Day 10 / Saturday, May 3

10-23

Saturday. The next to last day. It is actually emotionally more difficult than the last day because the last day is one of celebration -- and cramming so much great music in that you can't take time to feel bad. The last Saturday just has this air of 'the end is near' to it. Of course, we started with the 2014 drill: get up, get ready, ... another change, just grab coffee on the way out because the Staybridge buffet is a lost cause ... slather on sunblock and gather tickets and cameras and phones, and head out to walk to the shuttle buses at the Sheraton (after grabbing said coffee). 

The weather today, again, was perfect. The sun was bright and occasionally some clouds would pass by. Humidity was relatively low and the breeze very light. The temperature was creeping up, today into the low 80's. That all made for a pretty warm day, but there was nothing wrong with that at all. The umbrella stayed at the Staybridge.

We headed over to the Sheraton early today and it's a good thing we did, because the line was as long as we have ever seen it, wrapping around the corner to onto Camp Street, which is not all that unusual, but it then stretched the entire length of that block and turned the corner onto Common Street. The reason for this was that it was Bruce Springsteen Day at Jazz Fest. The man does draw a crowd. The line moved pretty quickly, though, and we were at Jazz Fest just in time for the music.

On the way up to the Fair Grounds, we noticed that it was Lemonade Day in New Orleans. Lemonade Day is a national program that teaches young people entrepreneurial skills. There a lemonade stands everywhere!

Guess where we went first? If you check the Saturday cubes, you'll surmise that it was the Fais Do Do Stage, today for some early zydeco from Andre Thierry and his band Zydeco Magic. What makes this band a bit different is that they are from California, the San Francisco Bay area to be exact. But even though Thierry was born and raised in Richmond, his French Creole heritage is deeply rooted in Louisiana. 

Exactly how does that happen? Well, as Michael Tisserand, author of The Kingdom of Zydeco, considered the definitive book on the history of Zydeco music, writes, "In America, great migrations produce great music." And that necessitates a brief history lesson. The companion documentary to Tisserand's book is on Vimeo for a limited time. Check it out if it's still there.

Just as Delta musicians took Highway 61 to Chicago and electrified their blues, so did the Creoles and Cajuns migrate to California and establish vital dance communities. Zydeco moved from Louisiana to the Bay Area during World War II with the arrival of thousands of Creoles, part of what some historians call The Great Migration. Their destination was the Richmond shipyards. The American industrialist Henry J. Kaiser recruited southerners with the promise of a better life and jobs.

Richmond was a sleepy little town of 23,000 before Kaiser brought a workforce of 98,000 to his four shipyards. Louisiana Creoles helped to build hundreds of Liberty and Victory ships and they brought with them a rich culture. That changed the character of the greater Bay Area for all time.

Their migration from Louisiana caused a revival of an old Creole tradition. House dances were a way for the community to socialize, share food and conversation, especially so far away from home. The Creoles put on dances in homes, church halls, and community centers all around the Bay Area.

The Creoles, a French-speaking people of African ancestry mixed with various other heritages, traditionally made a living growing rice, sugarcane, and other crops that thrive in the steamy subtropics. Farm work there was never-ending. "You'd go to work from cain’t to cain’t," said Wilbert Lewis, an 85-year-old scrub board player who now lives in San Francisco. "You cain’t see when you go in, and you cain’t see when you come out. That was some hard days, I tell you. And I was in it since I was about 12 years old."

Lewis' more famous sister is the zydeco accordionist Queen Ida Guillory, a Grammy winner and National Heritage Fellow. She, too, remembers working "morning to night" during harvest season. "My dad, being a rice farmer, he even had me on a tractor at one point," she says, "because the men were being called to go to war, to serve the country. We worked very hard on the farm. However, weekends, we would go to the zydeco dance."

As Saturday approached, men on horseback, and later in cars, would travel along Louisiana’s rural roads announcing the next dance. Most of the events took place in houses, their living rooms cleared of furniture. The babies would be laid down in a bedroom, and the dancing would sometimes last until dawn. Somebody would cook a big pot of duck gumbo or goose gumbo, and people would come from miles around. Different musicians would switch off. Some would beat on a pot or a board ... or a washboard, and anybody who could play something would jump in.

For all the fun, those were tough times. Basics like electricity were slow to reach South Louisiana, and standards of living were meager. What’s more, Creoles were subject to Louisiana’s Jim Crow laws, along with the racial violence and many other indignities of a segregated society. Around the time of World War II, the Creoles began looking for a way out. Jobs abounded in the Bay Area’s shipyards and defense industry, particularly after President Franklin Roosevelt signed an executive order requiring defense contractors to end discriminatory hiring practices. Packing their belongings into pickup trucks or taking trains like the Sunset Limited, the Creoles headed west in search of prosperity and freedom.

They weren’t alone. The Creole migration was part of a larger phenomenon that had started decades earlier. Between 1915 and 1970, 6 million Americans of African descent left the segregated South and headed toward the big cities of the North and West. It was the first big step the nation’s servant class ever took without asking, and it reshaped America’s cities and culture. People like mayors Tom Bradley of Los Angeles and Willie Brown of San Francisco and cultural treasures like Thelonious Monk, Diana Ross, Oprah Winfrey, Jackie Robinson, Spike Lee, Toni Morrison, and Ray Charles were migrants themselves or children of the Great Migration. There’s no way to know what their achievements would have been if their parents or grandparents hadn't left the South.

Arriving in California, the French-speaking Creoles sought one another out. And they recreated the zydeco dances that brought them together back home. There were house parties and private clubs, but the most celebrated gatherings took place in church social halls. Houston and Lena Pitre played a huge role in organizing the dances at St. Mark’s Catholic Church in their new hometown of Richmond. They hired Creole musicians living in the Bay Area, as well as visiting Louisianans like Clifton Chenier, the greatest zydeco accordionist of all time. The church dances were like family reunions. People came dressed to the nines and would zydeco all night long.

In the cultural patchwork of California, it was inevitable that South Louisiana music would spread beyond the Creole community. The music was recorded, featured in documentaries, and showcased at mainstream venues like the Berkeley restaurant Chez Panisse. Today zydeco is everywhere, with events scheduled most nights of the week. Tuesdays belong to Ashkenaz, a Berkeley music club that features both zydeco and Cajun music. Friday the scene shifts to Eagles Hall, a fraternal lodge in Alameda. On some Sundays, the party was at 23 Club, an old cowboy bar in Brisbane. At these dances, you’d find the original migrants along with their children and grandchildren. Often they’d be outnumbered by Californians with no Louisiana roots at all. 

And that's how that happens. If you'd like to listen to this history, here is a one-hour audio documentary on zydeco in Northern California.

Andre’s mother, Olivia "Tee" Guillory, is originally from Basile, Louisiana, and his father, Gregory Thierry, from Jennings, Louisiana. Andre’s childhood was deeply influenced by his maternal grandparents, the late Houston Pitre from Basile and Lena Pitre, from Soileau, Louisiana.

Andre grew up experiencing the French Creole La-La dances his grandparents held at St. Mark’s Catholic Church. The best zydeco musicians Louisiana had to offer traveled to California to play at these dances and spent considerable time at the Pitre’s house while in the area. On one such visit, the King of Zydeco, the great Clifton Chenier, picked a three-year-old Andre up and predicted from the bend in his arm, "That’s going to be an accordion man." From then on, Houston Pitre encouraged young Andre to play the accordion. But it was hardly a foregone conclusion that he would take up the zydeco torch. For a kid growing up in Richmond in the 1980s, country Creole music didn’t provide much street cred. Thierry admitted that he tried to keep a distance.

