing in a higher power.  For an extended period of time (over 10 minutes) she only sang 1 word, and that word was Jesus!  When she finished she simply asked the crowd to rise, and as one they all did to continue praising.  It was an emotional site to behold.  Here she is under more restrained (and hopefully cooler) conditions:     
Inside the blues tent 73 year old Ironing Board Sam played his boogie-woogie piano blues while wearing an insane gold lame suit that was shining from stage.
Classic.  On the inventive tip however Bill Summers Jazalsa combined the Latin grooves with old time jazz and threw down on the Heritage stage adding a hip-shaking spice to the gumbo.  Here is a sample of their style as they play on a TV show:

Back on the Main Stage, the legend himself Dr. John was putting on a show for the ages as his new album Locked Down seems to have inspired the artist more so then anything he has done in years.  Focusing on tracks from that album saw them stand toe to toe, if not rise higher then some of his classics.  "Ice Age" was funk under the sun with it's fantastic organs and sax's:

"St. James Infirmary" was loose before "Wild Magnolia" made you shake your tail-feather and "Revolution" continued the new song greatness.  "Right Place Wrong Time" brought back some of the old magic but the newer tunes proved that while Bruce may be Boss, Dr. John is the "Big Shot".     

Moving over to the Economy Hall stage found the Treme Brass Band playing a stunning version of "Down In The Treme" while the crowd literally 2nd lined throughout the sweltering tent.

The band wasn't 100% successful though as their slowed down version of "What A Wonderful World" kinda killed the momentum they had established.  However the group invited an excellent vocalist named Gabby to help them out, adding some youth and energy back to the event:
After catching some of the mediocre pop-gospel styling of radio personality Yolanda Adams on the Congo Stage we moseyed back over to the Blues tent where superstar in waiting Gary Clark Jr. was slaying the crowd with his powerhouse blues.  He owned the tent with his slow beats, fast frets and Hendrix-esque flairs on tracks like "Bright Lights" and falsetto singing of "Please Come Home".  Youtube user Jmzulz posted the whole set, it isn't the greatest quality sound but gives you a sense of the day, here is the opening "If You Love Me Like You Say"

By now it was time for headliner Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band to get things moving.  Unfortunately moving wasn't an option as the largest crowd this festival has seen in over a decade clogged all avenues around the groups stage, people wanted Bruce and they got almost 3 hours of him as he dipped into some Seeger Session tracks that the locals loved like "O Mary Don't You Weep"

and saved his most well known tracks for the encore.

Although the highlight of Bruce's set for me was when the great Dr. John joined him for a cover of "Something You Got"
That is what makes NOLA Jazzfest special, unexpected collaborations between some of the worlds greatest artists.  People left this day completely satisfied and I heard many long time festival goers proclaiming this day to be one of the "best ever".   

Saturday May 5th 2012

While not possessing as many "big names" as Sunday's show, the following Saturday's was just as enjoyable.  Perhaps it was the cooler temperature or smaller crowd, but the day was a pleasant one as we spent more time with each act we caught.   
The Joe Krown Trio featuring Walter Wolfman Washington and Russell Batiste Jr. were the first act we were enthralled with in the Blues Tent.  This group got down and funky, and it must be said that guest drummer Russell Batiste Jr. was drumming his face off, slapping the skins with grooves and runs that were magical.  Here is a clip of Krown playing with just Walter and Russell from the Louisiana Music Factory from 09 to get a sample of the trios style:

Heading over the Gentilly Stage found Anders Osbourne midway through the trio's hard rock and roll set as the band ripped riffs over the big crowd from their new release Black Eye Galaxy like "Mind Of A Junkie":

The band also managed to show off their more delicate side, not intimated by the mass attendance, on tracks like "Louisiana Gold"

Longtime friend of New Orleans Steve Earle came out and exclaimed "It's taken me 25 Fucking Years to book this gig!" and went on to play a great set of old and new tunes as the crowd overflowed the Fais Do-Do Stage.  Old time rocker "Copperhead Road" got a real boost from the crowd:

But the man's best song is the tune he wrote for the town we all love, called "This City" and he even gave a bit of background which is cool:

God Damn that song still gives me goosebumps!  Even with that false start in the chorus, great set by Mr. Earle. 

The final act of the day that needed to be caught was the Warren Haynes Band who filled in for the recently departed Levon Helm.  Having seen Warren countless times over the years, in various bands and settings, I am not sure I have ever seen him play with more passion then he did during this set.
His own tunes like "Rivers Gonna Rise and "Sick Of My Shadow" found him dueling with saxophonist Ron Holloway throughout and instead of the slick soul style he has played these tunes in previously things got more earthy and real.  While that might have been nod to the grittiness of The Band, more overt tributes were to come as this years (and most years) festival MVP Dr. John and the Dirty Dozen Brass band joined the proceedings to play "Walks on Gilded Splinters" while Warren did his damage on slide guitar amazingly, one of the musical highlights of the whole trip:

The group then got to referencing Levon directly as Dr. John played "Such A Night" and the group ended with stunning versions of "It Makes No Difference" and especially "The Weight" which the crowd sang just as loudly as Warren did.

This was an emotional set and a perfect way to end our festival...if only it could never end. Until we hit the fairgrounds next year!

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