Day 11 / Sunday, May 5

11-27


The last day was a fabulous day at Jazz Fest, enjoyed under another unbelievably blue sky punctuated with a few floating white clouds. Idyllic. The 2013 drill was executed: get up, get ready, scrounge food at the Staybridge breakfast buffet, go back to the room and slather on sunblock and gather tickets and cameras and phones – but not our trusty black and blue umbrella ... it was left somewhere yesterday. It served us well, though, and we will miss it. We met Ellie and David, and off we went to the shuttle buses at the Sheraton. 

In the elevator this morning, believe it or not, we encountered the same couple as yesterday. This time I showed her my shoes, which after most of yesterday spent at Gentilly, Jazz and Heritage, and Fais Do Do, definitely showed some Jazz Fest mud. I asked, is this better? She nodded approvingly. We chatted for a few seconds, but never did find out where they were from.

The temperature today was still unseasonably cool, and that breeze from the last couple of days was persistent, although not quite as bad. It felt like early spring today ... in New England. This Jazz Fest will definitely be remembered for its weather. 

This being day number 11 of our two years of Jazz Fest, we went back to the place where we had started many others, the Fais Do Do Stage. There is something about this stage in the morning – the way the sun is on the crowd, the type of artists playing there, the two-steppers ... I don't know exactly what it is, but it's always been a great place to start the day. You know, that sounds familiar.


The Sunday cubes told us that D.L. Menard and the Louisiana Aces would be opening Fais Do Do today. Because of the high pitch and country-tinged sound of his voice, the heartfelt songs of rural Acadian life he sings, and even his straw cowboy hat, Menard is known as the Cajun Hank Williams. He names Williams as a great influence, and even met him once in 1951 at the Teche Club in New Iberia shortly before the country legend's untimely death. He does look and sound a little like you'd imagine Williams would have if he had lived a long life. 

The Cajun string music Menard plays with the Louisiana Aces hasn't changed much since he started playing it many years ago, and the 81-year old apparently has no plans to retire. "I just wish I could live another 20, 30 years," he said from the stage. "Doggone it, I'm getting better."

Born in Eunice, Louisiana, in 1932, Doris Leon Menard was part of a Cajun farming family. He was exposed to the music by his father, who played harmonica, and an uncle who played guitar in a Cajun band. Attending one of the band's rehearsals, Menard became enchanted by his uncle's guitar playing and convinced his uncle to teach him a few rudimentary chords. 

Menard took to the instrument quickly, and six months after buying a guitar from a Sears and Roebuck catalog, he performed his first gigs. He joined Elias Badeaux's band, the Louisiana Aces, in 1952. They recorded his song La Porte d'en Arriere (The Back Door) in 1962. The Aces were Badeaux's band, and his accordion was key to the Cajun sound of the recording, but the song was and continues to be Menard's. He wrote it and sang it, and soon the Aces were his band. La Porte d'en Arriere is considered the most recorded and performed Cajun song of all time, and Menard has inspired many traditional south Louisiana musicians that have followed him. 

D.L. and his wife Lou Ella (now deceased) have seven children and 17 grandchildren. Lou Ella’s kitchen was the heart of the hospitable Menard household, where one could sit for hours drinking fine Cajun dark roast coffee while rocking to and fro in comfortable homemade rocking chairs. The chairs are a product of the D.L. Menard Chair Factory, a rambling one-man shop located next door, where D.L. is the master craftsman.

While performing, Menard would recognize people in the audience with quips like "Hey, Jim! You're still kicking, huh?" and "Well, I'm glad you got to see me today." His singing voice may sound like Hank Williams, but I found his Cajun drawl and humor to be a lot like the Cajun chef Justin Wilson, one of the first celebrity chefs on public TV back in the 1980's. 