"You didn’t want people to make fun of you," Thierry said. "But I heard it all my life and I gradually turned to liking it. My grandmother had an accordion and I used to sneak in her room." He taught himself to play by listening to Chenier's music and demonstrated an innate musical ability as his skill grew. He played his first song, Willis Prudhomme's version of Give’m Cornbread, in the back yard of his grandparents' home for his delighted family. He soon began playing Chenier’s music on stages all over Northern California.

His grandparents continued to host Louisiana musicians and this exposure to his heritage allowed him to develop his love for, and mastery of, traditional French Creole music. By age 13, with the help of his mother, Andre formed his own band, Zydeco Magic. Andre's repertoire grew by leaps and bounds as he was regularly invited to play with numerous visiting bands, such as the late John Delafose, John's son Geno Delafose, and many local Zydeco and Cajun bands, including Queen Ida and the late Danny Poullard and his California Cajun Orchestra.

Thierry is a virtuoso on all the accordion types (single row, double row, triple row, and piano key). Part of what sets him apart from his zydeco peers is that he’s not particularly concerned about musical categories. He's a mean blues musician and also plays Cajun tunes, ignoring the color line that sometimes still divides white Cajuns from Creoles of color in Louisiana. But he is best at a blend that is his own sound, which features a fast, funky rhythm. As a versatile student of the music, he isn't really in zydeco's old-school, R&B-influenced camp nor in its new hip-hop oriented one. He and Zydeco Magic lay down both soulful, traditional waltzes and bottom-end-booming kinetic groovers. And thanks to his parents and grandparents, he sings the traditional songs in original Creole French. In addition he is a gifted composer and songwriter.

Thierry and Zydeco Magic can emphasize just about any element of the mash of music and culture that make up zydeco, from blues and old Cajun tunes to Afro-Caribbean grooves and jazz improvisation. "Musically I get bored fast," he said, explaining both his stylistic promiscuity as a product of creative ADD. "I’m looking at trying to replenish the scene and get some new blood into it."


Zydeco Magic is Jahon Pride on bass, George Jackson on drums, Mark Daniels on guitar, and Dwight Carrier on scrub board. Here are my video and one other from Jazz Fest, and here are a half hour, an hour, and 90-minute videos should you want to hear more. When we saw these guys, we just thought, well, that's interesting, zydeco from California. After doing the research, it all makes sense and brings a new understanding of the history of this great music.

So we didn't get to eat when we arrived because of the Springsteen crowd at the shuttle bus, so that was now a big priority. No fooling around for me, I went straight to a po' boy, in this instance the Cajun duck variety from Crescent Catering. It wasn't the first time, nor will it be the last. 

What makes this sandwich so good is the way the duck is cooked, braised in a spicy gravy and then shredded. Plus the bread is good. Add the Crystal hot sauce and a touch of horseradish and it's just so good that you don't want to miss a single morsel.

Laurie at this time chose the pão de queijo (literally "cheese bread" in Portuguese) at the Cultural Exchange area. The Brazilian food at Jazz Fest this year originated from Dana Honn’s Carmo Café located in the Warehouse District of New Orleans. The pão de queijo was prepared in advance and frozen so the circular mounds hold their shape while baking.

The pão de queijo, which are served three to an order, could be mistaken for gougeres, the French cheese puffs. But these are made with cassava (tapioca) flour, so the inside is chewy and almost like thick jelly. The cassava flour is a powerful starch which is key to the texture of the pão de queijo; unlike other types of bread, pão de queijo is not leavened. Small pockets of air within the dough expand during baking and are contained by the elasticity of the starch paste. 

The cheese is special, too. Honn imports a special Brazilian cheese called queijo de Minas, similar to a slightly sharper farmers cheese, for the dish. The cheese is soft and a little spongy, and it's aged, which gives it a little bit of depth. 

Pão de queijo is found throughout Brazil. People eat them for breakfast, lunch and even for a snack before bedtime. Honn has been making it at the restaurant for more than 3 years. He says people immediately notice how unique the flavor is. They've never had anything like it unless they've been to Brazil. Its origin is uncertain. It is said that the recipe has existed since the 18th century in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais and became popular throughout Brazil and northern Argentina after the 1950s. It is inexpensive and often sold from streetside stands by vendors carrying a heat-preserving container. In Brazil, it is also commonly found in food markets and bakeries, industrialized or freshly made. Here's a recipe, although not the one from Jazz Fest.

Back to the Fais Do Do. We've missed the Savoy Family Cajun Band our first years at Jazz Fest, even though they have always been high on our list of people to see. Today the cubes aligned and we got our chance. They play honed down, hard-core Cajun music laced with an earthy sensuality. In their hands, the old tunes have been revived and returned to new life. Marc and Ann Savoy and their sons Joel and Wilson are strong individual musicians working together to create a tight, intense sound.

          

Marc Savoy (they use the French pronunciation, as in sa-vwah) has received the National Heritage Fellowship Award and in addition to being a chemical engineer runs the Savoy Music Center, where he handcrafts Cajun accordions and hosts a weekly Saturday morning jam session.  Marc and Ann appeared on the PBS series "American Roots," and Ann wrote the chapter on Cajun music in the book that accompanied the series. Ann was awarded the Botkin Book Award for her definitive work Cajun Music, A Reflection of a People. Wilson, as a member of the Pine Leaf Boys has been nominated for a Grammy award, and Joel was a founding member of the Red Stick Ramblers and today has his own record company, Valcour Records.

While true to the acoustic nature of Cajun music, the Savoys draw considerable power from their four acoustic instruments. Sometimes the group demonstrates the way Cajun music has evolved by featuring the early double fiddle and tit-fer sound or an accordion-fiddle duet. Early French ballads are added to the program to show other historic elements of early southwest Louisiana.

Between the songs Ann will translate the Cajun lyrics, provide brief histories of the tunes, or relate humorous and informative anecdotes about life in the Cajun heartland. The repertoire is chosen carefully and features popular dance hall tunes interspersed with soulful ballads, fiddle and vocal duets, and blues, all showing the spectrum of Cajun life, from sorrow and lost love to nonsense and the joy of dance.

Marc Savoy was born and raised in Eunice, Louisiana. Drawing inspiration from bals de maison (house dances) in his father's outdoor kitchen, he obtained his first accordion and began playing it at the age of 12. Playing the instrument led to repairing it. After disassembling and reassembling enough accordions, he began to build them. 

Playing the accordion has always been a natural part of Marc's life. The musicians with whom he has played Cajun music read like a who’s who of the finest in Cajun music, from the Balfa Brothers, D.L. Menard, and Doc Guidry to the early fiddle masters Dennis McGee and Wade Fruge. For a time he played the Texas "Cajun Triangle" dancehalls and recorded some 45 rpms on the legendary producer Huey Meaux’s label, Crazy Cajun Records.

In 1965, Marc opened the Savoy Music Center in Eunice. It has become a gathering place for local musicians and interested travelers from all over the world. At the store he builds six accordions a month, sending them out to all corners of the globe. The Saturday morning sessions are legendary.