The Louisiana Aces now include Menard's granddaughter, Nelda Menard, on guitar, Reggie Matte on accordion, Terry Huval on fiddle and pedal steel, and Tom David on drums. Here's my video of Menard singing Hello Nelda, written when Nelda was born. And here's another with two tunes, Your Cheatin' Heart and Ti Galop Pour Mamou. 

Menard ended his show on an upbeat note. "I'll see you next year," he said before unplugging his guitar. We can only hope.

If you are really interested in Louisiana Cajun and zydeco music, check out this 1989 documentaryJ'ai ete au bal (I Went To The Dance), about the music culture in southern Louisiana. You'll see a lot of Clifton Chenier and D.L. Menard among many others.

As we were leaving the Fais Do Do area, we came across the couple from the elevator, sitting in their chairs enjoying the Fais Do Do sunshine. We exchanged how we had enjoyed Menard's show and that we were going to see some go-go brass funk. They hadn't decided where they were going, but they were considering that as well. Cool people!

We had almost a half hour before that performance, so we decided to get some food. Laurie had another crawfish bread from Panorama Fine Foods. I was tempted but noticed that next door to the crawfish bread was Cajun Jambalaya from Catering Unlimited of New Orleans. The Panorama booth and Catering Unlimited's Cajun jambalaya and fried chicken booth share an island unto themselves, separate from the rest of Food Area I at Jazz Fest. On Friday, it was literally an island, surrounded by a sea of mud – not that that kept the crowds away. Here's a video in which crawfish bread inventor John Ed Laborde and Cajun jambalaya maker Iva Jones provide a backstage tour of their happily hectic food booth neighborhood. You can also see the muddy conditions at Jazz Fest after all that rain this week.

After we got our food, we went to one of the tables to eat. Make no mistake – true to its name, my jambalaya was the brown, more Cajun style as opposed to the red, more Creole style. The taste was really good considering (or maybe because, who knows) it's made in 30-gallon pots. It was packed full of tender chunks of chicken and luscious andouille. Many jambalayas end up dry and a little bland, but this was moist and richly spiced. Perfection in a styrofoam bowl. The only downside was that it was so breezy in the spot where we were eating that the rice was blowing off the top of my jambalaya. Airborne jambalaya ... what next?

What the heck, let us describe crawfish bread one more time: fresh, plump crawfish tails spiced up and mixed with cheesy goodness. The key is a soft, crusty loaf that is closer to Cuban bread than the bland local po'boy rolls. This excellent bread is pressed and stuffed with spices, cheese, and crawfish and allowed to steam in aluminum foil all day until the whole gooey mess congeals into an unstable lava flow of decadence. We will eat more next year.

We walked over to the Acura Stage and got a great spot up front to hear the Brass-A-Holics Go-Go Funk Band. Much like Corey Henry's Tremé Funktet on Friday, the Brass-A-Holics incorporate the core New Orleans brass elements (trumpet, trombone, sax, and sousaphone) and add a full drum set, percussion, keyboard, and electric guitar. But the Brass-A-Holics add to that the heavy, heavy beat of go-go, the Latin- and gospel-beat inspired music that became the sound of Washington, D.C., in the 1970s. It is an incredible combination, and while there are differences in culture, style, and swagger within the band, its members have nailed yet another completely unique musical style in New Orleans. The creativity in this city boggles the mind.

Brassaholics 2Brassaholics 1

The band was conceived by renowned trombonist Winston Turner, whose roots stem from the St. Augustine High School Marching 100, the Southern University Human Jukebox, the Young Pinstripe Brass Band, and the Soul Rebels Brass Band (see the April 26 entry). Turner says: "I think the key to the sound is energy. We play hard out of the gate and then just keep taking it higher. We all love what we’re doing and we’ll often play two or three hours straight without a break. Sonically, it’s fat, funky, and fun. This is definitely not music for sitting down. We want everybody who comes out to get involved in creating a great night. We have created a new genre of music, Go-Go Brass Funk!"


Turner’s fellow Brass-A-Holics, who hail from from the Midwest, Texas, and Japan, are trumpeter/vocalist Tannon "Fish" Williams, saxophonist Robin "Thick" Clabby, bass horn player Jason "Slick" Slack, guitarist Matt Clark, drummer Rickey Caesar, keyboardist Keiko "Double K" Komaki, and percussionist Dwayne Muhammad.

Muhammad, despite not having turned professional until a few years ago, relies on the musical memories imprinted upon him while he was growing up in New Orleans. "All the time, especially around Mardi Gras, I heard the Indians and second-line music," he said. "All of that music is percussion heavy. I’m a student of the drum and probably will be for the rest of my life."

Like Turner, Muhammad knew and loved go-go, a style whose ground-floor proponents included Sugar Bear and E.U., Trouble Funk, the Junk Yard Band and the late, great Chuck Brown, the godfather of go-go. Before Brown’s death in 2012, the Brass-A-Holics were scheduled to share a stage with him at The Hamilton in D.C. Brown’s illness stopped that dream from happening. That's a shame. Instead, they headed up a tribute concert.

Here's how the other musicians ended up in the band.

Williams: "I was the first person that Winston spoke with about forming the band and actually came up with the name Brass-A-Holics after numerous discussions with Winston. We have been friends since high school and were members of the Soul Rebels Brass Band together for about 14 years. During those years we developed a dynamic one-two punch of musical entertainment that makes us a natural fit to explore a new territory together."

Clabby: "In the early stages the band was looking for a permanent third horn. When I joined in, the chemistry was so good between us I couldn’t help but to become a Brass-A-Holic. When something feels this good from the get-go, you gotta jump on it."

Slack: "Winston called me and said, 'I need you to play the tuba for this new band that I want to start,' and I said, 'I’m in.'"

Clark: "After the Brass-A-Holics formed, Rickey Caesar reminded Winston about my extensive experience playing electric guitar with brass bands and spoke of what I could bring to the table. The Brass-A-Holics are not a traditional brass band, but we all understand the roots of the culture and collectively are bringing the brass sound to a modern and progressive platform."

Caesar: "Winston and I go way back to Junior High School. I was asked to do a gig with the Brass-A-Holics and it turned into a permanent spot in the band." 

Komaki: "I had the opportunity to play with Winston at another gig, and he asked me to play with the Brass-A-Holics at that time. I thought that I might be able to do that and create something new with Winston and his band."

Turner says: "I have never really heard the sound of our music the way we are putting it together. We love the harmony and full sound of three horns leading the band. Also, we like the energy that a tuba brings rather than a bass guitar. With the punch and energy of a tuba paired with the drive of a lead guitar, the keyboard keeps the foundation and color of the sound. The music is melodic and full before adding our go-go funk flavor."

To which we can add that the go-go beat takes this music to a place you've never been. It's incredible stuff. Videos: one from Maison on Frenchmen Street in 2012; one and two (with Sugar Bear) from the Chuck Brown tribute at The Hamilton in DC in 2012. Just to see the scene in NOLA, here is mine from Jazz Fest in 2013.  

Now we had a few minutes before we would go our separate ways again. Laurie wanted to stay at the Acura Stage to see the Black Keys (here is the entire show) and before them the Meter Men, which featured three members of the original Meters -- Leo Nocentelli, Zigaboo Modeliste, and George Porter Jr. -- along with Page McConnell of Phish. Here is a half-hour of that show. I, on the other hand was going to do what any self-respecting Jazz Fester should be doing, and that was to see the Soul Queen of New Orleans, Miss Irma Thomas, over at the Gentilly Stage. Following Irma at Gentilly would be Hall and Oates. I'm a huge fan of Live from Daryl's House on the Internets and knew this band would be really good.

During the break we headed over to pay our last visit to the Heritage Square area, the space between the Blues and Jazz tents. We split a peach cobbler from the booth of Down Home Creole Cookin’ of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, who are also known for their BBQ turkey wings and meaty white beans. Some bloggers and writers are more critical than others, I guess, but I don't really think I've ever had any bad food at Jazz Fest. This stuff was pretty good, too.