A striking feature of Marc’s presence is his down-hominess and devotion to preserving Cajun culture. Whether he is playing at the store, on a porch, or at a dance or festival, it is all the same. He presents his music in its natural state, no glitz, no glamour. He has impeccable taste, is creative without ever being affected, and plays as hot as anyone yet his playing always sounds very relaxed, as if he’s having the time of his life.

Today Marc travels and plays music either with the Savoy Family Band or with the Savoy-Doucet Cajun Band, which includes Ann and famed Cajun fiddler Michael Doucet from BeauSoleil (here's a video of that group with interviews and some film of Marc at work crafting an accordion). Marc is an outspoken cultural preservationist, fighting to keep the music pure and unadulterated. He is also a prolific writer. The Savoy Center's web page contains links to Marc's life story, thoughts on the Saturday morning jam session (shown at the right), histories of the Cajun accordion and Cajun music in general, and more. I was going to put a lengthy excerpt in here, but in the interest of bandwidth I'll just highly recommend any of these excellent essays: 

Helpful Hints for Learning Songs and Playing Your Accordion

Ponderings of a Reincarnated Neanderthal

History of the Acadian Accordion

An Interview with Myself

Accordions in Louisiana

Marc Savoy represents so much of why we have beome so enamored with South Louisiana and its musicians. It was a great thrill to finally see him and his family today.

Ann Allen Savoy is a musician, photographer, record producer, and writer. Her destiny was sealed when she began to listen to collections of rare 78-rpm Cajun records. After she met and married Marc Savoy, she began documenting the Cajun culture, taking photographs, interviewing important musicians, and transcribing the Cajun French songs. Her documentation ultimately became a book, Cajun Music: A Reflection of a People Volume 1, which won the prestigious Botkin book award from the American Folklore Society. Note: If you are interested in purchasing this book, do not overpay on Amzon; buy it directly from the Savoy Music Center. An avid photographer since high school, her photos have been exhibited at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and at the Festival of American Music in Eugene, Oregon.

Born and raised in Richmond, Virginia, Ann has been a musician since the age of 10, playing guitar, fiddle, and accordion. She plays with her family's Cajun Band and the Savoy-Doucet Cajun Band, and she and her friend Jane Vidrine formed the Grammy-nominated Magnolia Sisters, and all woman band, to explore the womanly side of Cajun music. She has a plaintive, unvarnished delivery that conjures up images of a comfy backwoods home. T-Bone Burnett says, "Ann doesn’t imitate the past, she animates it. She’s a blues singer. In French."

Ann also has produced two tributes to Cajun and Creole music, with the concept of pop stars (such as Linda Ronstadt, John Fogerty, Richard and Linda Thompson, Nick Lowe, and Rodney Crowell) performing with traditional musicians. The first of these, "Evangeline Made," was nominated for a Grammy. The second was called "Creole Bred." She has also done a recording of duets with Ronstadt. That recording "Adieu False Heart," was also nominated for a Grammy (sample of this recording here). Lately she is trying her hand a gypsy swing music with a band called Ann Savoy and Her Sleepless Knights. Here's a mini-documentary of Ann telling her story.

Joel Savoy (pronounced Jo-el) is one of the most requested fiddlers in Southwest Louisiana. Growing up in Eunice, literally at the feet of Cajun heros like Dennis McGee, Dewey Balfa, Michael Doucet, and Wade Frugé (to name just a few), Joel developed a strong sense of what makes Cajun music Cajun and as a result has a fiddle style that is at once authentic and on the cutting edge. 

Joel represents his culture with an authority that few people his age can, and his playing leaves no doubt that Cajun music is still very much alive. Well versed in music and a quick learner, he can be found playing with just about every band in Southwest Louisiana at some time or other, though most often he’s seen with the Savoy Family Band. In 1999, he founded the Red Stick Ramblers, who play a combination of Cajun music and Western swing. As a fiddler, he can switch from sweet, sultry soulfulness to jaw-dropping complexity in a heartbeat. 

In 2006, Joel founded Valcour Records, which has since developed into what many believe to be the number one music source for what’s happening with the youth of Acadiana today. He also builds accordions with his father, makes electric guitars and hi-end tube amps and studio gear, and is an excellent recording engineer. He lives on a small farm outside of Eunice with a dog and a rabbit and he loves a good cocktail on most any evening.

Wilson Savoy, Marc and Ann's youngest son, has made music since before he could walk. He could whistle and hum complicated Cajun melodies note for note before he could speak. Like his brother, he grew up with the Cajun greats, but at age 10 he took up boogie-woogie and blues piano, inspired by Louisiana native Jerry Lee Lewis. He learned to play the accordion after graduating from high school, with his major influences being his father, Amede Ardoin, and Iry Lejeune. He also plays fiddle, guitar, and bass. Wilson is an avid filmmaker and has produced films of many of the finest bands in Southwest Louisiana for his Almena Pictures. When he isn’t making and producing music videos and short biographies, he is traveling with his three-time Grammy nominated band, the Pine Leaf Boys. He also plays in the Band Courtbouillon with Wayne Toups and Steve Riley and spent some time with the Red Stick Ramblers. In 2006, he recorded a collection of 1930's era songs and classic Cajun swing music with fellow traditional Cajun act the Lost Bayou Ramblers titled "Mellow Joy Boys: Une Tasse Cafe." Wilson is a powerhouse on the keyboard, be it piano or accordion.

In addition to all of the great links above, here is my view of the scene at the Fais Do Do Stage today, and here is a really good one from closer in. Here's 25 minutes from 2012 for something a bit longer (at about 3:50 the brothers play an incredible fiddle duet with mom on the tit-fer). Here's a short documentary of Marc talking about his life and music accompanied by the family, and here's a 45-minute show from 2003 (for listening only). Finally, this YouTube page has a whole bunch of videos from the Saturday morning jam at the Savoy Music Center. You'll undoubtedly see Milton Vanicor (see Thursday for his story).

Next we trekked over to the Blues Tent to scratch another line off of the bucket list, that being the Joe Krown Trio, with Krown on organ, Walter "Wolfman" Washington on guitar, and Russell Batiste Jr. on drums. These guys started playing together in March 2007. The combination of Washington's soulful vocals with the big sound of the Krown's Hammond B-3 (he plays all of the bass parts), and the masterful drumming of Batiste Jr. results in one of those wonderfully unique New Orleans sounds. They play in clubs all over town, including a weekly gig at the Maple Leaf, which resulted in a live recording, thier first (they have since done two studio recordings). I'm sure the club would be a better setting for this music than the back of the Blues Tent, but this was really enjoyable regardless.

Joe Krown has become a New Orleans institution. He plays with a number of groups and in many different styles. When he plays the piano, he typically plays in the traditional New Orleans style. When he plays the Hammond B-3, the sound is jazzy and funky. Whichever you happen to hear, it's going to be good.

Krown was raised in Westbury, Long Island, New York. He started playing piano in his childhood. While attending the State University of New York at Buffalo, he discovered the Hammond organ, and soon gave up college to pursue career as a professional musician. He became part of a jazz-rock band called Bellevista featuring guitarist Peter Calo that had regional success. In the 1980s, he relocated to Boston, formed his own band with his then wife, and played around New York and New England. He also joined Chuck Berry's backup band and toured with him on the East Coast. Later in the 1980s, he joined ex-Muddy Waters guitarist Luther "Guitar Junior" Johnson's band and toured and recorded two albums with that group.