We took the cobbler over to the Jazz Tent, where the patriarch of the First Family of Jazz, Ellis Marsalis, was playing. We found entry to be impossible, so we just stood outside along the edge of the tent, right underneath a speaker, in the sun but out of the wind, to enjoy this great piano jazz. The band comprises his youngest son, Jason Marsalis, on drums; Jason Stewart on bass; and Derek Douget on saxophone. Although a lot of people don't even know of him, Ellis is one of the great jazz educators and innovators in New Orleans. He doesn’t get experimental or too overly creative on the piano, he’s simply elegant. His minimalist post-bop jazz is pleasing to listen to even if you can't see it. It was a nice way to spend a half hour. 

So we split up, Laurie out to the track and left to the Acura Stage, me to the right and all the way over to the other side of the Fair Grounds to Gentilly. On the way I just happended to pass that Batch 19 booth. The Gentilly grounds were crowded to be sure, but I walked around the track until I was vey close to the front of the stage and had a pretty good view over top of the chairs that people had set up on the track itself. I made several forays across the bridges into the crowd to no avail. But this area was fine. 

I talked a lot about Irma last year, so in short I will repeat that she epitomizes all that is good about New Orleans music, with a voice and style that leaves you putty in her hands. She began singing in the 1950's but now, at 72, she remains a youthful and vibrant presence on stage with her excellent band, The Professionals. To me, she deserves one-name recognition with other greats of her generation such as Aretha. She sings with passion, finesse, range, and absolute control. On stage, she looks like she’s barely whispering, yet powerful waves of crystal-clear vocal distinction wash over you, giving you chills.

In this show she stuck mainly to classic hits such as (You Can Have My Husband but Please) Don’t Mess With My ManRuler of My Heart, It’s Raining, Done Got Over, Wish Someone Would Care, and Hip-Shaking Mama. As she says, these are the songs that they keep bringing me back for. And of course there was the anthemic Second Line Medley ("We celebrate evvvverything in New Orleans" ... including the mud, which drove the crowd insane). Everybody knows the routine by heart, but everyone enjoys it like they are hearing it for the first time. 

To give you an idea of Irma's demeanor, while she was performing, she noticed a sign interpreter off to the side of the stage, down low in an area set aside for hearing-impaired attendees. She asked the signer to come up to the main stage so that everybody could see her, because there might be somebody out in the crowd who needed to see signing and she wanted all of her fans to be able to hear her. Again, the crowd went insane.


I hate to say it, but my video has the longest excerpt of Irma's 2013 Jazz Fest show that I can find. Here is another one, from a different angle. Enjoy the Soul Queen. As long as Irma is a Jazz Fest, I will be there!

After Irma left the stage, there was quite a time gap before Hall and Oates were on, so I zipped over to the Fais Do Do Stage to catch a bit of the Pine Leaf Boys set. On the way I stopped at La Davina's stand and had a bourbon pecan gelato. Next year, when it's hot again (you hear me, Mother Nature?) many more of their great gelatos will be consumed! 

Hailing from southwest Louisiana, the Pine Leaf Boys are known for their wild shows and creative arrangements and are among the bands breathing new life into the ancient Cajun songs. While they play the old dance-hall standards, they also bring many of the more obscure songs of past masters into their repertoire and play them with gusto. Wilson Savoy leads the Boys with vocals, fiddle, and accordion. His musician-scholar parents, Marc and Ann, have significantly influenced the preservation of bayou musical heritage through video and film documentaries. Wilson has been in the Savoy Family Band since he was a teen. Rounding out the Boys are Courtney Granger (fiddle, accordion, vocals), Drew Simon (drums, vocals), Thomas David (bass), and Jon Bertrand (guitars). 

These guys are local favorites and the Fais Do Do crowd was large and enthusiastic crowd, a real party atmosphere. Here's a great example of their style from the Festivals Acadiens et Créoles in Lafayette, Louisiana. Would love to hit that festival some day!

Back over to the Gentilly Stage I went, this time by way of Food Area I, because I had yet to try a sausage po'boy from Vaucresson Sausage Company of New Orleans. Since this was going to be my last food at Jazz Fest, it was now or never. The choices are hot sausage or crawfish sausage. I opted for the crawfish, smothered it with Cajun mustard, and practically inhaled the thing, it was so good. A Batch 19 was the perfect accompaniment.

Creole sausage maker Vance Vaucresson literally grew up at Jazz Fest. He was a baby in diapers, just six months old, when his parents became one of the festival's original food vendors. Vaucresson's father owned Vaucresson's Creole Cafe, a restaurant on Bourbon Street. George Wein, Jazz Fest's founder, ate at the cafe when he was planning what would one day become the city's premiere music and food festival. 

(By the way, if you are into food, the nomenu.com site linked above will keep you distracted for hours with its literally hundreds of articles and reviews of New Orleans eateries.)

"In the early days, Dad would make sandwiches at the restaurant, wrap them up in foil and bring them out to the Fest," Vaucresson said. "Back then we were lucky if we would break even. You had more musicians than you had people out there. My parents would let me run around the whole place."

Vaucresson today carries on the family business and Jazz Fest tradition. The company makes crawfish sausage, Creole pickled pork, smoked tasso, hot sausage, and other specialty meats. Its hot sausage and crawfish sausage po-boys are fixtures at Jazz Fest. They are the only original food vendor remaining, and they haven't missed one year. 

(It came to my attention later that at approximately the same time, Laurie was having a plate of crispy Caribbean fish and steamed veggies over rice from Palmer’s Jamaican Cuisine of New Orleans.) 

Daryl Hall and John Oates, what can I say about them? Been a fan for years. One of the best shows I ever saw in DC in the 1980's. Didn't play one song that wasn't immediately recognizable. Yet they stretched every one of these songs out to a jam that featured the extremely talented members of Daryl Hall's house band on his web show (also available here and there on cable and satellite TV) Live from Daryl's House. Daryl brings a guest to his reconstructed farmhouses in upstate New York every week and they play his songs and the guest's. They also cook with a local or New York chef. It's always very good music, and the food looks good, too! I was viewing this performance from the track, at approximately the same place I was for Irma's show. 

The best of Daryl's band are Paul Pesco, a force on guitar, and Charlie DeChant, with his many '80s-style sax solos. Other members of the band are Klyde Jones on bass, Eliot Lewis on keyboards, Brian Dunne on drums, and Porter Carrol on percussion.

The show started with Out of Touch. Then they did Method of Modern Love, followed by a version of She's Gone that had an R&B kind of feel. Sara Smile also took on a funkier vibe.  

Here's the AXS-TV feed of most of Hall and Oates. These guys could have done three hours and still not run out of hits to play.

It would have been easy to stay until the end of this show, and even for Aaron Neville's solo show afterward, but after an hour or so of high-quality music I headed around the back of the Gentilly Stage on the track and into the Fais Do Do area because I had planned since the cubes first came out to end the day there.

Conveniently, when you approach the Fais Do Do Stage from the track you immediately encounter the back of a beverage stand, where a few folks will be waiting to take orders from those who are in on the secret. That saved a lot of time; it's one of the quickest beer lines at Jazz Fest (unless it is 50 degrees and a gale is blowing, in which case they are all quick). Not that beer is a priority or anything. Another nice thing about the approach from the track is that you are pretty close to the front of the Fais Do Do Stage and it's real easy to get a primo viewing spot right up front.