In 1992, Krown moved to New Orleans and joined Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown's band, known as Gate's Express (here recorded live at Tipitina's by WWOZ). He played keyboards with that band until Gatemouth's death in 2005. He recorded four albums and toured extensively with Brown, including a run as opening act on Eric Clapton's 1995 world tour.

From September 1996 to June 2001, he held the Traditional Piano Night slot at the Maple Leaf, which was once occupied by Professor Longhair and James Booker. That led to solo piano albums in a strictly traditional blues and boogie woogie style in 1998 and 2003. His piano work has given him headline performer status every year since 1997 at WWOZ's Annual Piano Night benefit, held on the Monday between during Jazz Fest. He’s been the house piano player at the famous Brennan family restaurant, Ralph’s on the Park, since January 2006, and he performs solo piano shows several days a week around New Orleans in places like Le Bon Temps Roule, Irvin Mayfield’s Jazz Playhouse, and Dos Jefes Uptown Cigar Bar.

In 1999, Krown formed the Joe Krown Organ Combo and recorded the first of four albums with that group. The Organ Combo soon started to play regularly in New Orleans and to tour a bit. In 2000, he started to play in a trio with acoustic guitarist John Fohl and harmonica/accordion player Jumpin' Johnny Sansone. This group played traditional delta blues with Krown on piano and Fohl and Sansone sharing the vocal duties and released an album in 2004.

Krown's other projects include Joe Krown's Swing Band, which he started in 2003; a collaboration with Organ Combo members Brint Anderson and Mike Barras which led to an album in 2007; and of course the trio we saw today with Washington and Batiste. He has also worked as a member of funk band Juice and appeared on their live album in 2005.

Russell Batiste Jr. is a member of one of the legendary New Orleans musical families, born and raised in the city. His father, David Batiste, led a family band, David Batiste and the Gladiators, which is acknowledged as one of the seminal bands of New Orleans funk. Other Batiste family efforts include the Batiste Brothers Band. Batiste children and grandchildren can be found playing with scores of other bands as well as leading their own projects.

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Russell has been at the drum kit since the age of four. Even before that, he recalls watching his father jam with an endless array of the city’s most talented musicians. One of Russell’s earliest memories is sitting on Jackie Wilson’s knee listening to him sing Lonely Teardrops! He began sitting in with the family band at age seven. He was playing saxophone in the school band in the fifth grade and can now hold his own on keyboards, trumpet, bass, and guitar as well. He attended St. Augustine High School (just a few blocks from the Fair Grounds) and was a member of their nationally known Marching One Hundred Band, playing in the drum section and writing cadences that are still heard during Mardi Gras parade season even today. He continues his love of marching bands by acting as assistant director of Redeemer-Seaton High School when his schedule permits. 

Batiste attended Southern University of New Orleans on a music scholarship, studying under the great Edward "Kidd" Jordan, but left collage after two years when he began traveling with the Charmaine Neville Band. In 1989, he left that band to become the original drummer in the Funky Meters, joining Gerorge Porter Jr., Art Neville, and Brian Stoltz. He recently gave up that gig, replaced by Terrence Houston. He also plays with Geroge Porter Jr.'s Runnin' Pardners band.

He has recorded with Allen Toussaint, Robbie Robertson, Champion Jack Dupree, Harry Connick Jr., and Maceo Parker, and performed on the last two Wild Magnolias recordings with the late, legendary Big Chief Bo Dollis (see tomorrow), and was the original drummer in Papa Grows Funk. In 2001 Russell joined the legendary trio Vida Blue with Page McConnell of Phish and Oteil Burbridge of the Allman Brothers. An industrious artist and creator, the busy Batiste plays with local and regional bands too numerous to mention and also manages to put time into his own projects, too, like Russell Batiste and Friends and Orkestra from da Hood. Batiste writes and arranges all of their music, including all of the intricate horn parts. The band plays all types of music, including straight ahead and smooth jazz, funk, reggae, rock and even a cajun flavored waltz dedicated to his grandfather, who hails from Cajun country.

Walter "Wolfman" Washington has been an icon on the New Orleans music scene for decades. His searing guitar work and soulful vocals have helped to define the city’s unique musical hybrid of R&B, funk, and the blues since he formed his first band in the 1970s. Equally adept in virtually any genre, he stands out in a city full of great musicians for his unique style and uncommon grace as a guitarist, bandleader and vocalist.

Washington began his career during the fertile heyday of 1950s R&B, which spawned dozens of chart-topping songs and made New Orleans the recording destination of choice for hitmakers like Ray Charles and Little Richard. He was on the road by his late teens, spending more than two years backing the great vocalist Lee Dorsey as he toured in support of his smash hits Ride Your Pony and Working in a Coal Mine

Wolfman's tenure with Dorsey took him to all of the great music halls in America, including the Apollo Theater in Harlem. Before he went out on his own with his Solar System band, he did stints with the Soul Queen of New Orleans, Irma Thomas, as well as with the legendary jazzman David Lastie’s Taste of New Orleans band.

During the 1970s, Washington began a 20-year association with one of the most important vocalists to hail from Louisiana, the late Johnny Adams. Dubbed "The Tan Canary" for his peerless vocal stylings, Adams was a mentor of sorts to Washington as he developed his singing style while the two worked together at back-of-town clubs, including a long stint at the famed Dorothy’s Medallion in the Mid City section of New Orleans.

When Washington formed his first band, he was often pigeonholed into the blues genre, but taking his cues from the likes of Dorsey, Thomas, Adams, and Lastie, his sound reflects the full range of music from New Orleans. He certainly can howl the blues, hence his nickname, but his musical talents have always defined pure New Orleans soul. In later years, with the second rise of funk, Washington fully embraced that genre as well.

Seeing Washington perform with his current outfit, the Roadmasters, is akin to taking a history lesson on black music in America. With his breadth of experience and seemingly endless repertoire, each of his shows is one of a kind. Like the greatest jazzmen, Washington channels his everyday life into his music. Depending on the setting, the Roadmasters play blues, R&B, soul, funk, jazz and everything in between with pure heart. Washington is a great interpreter of song. He inhabits each number, whether it’s a soulful ballad or a funk rave up. His gift of interpretation allows him to bring his own spirit to the composition while always exposing the true sentiments of the lyrics to the audience.

While he had to learn his vocal stylings, Washington's guitar playing has been without compare since the early days of his career. As a rhythm player he provides just the right tension to support his band members when they take their solos. But it is during his moments in the spotlight that Washington really shines. When he plays lead guitar, jaws often drop in the audience as he spins out highly nuanced solos that build in intensity or spiral around a central theme. Of course, that’s before he even begins to play with his teeth!

The Wolfman has earned numerous accolades over his long career, but he is not one to sit back on his laurels. He maintains a heavy schedule playing with the Roadmasters (at least weekly at d.b.a) and of course with the Joe Krown Trio. As if that were not enough, he also recently began a collaboration with some local jazzmen, including the trumpeter James Andrews (see last Thursday).

Here's my shaky video from the back of the Blues tent so you can see the scene at Jazz Fest. Here's another I found from Jazz Fest. Here are 15 minutes and 10 minutes from the Louisiana Music Factory and here is a series of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 from the Maple Leaf that are rather dark, but the sound pretty good. Krown, Batiste, and Washington are what New Orleans is all about: three musicians, none a worldwide celebrity but each a master of his own discipline and a bandleader in his own right, all calling on a lifetime of musical knowledge and experience whenever they perform, and all playing with the others for the simple joy of playing together. Batiste sums the band’s situation up when he says, “We start having fun even before we even get up on that stage. When we do get up onstage, we bring that fun with us.”

For something completely different, we zipped over to the Gentilly Stage to catch the rest of the set of brilliant jam-band style rock and soul from the Revivalists. These guys have been at the forefront of New Orleans' growing indie rock scene and are beginning to get a bit of national attention as well. Led by charismatic singer-guitarist David Shaw, whose creative songwriting takes from folk and pop, with the music anchored by pedal-steel guitarist Ed Williams' distinctive wah-wah, this is potent, no-holds-barred music.

You can see by my description that it's kinda hard to categorize the Revivalists. They take elements of rock, soul, country, funk, roots, and folk, and mix it all together to create something completely unique. Their wide array of influences and Shaw’s great lyrics serve them very well, both in the studio and on stage.

The formation of the Revivalists was all about chance, but everything since then has been a combination of hard work, awesome music, and friendship. The septet has been playing nonstop since 2007, crafting their genre-hopping sound that entwines Williams' pedal steel with traditional rock instrumentation and horns, adds the divergent backgrounds of the individual members, and finishes with the humid, funky undercurrents of their New Orleans home.

Religion aside, a revival is all about the tangible electricity that can only be created when enough like minds are crammed under a single roof for a singular purpose. It’s a spiritual spectacle, a carnival of the divine, a whole greater than the sum of its parts. The same could be said for The Revivalists’ searing live performances. The band has a knack for bringing music to life on a stage, and they have tuned their talents to Swiss-watch precision over years of relentless touring. Their bombastic showmanship is the outgrowth of a desire to connect with audiences on a personal level, and that intimate connection is what elevates their shows above simple entertainment.

True to their name, The Revivalists lean more heavily on the older styles and warmer sounds of the golden age of rock and soul, but they aren’t afraid to dabble in other styles when it’s right for the song. They let their songs define themselves and take shape organically, each on its own terms. It doesn’t matter. They just write songs that they want to play.

Shaw grew up in Hamilton, Ohio, near Cincinnati and went to Ohio State, and moved to New Orleans to pursue a career in music. He had been in various local bands since he was 13. He had decided that after college he would hit New York or Nashville or L.A., never thinking about New Orleans. "I didn’t know much about New Orleans music, honestly," he says. His girlfriend at the time was much more knowledgable about it and kept saying she heard it was a great scene. He started listening more to Professor Longhair and the Meters and heard about Galactic. "It just made sense," he said. "A lot of players hit New Orleans to cut their teeth."

"I wasn’t really thinking about a band. It was more, I’m just going to go down there and play my songs. I wanted a city that was going to have a lot of connections and people who wanted to play music. You can put funk and other sounds to folk songs no problem."

Guitarist Zack Feinberg helped form the Revivalists as a 20-year-old college student in New Orleans. Zack was riding his bike home from campus one day when he heard a neighbor singing something really good-sounding on his porch. It was Shaw, and they struck up a friendship. Soon after, Zack introduced the singer to drummer and comrade-in-jams Andrew Campanelli. It didn’t take long after that for the rest of the band to come together in its current, definitive septet. 

Zack grew up in the New York City area loving great songwriters. His appreciation for and commitment to songwriting is an important part of the Revivalists. When he first started playing the guitar, in third grade, he was really into blues. He had a ton of "Best of the Blues" type compilations. This gave him a foundation for the emotive, improvisational soloing he continues to strive for today. As he got older, he opened up to other kinds of music. He went to a lot of concerts and was into the jam scene and its broad acceptance of different musical styles, which shows in his work in the Revivalists.

Drummer Andrew Campanelli grew up in Falls Church, Virginia, where he was introduced to music by taking piano lessons in first grade. He started playing drums at age 11. During his senior year of high school he worked in the kitchen of a music venue near his home called the State Theatre. No matter what show took place in the main room, in the kitchen night after night the staff played the Meters. From that point forward he began to understand that there’s something different about the music in New Orleans. After seeing numerous New Orleans bands as the year drew to a close he decided to be near the music that he had grown to love and moved to New Orleans to attend Loyola University.

Andrew immersed himself in the music scene of the city, and found himself inspired by the unique tradition of New Orleans to preserve its culture by actively teaching it to new generations. Attending a weekly Sunday music workshop, he met Feinberg, aguitarist who was starting a band with a singer that he had just met. Four days later the Revivalists played their first show.

Gorge Gekas began playing saxophone in the fourth grade and played in concert band recitals all the way through high school in Fairfield, Connecticut. Like most who take up the saxophone, he started on the alto, but when a spot opened up he jumped to switch to the baritone, which he played in his junior and senior years. His love for bass guitar started when he was around 13 and received one for Christmas. A year later he began taking lessons at Jim Clark Studios in Stratford, Connecticut. His high school in Fairfield was the Fairfield College Preparatory School, and this was his initial connection with Loyola as they are both run by Jesuits. He received an academic scholarship to attend Loyola and the rest is history.

New Yorker Ed Williams grew up in Manhattan and played violin and piano starting at a very young age. He switched to guitar in middle school. He didn't try a steel guitar until he was in his late teens, but when he did he fell in love with the sound and the versatility of the instrument. 

Ed came to New Orleans to attend Tulane and fell in love with the music and the city. He took lessons on the steel guitar for a little while and then just tried to emulate and learn from everything that he heard and liked, trying to learn as much as he could and then translating it to the steel.

In his words: "One of the first bands to take the Revivalists under their wing was the Rebirth Brass Band. That was the first band to take us out on the road. They liked us a lot and really gave us a lot of support in the early years. We started to realize we were accepted in the New Orleans music community I think with one of our first Voodoo Fest late night shows, we had a lot of the music community come sit in, way more than we actually expected and it was an amazing time. We started playing with more and more of the people we looked up to when we first started on the scene. The New Orleans music community is always accepting and embracing, but it is a great feeling when you get the respect from the people you admire so much."

Like most locals, Williams loves playing Jazz Fest. "The crowds there are always so receptive. The festival is put on great, the way that everything is laid out and taken care of. Obviously, the food is great, too. After we started playing music in New Orleans, the first time we got to play Jazz Fest was such a great experience. It’s just a ton of fun."

For saxophonist Rob Ingraham, learning music has been a lifelong experience. He doesn't come from a particularly musical family, but they were always very supportive. The same goes for his brother, who is a guitarist working in Southern California. He went to a K-12 school where music was compulsory until 9th grade and encouraged through high school. He played flute in the school band and began formal music education when he was 11, and he picked up the saxophone at 12. He spent all of junior high, high school, and college playing in school jazz bands and studying jazz in some capacity. He majored in Music Performance (and Psychology) at Tulane, taking saxophone lessons chiefly with John Doheny. Doheny and John Dobry were the two professors he spent the most time with at Tulane, but he also learned a few things from other notable Tulane professors and New Orleans luminaries like John Joyce, Evan Christopher, and Jesse McBride. That said, be careful not to mistake him for a real jazz musician.