I was a Fais Do Do to catch Nathan Williams Sr. and the Zydeco Cha Chas. Nathan's son, aka Lil' Nathan, with his Zydeco Big-Timers, were our first exposure to zydeco last year, and I was really looking forward to seeing his father (and hoping for a guest spot from the son, but that wasn't to be). The party was already underway when I arrived, and I do mean a party.  

Nathan is a great entertainer, as are Mark Williams, his scrub board player, and Dennis Paul Williams, his guitarist. You may notice that it is a family affair, as so many of the zydeco bands seem to be. Dennis is Nathan's brother and Mark his cousin. Their interactions are priceless. Nathan has the art of spinning and hip shaking while playing the accordion down to a visual science, and occasionally one or two or all three will get down on one knee while playing. From behind his sunglasses, Nathan looks like he is playing just for you. Dennis has a deadpan look as he plays his jazz-influenced guitar solos, occasionally punctuated by raised eybrows or a wry smile. Mark is all over the place, scrubbing next to Nathan or Dennis or leaning into the crowd, a real dervish, the most active and creative scrub board player I've seen since we've been into zydeco these last two years. 

Rounding out the Cha Chas is the exceptional rhythm evesection of bassist Robert LeBlanc, who has been with the band for more than five years, and drummer Herman "Rat" Brown, who held the drum chair with Buckwheat Zydeco for many years. These guys drove the zydeco train, which as usual never stopped, deftly running from one song into the next. 

Incidentally, Dennis Williams is also a well-known artist whose work has been shown throughout the country. Not surprisingly, he did the cover and tray card paintings for the Cha Chas' new album, Hang It High, Hang It Low

Zydeco is a relatively modern style that emerged from Creole culture after the World War II. With its trademark scrub board percussion, electric guitars, and R&B influences, it definitely is distinct from the fiddle-driven music of the neighboring Cajuns. After a flurry of national popularity in the late 1980s, it has in many ways faded from popular consciousness, retreating to the South Louisiana dance halls and festival gigs that sustained it all along.

However, in the hands of a dedicated musician and songwriter such as Nathan Williams, zydeco is one of the most expressive sounds in roots music. Nathan’s down-home parables are delivered with surprising musical turns and a distinctive Caribbean lilt that reaches back to the very beginnings of Creole culture in Louisiana. 

Nathan and his brother grew up in a Creole-speaking home of 10 children in St. Martinville, Louisiana. They eagerly sought out the music of zydeco originators such as Clifton Chenier (see last Sunday's report). When he was too young to actually attend a Clifton Chenier dance at a St. Martinville club, Nathan hovered by the window-sized fan at the back of the building to hear his idol, only to have the bill of his baseball cap clipped off by the fan when he leaned too close. Later, while recovering from a serious illness, Nathan decided to dedicate himself to learning the accordion and eventually helped develop an uplifting new music that remains connected to its place in history.

Here's a full 11 minutes of Hey Y'All, one of Nathan's signature songs, here's another lengthy excerpt from a club in the Netherlands, and here's my video from Jazz Fest, which, once again for better or for worse, is the best I could find. The atmosphere at the Fais Do Do stage for this show was electric, and I was really happy to be down in the middle of it! It was awesome.


Now it was time for the last show of the 2013 Jazz Fest. Things were different this year ... the Acura Stage closing slot had been (appropriately) passed from the Neville Brothers to Trombone Shorty, and Aaron Neville was closing the Gentilly Stage with his new solo show. Irvin Mayfield was playing with the great Dee Dee Bridgewater in the Jazz Tent, Taj Mahal was at the Blues Tent, Big Chief Bo Dollis was at Jazz and Heritage, and Frankie Beverly and Maze as always were at Congo Square. But from the moment I saw the cubes, Fais Do Do was for me the place to be, with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band joining forces with the Del McCoury Bluegrass Band.