He met Zack through Tulane's jazz combos just after the school reopened following Katrina and they played together in various settings over the course of a few years. Zack quit the jazz band, but a couple of years later they reconnected in a psychopharmacology lab (Zack was also a dual major in Psych) when they teamed up to inject rats with ethanol and scopolamine and watch them fail at obstacle courses (this is a true story). Early in 2009, Zack asked Rob to sit in with the Revivalists on a cover of Jamiroquai's Virtual Insanity. He spent the next six months or so sitting in and expanding his role in the band, and before long he was a full member.

Michael Girardot is from Austin, Texas. His father was a church choir director and his mother was a children’s choir director, and they started bringing him to choir rehearsals when he was just a baby. As a youth he took piano, voice, and trumpet lessons, and was in the Texas State Choir, the Area Jazz Band, and all the high school musicals, basically doing as much music as he could. He was also in a few rock bands in high school, and got into recording after he saved up to build his own computer and buy a recording interface. Beyond his childhood keyboard lessons he's mostly been self taught, although he watches and tries to steal ideas from as many of the great New Orleans artists as possible (Ivan Neville, John Cleary, Dr John, etc.) 


Girardot went to Loyola to study opera and trumpet, and eventually got a music business degree with an emphasis in trumpet performance. It would have been really easy for him to stay in New Orleans and make a living as a jazz trumpet player and vocalist, but he couldn’t stay away from rock music and kept coming back to the piano to write music. He played trumpet and sang in a few bands during college, which is how he met the Revivalists. He sat in with the band a couple of times, and they asked me to come into the studio to record trumpet and keyboards. He started going on tour with them off and on in 2010 and then began touring with them full time in 2012.

When they got started, the Revivalists played a lot in New Orleans, at Tipitina's, the Howlin' Wolf, and of course the clubs on Frenchmen Street. They also hit Pensacola, Florida, doing three-hour shows where they really had to stretch it out for lack of a lot of songs. That helped them get tighter as a band and also learn how to lengthen a solo when needed. Now they are fixtures on the festival circuit and tour nationally a lot. And that's the Revivalists' story. I don't know how other bands in other parts of the country just simply come together through circumstance to make really good music like the Revivalists, but it does seem like this happens a lot in this city. Call it what you will...  

Here is the axs.tv feed of a portion of the Revivalists show on the Gentilly Stage, and here's 25 minutes from the Fiya Fest concert that took place during Jazz Fest. For more, here's a full 90 minutes from a club in Breckenridge, Colorado, and 35 minutes from the Heart of Austin in Texas. And for good measure, here are 1, 2, 3 Jams in the Van from the High Sierra Festival last year.

After this, we hurried over to the Jazz and Heritage Stage, taking time to grab a WWOZ Mango Freeze on the way. Yummy. Our mission was to catch the annual perfornce of the all-star brass-band conglomeration known as the Midnite Disturbers. Our first taste of this outstanding group was last year, with a downpour right in the middle of the show. So you can read about them in last year's report on Day 4. The only change I noticed in the group was the addition of Cory Henry's daughter, Jazz Henry, on trumpet. Jazz also is a member of the Original Pinettes Breass Band and was on stage the other day with Galactic. She's quite talented and has the chops to go along with the name.

     

Percussionist Kevin O'Day explained how this group came together in an interview earlier this year. "The Midnite Disturbers came together because, after Katrina, I was living at Stanton Moore’s house in Algiers Point. My place in Mid-City had been destroyed and Stanton was looking for a tenant, so it worked out. We had been friends anyway since high school summer camps at Loyola. My first apartment in New Orleans was a small place that Stanton and I shared, so this was a comfortable arrangement. Well, after I had been living there in Algiers for a while, we decided to start a band together. The idea was, you know, let’s make the most badass brass band imaginable, and that is basically what we did. We called all the best horn players we knew, and it was on. This was the kind of thing that, as soon as we got together it was great. I mean from the first note, we knew it was going to be an incredible ride.

"The best thing about Jazz Fest, from my perspective, is the audience. There is no other time of the year when we have this many devoted, listening, musically hip people here that are seeking out the great music this city has to offer. I just love playing music and during the festival I really get to do it in an ideal situation."

     

This show was, like last year, nothing but a nonstop party, with the brass band music just coming at you in wave after wave after wave. Top notch, top notch! Here is one video from Jazz Fest and another (from Fiya Fest, a big show held durig the Daze Between), both from this year, and here is mine. You'll pretty quickly see why we'll have to be overwhelmed by someone in another cube before we miss the Disturbers any time we're at Jazz Fest.  

The members of the band today were O'Day and Moore on drums and percussion; Big Sam Williams and Corey Henry on trombone; Shamarr Allen, Chadrick Honore, and Jazz Henry on trumpet; Matt Perrine on sousaphone; Ben Ellman, Lucas Ellman, and Nick Ellman on saxophone; and Roger Lewis on baritone saxophone.

The Mango Freeze was refreshing, but not filling, so the next stop was Food Area I. Laurie had shrimp and gris from Fireman Mike's Kitchen in New Orleans. That one was a repeat, as was my fried gator po' boy with jalapenos and onions from Guil's Gator, run by Sharon and Guilherme Wegner of Gretna, Louisiana. Those gator nuggets taste really good, and they find a way to not overdo the jalapenos so the heat is just right.

Bruce and the E Street Band had already begun over at the Acura Stage, so we thought we would see what kind of view we could get, this time trying the infield route as opposed to the track route that we tried with Elic Clapton. We didn't get very far. We could sorta hear and sorta see one of the screens, but there was no clear view and way too much commotion to linger for any time. We like Bruce and all but, like Clapton, there are ample opportunities to see him perform live from the comfort of home without having to deal with that.

Instead, we headed over to the Blues Tent, stopping at Cecelia Husing's booth in Food Area II along the way. Laurie had strawberry shortcake. I had one of her key lime tarts. Husing uses around 24,000 Pontchatoula strawberries to make her shortcake each year at Jazz Fest. (Pontchatoula, Louisiana, claims it is the strawberry capital of the world). I'm not sure how many key limes she uses for the tarts. Or how much of the real-deal whipped cream.

At the Blues Tent, we shoehorned our way into the standing area at the back to hear some of Roy Rogers and the Delta Rhythm Kings set. Appearing with the band, as he often does, was the fiddler Carlos Reyes. Rogers' guitar and Reyes' fiddle mesh just wonderfully. I wish we had been there and closer in from the beginning.

Roy Rogers, who is indeed named after the King of the Cowboys, is considered one of the best slide guitarists performing today. He is also an acclaimed producer, having produced recordings for John Lee Hooker and Ramblin' Jack Elliott. He has also received numerous accolades for his songwriting.  

Born in Redding, California in 1950, he began playing guitar at age 12. Some of his earliest influences came from his mother, Luverne Rogers. "She was the kind of person - and I probably got it from her - if she was cleaning house and felt like playing, she'd stop and go down to the piano and just play," Roy remembers. "She played these old standards from the '30s and '40s, and she had a great ear, so I'm blessed with a great ear."

At 13, he was performing in a rock 'n' roll band that wore gold lame jackets and played Little Richard and Chuck Berry tunes. When his older brother brought home an album by Robert Johnson, he fell for the blues, slide guitar in particular. Through the years he developed a distinctive style of playing the slide. During the 1960's he was able to frequent the rock clubs in San Francisco, where he saw many of the blues greats who inspired him. 

"I never liked psychedelic music, it wasn't emotionally connected," Roy says. "The thing that did impress me was, here were these middle-aged black blues guys who were pouring their hearts and souls out on stage, no holds barred, not trying to be cool, just raw stuff. I said, 'I wanna do that.'"

In the mid 1960s, the teenage bluesman started focusing on the older, rawer Mississippi Delta style of blues. This style demanded sonorous "open" tunings and the use of a bottleneck, or metal cylinder, to slide up and down the guitar's fretboard. Roy's placement of the bottleneck on the pinkie of his left hand freed him to play rhythm and baseline elements of a song, while making melody with the slide, a kind of one-man band.

Roy earned a history degree from Cal State Hayward and performed with various groups until 1976 but decided he "didn't want to play the flavor of the month." Instead, he pursued the music closer to his heart in the company of harmonica player David Burgin, and worked day jobs to stay solvent. Rogers and Burgin formed an acoustic duo and recorded an album. Rogers then formed the Delta Rhythm Kings in 1980. 

In 1982, by a connection through his bassist, Steve Ehrman, Roy was tapped to join the touring band of one of his blues idols, John Lee Hooker. The gig lasted four years, and led to Rogers serving as producer on Hooker's Grammy-winning albums "Chill Out" and "The Healer," for which Rogers co-wrote the title track with Hooker and Carlos Santana. Said Hooker, "I just can't say enough good things about Roy. He plays so good. Some of the best slide I've heard, best blues I've heard. He gets real deep and funky, and he masters whatever he plays." 

"I'm fortunate in that I have a unique style that nobody plays like," Roy says. "You have to take all your influences, and I listened to all kinds of stuff, but it's that raw emotion that always carries the day."

Born in Paraguay, Carlos Reyes began violin lessons at age three. When he was 10, his father, a musician and national hero in Paraguay, dared Carlos to learn the complicated 36-string native Paraguayan harp. He took up that dare, and two weeks after he purchased his first harp, he earned a double encore at his first professional harp concert. He eventually learned to play guitar, bass, mandolin, keyboards, and a variety of electronica.

Once in the United States, at age 14, he made his debut on harp with the Oakland Symphony and his debut on the violin with the Oakland Youth Symphony. He went on to play jazz-rock in a San Francisco Bay area group called Merlin and has since recorded solo albums on both fiddle and violin and appeared with artists as diverse as Chuck Mangione, Bill Evans, Clark Terry, Pat Travers, MC Hammer, Craig Chaquico, the Crusaders, the Rippingtons, Charlie Daniels, Wynona Judd, Clint Black, Willie Nelson, John Handy, the Doobie Brothers, and Steve Miller. He's well-known and a favorite in the Bay Area, as is Rogers.


This video, with interviews between the songs, tells how these two came together and found such a synergy in their music. I throw out a lot of superlatives in this write-up, because, hey, we're on vacation and we love New Orleans and Jazz Fest, but I gotta tell you, this music was astounding. The other performers were Steve Ehrman on bass and Jimmy Sanchez on drums. 

After Laurie left to seek out her final show of the day, I lingered at the entrance to the Blues Tent and made this really bad (visually) video of this performance. Here is one more (much better visually) from Jazz Fest. This one is from the 2014 Great Southern Blues Festival and shows some of Reyes on harp. This is a nice one from a club in Vallejo, California. Finally, here are 1, 2, and 3 from the Sweetwater Club in Mill Valley, California and 1 and 2 of just Roy Rogers at Noturno. And I couldn't resist this one, Roy Rogers and the great Sonny Landreth together at the King Biscuit Blues Festival in Helena, Arkansas, in 2014. Two of the best slide guitarists, ever.

After the Blues Tent crowd thinned out after this show, I found my way up front to a pretty good seat for the final show of the day, the great blues guitarist Johnny Winter. It seemed like it took forever for this show to begin, but once it did, it was good, but not as good as I had hoped, a combination of the lousy sound in the Blues Tent, a seat way over to the side, and the fact that he was not the same Johnny Winter I had seen a couple of times back in the 1970s. I guess in hindsight the last item was understandable because as it turned out, it was one of his last shows. Johnny Winter passed away in July. He was 70 years old. But what a life he had. 

Johnny Winter was one of the first blues rock guitar virtuosos, responsible for a bunch of incredible rock albums in the 1970s. He regularly sold out huge arenas. Just as he was breaking out as an artist, he turned in one of the best performances at Woodstock in 1969, although hardly anyone knows he was there because he was not included in the movie or album. 

Rock fans were thrilled his fresh take on classic blues, which was way beyond anything done by the British Invasion bands with the possible exception of Cream and Led Zeppelin. Constantly shifting between simple country blues in the vein of Robert Johnson, to all-out electric slide guitar blues-rock, he also paved the way for Southern rockers like the Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Winter grew up in Beaumont, Texas, a rough-and-tumble town populated by oilfield wildcatters and shipyard workers. He was afflicted with albinism and 20/400 eyesight in one eye and 20/600 in the other, and spent long hours listening to local deejay J.P. Richardson (The Big Bopper of Chantilly Lace fame) and became hooked on 50’s rock and roll. He formed his first band, Johnny and the Jammers, in 1959 at the age of 15, with his 12-year-old brother Edgar on keyboards. 

"Growing up, in school, I really got the bad end of the deal," Winter once said. "People teased me and I got in a lot of fights. I was a pretty bluesy kid." That alienation, he believed, gave him a kinship with the black blues musicians he idolized. "We both," he explained, "had a problem with our skin being the wrong color."

Thus Johnny never hesitated as a kid to venture into black neighborhoods to hear and play music. Looking back, he believes people in the black community knew that he was sincere, that he was genuinely possessed by the blues. "Nothing ever happened to me. I went to black clubs all the time, and nobody ever bothered me. I always felt welcome." He also became friends with Clarence Garlow, a deejay at the black radio station KJET in Beaumont. Garlow, who recorded for the swamp boogie specialty labels Goldband, KRCO, Frolic, Diamond, Moon-Lite, Hall-Way and others, opened Johnny's eyes and ears to rural blues and Cajun music.

Winter’s big breakthrough came a few years later in 1968 when Rolling Stone writers Larry Sepulvado and John Burks featured him in a piece on the Texas music scene. They praised him for some of the "gutsiest, most fluid guitar you ever heard." His music was high-octane hyperactive, but well thought out. It had the feel someone who was determined to get in the face of those who saw him as different. 

Later that year, Mike Bloomfield, whom he met and jammed with in Chicago, invited him to sing and play a song during a Bloomfield-Kooper concert at the Fillmore East in New York City. As it happened, representatives of Columbia Records were there. Winter played and sang B.B. King's It's My Own Fault (that's what is linked above). Within a few days, he was signed to what was reportedly the largest advance in the history of the recording industry at that time ... $600,000.

As a concert draw and big seller of recordings, Winter peaked in the mid-1970s. I saw him twice in 1975, at the cavernous Public Hall in Cleveland (the James Cotton Blues Band led off, followed by Styx) and at a mammoth show in Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, where he was on next to last, followed only by Bachman Turner Overdrive at their peak of pupularity on a bill that included Dave Mason, Styx, Foghat, and Kansas.  