As the crowd at Fais Do Do drifted away after Nathan and the Chas Chas ended, there was space available on the railing right in front of the stage. However, I decided to move back because the view from right in front of Fais Do Do isn't all that great, plus Laurie was going to join me for this show and it would be easier to meet further back. It also enabled me to get yet another WWOZ Mango Freeze. I found a spot where the stage is at eye level and you can see over the top of the up-front crowd as well as take in the sky and the artwork on the speakers. The view was just right, as was the music. 

For 50 years, Del McCoury’s band has defined authenticity for hardcore bluegrass fans. He is a living link to the days when bluegrass was performed only in hillbilly honkytonks, schoolhouse shows, and on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry. Yet he is also vital presence today, adapting modern music to the bluegrass style and finding collaborations such as this one with Preservation Hall. He began playing in Bill Monroe's band in the 1960's but preferred to stay at home with his family, mostly building his reputation on weekends at bluegrass festivals. However, in 1992 the family moved to Nashville, his sons joined the band along with two other rising young stars, and the Del McCoury Band really took off. Ronnie McCoury plays mandolin, Robbie McCoury plays banjo, Alan Bartram plays bass, and Jason Carter plays fiddle. 


The Preservation Hall Jazz Band has been a musical ambassador for New Orleans for 50 years (we know; we attended their 50th birthday party at the Gentilly Stage exactly one year ago, and it was a highlight of the trip). The Preservation Hall Band is Charlie Gabriel on clarinet; Mark Braud on trumpet; Clint Maedgen on sax; Freddie Lonzo on trombone; Ben Jaffe (son of Preservation Hall's founders) on sousaphone, bass, and percussion; Ronell Johnson also on sousaphone; Rickie Monie on keyboards; and Joseph Lastie Jr. on drums. 

This performance built on a collaboration on a Preservation Hall recording three years ago. Melding New Orleans jazz with bluegrass is something of a bold venture, as these traditions potentially oppose stylistically as much as they share. Mountain home front porches versus urban street corner busking? Really? A reasonable collaboration would seem to be difficult at best, but musical nirvana? You must be kidding.

Really. No kidding. This is the type of collaboration that both bands undertake without hesitation, and the artistry of each virtually ensures success. Once the two ensembles took the stage, Preservation Hall's on the left side, McCoury's on the right, any doubt melted away in the late afternoon sunshine.

 

Structurally, the set was conventional: one band would play, then the other, then a combined number. The results, though, were hardly routine. Somehow the bluegrass textures, underpinned by Ronnie and Robbie's mandolin and banjo and the accompanying twangy bluegrass vocal, never clashed with the traditional New Orleans jazz. On and on they went, Preservation Hall trumpeter Mark Braud besting himself time and again, clarinetist Charlie Gabriel playing here and singing there. McCoury's way with a song was awesome (especially the luscious "Church on Sunday, Work on Monday, Blues on Tuesday" which featured the Hall's church organ, trumpet, and sousaphone to add just a perfect New Orleans touch).

Everybody on stage just seemed to be having a great time, and McCoury looked on with near wonderment (and a big smile) at the ecstatic reactions of the Fais Do Do crowd. The ecstacy was contagious. By the time both bands lined up across the stage, powering their way through I'll Fly Away, featuring a clarinet-fiddle duel with Gabriel and Carter, you felt like the whole place would fly away. I mean, damn.

Here are parts 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 of a complete performance by these two bands at Merlefest in Wilkesboro, North Carolina. And then from Jazz Fest, here is the encore from Fais Do Do, which is mostly Preservation Hall Doing The Saints, and here is mine. And here, although it's pretty dark (because it is pretty dark inside), are the two bands playing in Preservation Hall itself (see later tonight).

A perfect ending to seven days of perfect ... music. But after this, the weather was mostly forgotten, even though the walk back to the Staybridge much later tonight was beyond chilly and approaching cold!