After that whirlwind, Winter did his most valuable work as a steward to the music that changed his life. Starting in 1977, he produced a trio of albums for blues elder Muddy Waters that reconnected Waters with his own greatness. Here's a video of these two great blues artists together (Johnny shows up at 28 minutes in). The two got along so well that Waters called Johnny his adopted son. After Waters died in 1983, Winter, who by then had already inspired followers like his fellow Texan Stevie Ray Vaughan, settled into a journeyman's role, releasing high-quality albums that remained true to his roots at a steady pace and touring even more frequently. It wasn't always easy; he struggled with addiction and duplicitous management. But he survived, the mark of a true bluesman.

When asked how he'd liked to be remembered, Johnny Winter answered, "As a good blues player." Yeah.

His band today was Scott Spray on bass, Tommy Curiale on drums, and Paul Nelson on guitar. Nelson was also his manager and producer and the person whom Winter credited with having rescued him from bad management and the perils of alcohol and drug abuse. Winter used only two guitars, his legendary Gibson Firebird for the slide and an Erlewine Lazer, which he said was the closest thing he'd found to sounding like a Stratocaster and feeling like a Gibson, for "regular" playing.

Here are 1, 2, 3, 4 clips from Johnny Winter's final performance at Jazz Fest. To hear what he sounded like in his later years, without the Blues Tent's lousy sound, here's 82 minutes of high-quality video from the Hondarribia Festival in Spain in 2011. 

To end the day, I headed over to the Gentilly Stage to meet Laurie and catch the end of Foster the People's performance. Foster the People is an indie pop band from Los Angeles. The group is composed of Mark Foster (keyboards, piano, synths, guitar, programming, percussion, lead vocals), Jacob "Cubbie" Fink (bass), and Mark Pontius (drums, percussion). Also on the stage today were Sean Cimino (guitars, keyboards), Isom Innis (keyboards, percussion), and Phil Danyew (keyboards, guitar). The group's music, described as melodic dance-infused pop and rock, spans many genres.

Mark Foster graduated from high school in the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio. Encouraged by his family to pursue a career in music, he moved to Los Angeles to live with his uncle. Foster worked various jobs and at night attended parties in Hollywood to expand his social network. He said, "I felt like an 18-year-old Hunter S. Thompson. I was just diving into this Hollywood Hills subculture and taking it all in. I wasn't shy about taking my guitar out at a party. I wanted to be the center of attention." Foster struggled with drug addiction during his initial years in Los Angeles, saying, "It got pretty dark. My friends thought I was going to die. I was blind to it. When I was 19 years old, it got to a point where I said, 'Enough is enough'... I saw time was just passing me by. I wasn't being productive."

Several attempts at founding a band proved unsuccessful. He landed a job as a commercial jingle writer at Mophonics in 2008. He said of the profession, "I definitely learned from the commercial standpoint what works", and he credited it with reviving his confidence in performing. The music Foster wrote spanned a wide range of genres, but he had difficulty reconciling his eclectic compositions. He explained: "I'd write one song and it'd be a hip-hop song. I'd write another and it'd be heavily electronic. Another would be like a spiritual, and another would be classic piano song. I was constantly trying to pull those elements together. It took me six years to do it."

Foster the People was born out of a nascent relationship with drummer Mark Pontius, a film school student who left his group Malbec in 2009 to found a band with Foster. Pontius was impressed by the number and diversity of songs that Foster had written to that point, saying, "Some were on the guitar, and some were on the computer. But it was this really awesome singer-songwriter thing with a tricked-out beat, and I felt we could go wherever we wanted with this." The group added a bassist, Foster's long-time friend Cubbie Fink, who lost his job at a television production company during the recession. Mark Foster originally named the band Foster and the People, but people misheard it as "Foster the People." Eventually, he took to the nurturing image it evoked of "taking care" of people, so the name stuck.

Not long after the group formed, Foster wrote and recorded a song at Mophonics called Pumped Up Kicks, which eventually proved to be the band's breakthrough. After Foster posted the song on his website as a free download in early 2010, it drew considerable attention and through various blogs it went viral. Then the group, yet to be signed, garnered buzz with performances at the South by Southwest music festival in Austin in March 2010. That led to a record deal with Startime, who allowed the group to pace themselves and not rush an album that would just cash in on the popularity of the song. Isaac Green of Startime said, "You can't control everything, but you can be meticulous about the music." 

Foster the People promoted their first concerts by e-mailing fans who had downloaded Pumped Up Kicks from their website about the shows. That led to booking in a much sought-after tent at April's Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. Meanwhile, the group continued to grow its fanbase with a hugely popular month-long residency of concerts in January at The Echo nightclub in Los Angeles. Some of their new songs were snapped up by television executives looking to license music for upcoming season finales of television series. 

Beginning in January 2011, many alternative radio stations began playing Pumped Up Kicks, and the song hit the Billboard charts. Later that month, the group released "Torches. That led to appearances on the late-night talk show circuit and Saturday Night Live, and that helped the album debut at number eight on the Billboard 200. A 10-month tour of the United States and Europe followed. 

At the end of the year, the group received two Grammy Award nominations. At the awards ceremony, the band and Maroon 5 performed with the Beach Boys, one of Foster's childhood idols, in a medley of songs to celebrate The Beach Boys' 50th anniversary. Reflecting on Foster the People's sudden rise to success, Foster said, "For so many years, it was slow, playing in front of rooms full of 10 people and trying to get your friends to come ... and then all of a sudden, it kind of took off. It's been a fast incline, so we've had to just work really hard, keep our heads down and just stay grounded. At the same time, we've had a lot of fun during the process." Their second album, "Supermodel," was released just before Jazz Fest.

It's very enjoyable music, and it comes off very well in the festival environment (which isn't always easy; see Eric Clapton last week). Here are some examples: Helena BeatDestroying the MoonDon’t Stop, and of course Pumped Up Kicks.

That ended another great day at Jazz Fest, made even greater by the fact that our last performance ended before Springsteen's, meaning we didn't have to wait too long to catch the shuttle bus back downtown. 

After resting for a bit, we headed out to find some dinner in the French Quarter. We ended up at Café Maspero, on Decatur Street at Toulouse. It's located in a very old building (what isn't in the French Quarter?), and it has been around as a restaurant since 1971. You definitely feel like you are in an old, old building. French doors open on two sides, allowing the bustle of the street outside to filter in. But it's comfortable, has a big bar (natch), and the servers are all friendly. The place was very busy but we got a table right away. 

Laurie had a veggie mufuletta, olive salad served over Swiss cheese melted on an Italian seeded roll. To review: a muffuletta is a large, round, and somewhat flattened bread with a sturdy texture, somewhat similar to focaccia. It's different from focaccia, though, in that it is lighter, the outside is crispy, and the inside is soft. It also has no additional seasonings baked into it, aside from the sesame seeds. The bread and olive spread make the sandwich, so you really can do without the meat.

I had a fried oyster platter, which was fried oysters, lemon, and tartar sauce. Also served with a side salad. Both were very good considering the location in the heart of the tourist zone. 

After dinner we just strolled around, listening to what music we could find on the street and drifting out of the clubs until we pooped out and headed back to the Staybridge.


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© Jeff Mangold 2012