After we all met at the Grandstand, the shuttle buses took us away from the Fair Grounds for the final time as the sun was setting. There was a glitch in the line up for the various bus destinations, so we didn't get back downtown until well after 8. Because our evening activity required us to be in the French Quarter at 9, we did not have time to go to the Staybridge. Instead, we hung out in the lobby of the New Orleans Marriott on Canal Street, across the street from the Sheraton, the same place Laurie and I found refuge from the rain on Monday afternoon. It had comfy chairs and a convenience store for a snack. After a while we walked up to Royal Street, then over to Saint Peter Street, then up a half block to Preservation Hall

On a typical evening, Preservation Hall presents shows at 8:15, 9:15, and 10:15. The shows are first in line, first admitted, unless you pay (donate) a reasonable amount for a reservation. We opted to do this because we wanted to be sure we got in. It also guarantees you a seat, along the side, close to the band (about half of those admitted get seats on what look like old church pews; the rest sit on the floor in front of or stand behind those seats. Our reservation was for the 9:15 show, and that really worked out well, especially since it was the last night of the trip and there would be no other opportunity if we didn't get to the regular line in time.

Once we were seated, and then the people that were in line were admitted, a host gave a bit of history about the hall and the ground rules. The room was dark, with only a few lights. It smelled old, as you might expect. Chairs for the musicians were set up in front, the drum kit with the famous logo and a sousaphone sitting behind, the old upright piano off to the side. The place just felt of another time and place. And while it hasn't been a music venue all that long in terms of New Orleans history, it wasn't difficult to picture yourself in here 50 years ago with Sweet Emma Barrett at the piano, with her garters with the jingle bells, pounding out the beat or De De Pierce playing his trumpet. In all its years the place has not changed one iota.

In the picture on the right, we would be sitting along the wall, under the picture. Tonight the players were the Preservation Hall Brass Band, led by Maynard Chatters, a man known for his teaching career as much as his trombone playing. The rest of the band were a trumpet, saxophone, sousaphone, and drums. When the musicians entered the room from the vestibule, the place was quiet, almost reverential ... that is, until the band started to play and interact with the audience. Things lightened up very quickly. They did some upbeat traditional jazz numbers, a couple of hymns, and a jazz funeral number, with Chatters taking time to explain each tune. I cannot tell you how cool it was to hear this music played up close and nearly personal. The show is only 45 minutes long, and it goes by very quickly. Unless ...

During the show, because our seats looked straight out into the vestibule area, I noticed the arrival of all of the members of the main Preservation Hall Jazz Band, heading to the courtyard area in the back of the Hall. Shortly after that, we saw the unmistakable pompador of Del McCoury with the rest of his band.

When the show ended, there apparently were no reservations for the 10:15 show, for the host told us that if we wanted to stay for that show we were welcome. Who wouldn't accept that invitation? So we stayed, and I was hoping that something special might happen with the Jazz Band and McCoury's band, but such was not to be. They were there to play at a special Jazz Fest midnight show series, known as the Midnight Preserves, which is on a separate ticket. So we heard the Brass Band again, mostly the same show with one or two small changes. And there was nothing wrong with that. And what a thrill to be able to thank these artists personally after the performance.

As we began to head back to the Staybridge, it was closing in on 11:30, and we realized how long it had been since we had eaten anything. By pure luck, I was guiding us back by way of Chartres Street, and in the last block before Canal Street was Daisy Duke's place, a restaurant with 24-7 breakfast, all the other Cajun and Creole stuff, and po'boys, too. Laurie and I each had omelettes, hers veggie and mine cajun. We got back to the Staybridge a little after 1, and because Ellie and David had an insane o'clock flight in the morning, we said our goodbyes.

This was one of those only in New Orleans and only during Jazz Fest days, and it was really wonderful. D.L. Menard. Brass-A-Holics. Ellis Marsalis. Irma. Pine Leaf Boys. Hall and Oates. Nathan Williams and the Cha Chas. Preservation Hall Jazz Band and Del McCoury Band. And then we got to go to Preservation Hall itself. Incredible!



  

© Jeff Mangold 2012