Day 4 / Sunday, April 27

4-08


How about the 2014 drill? 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. Head out to walk to the shuttle buses at the Sheraton. Today was the first anniversary of the beginning of Mud Fest, but there was nothing like that to be seen in the weather this morning. While it was somewhat cloudy, there was no precipitation at all. The temperature was in the low 80's, the humidity was low (for New Orleans), and there was a lovely, steady 20-mph breeze coming in off the Gulf. Once again, the new umbrella stayed at the Staybridge. The shuttle busses whisked us off to the Fair Grounds and after we passed through the friendly security people and friendly ticket takers, we were again there in plenty of time for the first music.

We did a lot of repeat eating and listening today, so I hope I can control my writing and just refer back to previous entries in the interest of getting the entire trip done before the next time we go to Jazz Fest. Here are today's cubes.

So, first off, this year we seem to be arriving in plenty of time to get food before the music, and that is working out fine, because you can get some of the more popular items without waiting in a long line. For example, today we went to Food Area II and I could walk right up to Galley Seafood’s booth and get me a softshell crab po’boy, done up right with lettuce and a couple of pickle slices. Not the first time I’ve had this awesome sandwich (see Day 4 last year and also Day 4 in 2012), and I know it will not be the last. Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy washed it down nicely.

Laurie’s early-day treat was crawfish strudel from Cottage Catering of Harahan, Louisiana. Their website is fun, with a video showing how the strudel is made ... shot like a trailer for a movie thriller. They also serve a white chocolate bread pudding that neither of us has tried yet. I’d imagine it’s good, too, as John Caluda, the chef and owner of Cottage, has been pastry chef at several prestigious New Orleans Hotels. He was also an incollegiate karate champion while he attended the Culinary Institute of America. Crawfish strudel is his creation, one of the few dishes at Jazz Fest that is an original recipe by the vendor selling it. The yummy strudels are phyllo dough and a luscious crawfish filling that includes pepper jack cheese, cream, and vegetables. They are made off site (as the video shows, you need some room!), frozen, and then baked fresh at Jazz Fest. They sell 7,000 to 10,000 strudels at Jazz Fest each year, and this is their 12th year. That’s a lot of strudel! 

Laurie’s beverage of choice, of course, was iced black coffee from the Cool Brew people, which also made for quite the good brunch. 

   

DesireeKyle Gambino

Our first music was at the Fais Do Do Stage. Big surprise, no? Cedric Watson and Bijou Creole were playing, and we just love their laid-back, soulful mashup of Creole, West African, Cajun, and Zydeco music. It is a sound completely unique, presented by a modern group who truly respect the origins of the music they play. 

You can read more about Cedric, Desiree Champagne, Kyle Gambino, Tyler Sonnier, and Casual T on Day 3 last year.  

Tyler Sonnier

Casual T

If you want to hear some more, the home page linked above has a bunch of sound files you can play, and my video shows the Fais Do Do scene this year.  And here are 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 new videos from 2014. In this video, Cedric explains the difference between Creole and Cajun music.  

He also cooks! Here is Cedric cooking his quick chicken, okra, and sausage Creole gumbo. His YouTube page has more cooking and some acoustic folk-type performances along with Bijou Creole stuff. 

The next performance we wanted to see was also going to be at Fais Do Do, so we had some time between the sets to wander over to the Gentilly Stage to see some of John Michael Rouchell's new band, called Tysson. Along with Rouchell, the band is made up of Alvin Ford Jr. on drums and Max Moran on bass. Joe Shirley and Joe Dyson Jr. were also on stage with the trio today. We would encounter Moran and Dyson on Day 6 in a jazz setting at Snug Harbor with Donald Harrison, and Dyson would also be on stage with Dr. Lonnie Smith next week. It's mind-boggling how New Orleans musicians are in multiple groups playing different styles. 

Tysson plays indie-alternative rock with hints of R&B. We didn't see much, but what we did see was pretty good, and they were definitely getting into being on a big stage. You can listen to a couple of songs on their website.

Lead singer and guitarist Rouchell has already seen national success with his previous endeavor, called MyNameIsJohnMichael. But Ford says that the music Tysson is making has never been done before. "We’re all from New Orleans so we take music very seriously," Ford said. "We want to give the city another thing to be proud of." He comes from a gospel and R&B background which is the credit for his soulful percussion skills. Rouchell uses his indie rock background for many of his guitar parts and even incorporates a little pop music à la Justin Timberlake. Moran has played jazz for much of his life and is a big fan of harder rock music. He uses this knowledge to better himself on all of the potential the bass has that is rarely utilized in music.

After Tysson ended their set, it was back over to Fais Do Do, this time to get our Louisiana music courtesy of the Jambalaya Cajun Band and their special guest D.L. Menard. Terry Huval, leader of this very popular band, is one of Cajun music's best fiddlers. He is also a fine songwriter, the composer of such well known tunes as Huval's Reel and Oh Ma Belle. He says that he learned his music "on my own, by ear," at age 10, and has performed for the public every weekend since 1977, when Terry and his brother, drummer Tony Huval, formed the Jambalaya band. Since then the band has been joined by accordionist Reggie Matte along with Ken David on bass, and Bobby Dumaitrait and Randy Champagne on guitars. The band issued its first album, "Buggy Full of Cajun Music," in 1979.

Huval was born in Texas, but his family's roots are firmly established in Cajun Country. During the show he demonstrated some fancy dance steps in his signature red hat, all the while going to town on his fiddle and exhibiting his characteristically Cajun joie de vivre. In addition to the fiddle, he also played a pedal steel guitars. Huval lives in the Breaux Bridge region of Louisiana, and he and the band often play in Lafayette at a nightspot called Randol's Restaurant. They have gained a strong following among Cajun music enthusiasts with their high-energy performances and recordings, honoring tradition but continuing to evolve musically.

Besides playing music, Terry is also chief engineer of the Lafayette, Louisiana, Utility System. He is bilingual, fluent in both Cajun French and English, and supports the movement to preserve the speaking of French in his state. At one time, Cajun children were not permitted to speak the language in school and in later generations the use of French declined dramatically. Reggie Matte is also a lifelong student of Cajun culture and is considered among the best versed of his generation in the French Cajun language, music, and customs. He has been playing the accordion since he was 8 years old.   

We saw D.L. Menard leading off on the last day of Jazz Fest last year, and Terry Huval and Reggie Matte were in his band, so I guess the Jambalaya folks and Menard are sort of interchangeable. 

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Here is a video of the band on the Fais Do Do Stage in 2011, here's one from the big Cajun festival the same year in Lafayette, and here is my video that shows the band this year, with Menard doing the Cajun National Anthem, La Porte d'en Arrière (The Back Door) and, because he is after all the Cajun Hank Williams, Your Cheatin' Heart. Here is a better video of Your Cheatin' Heart and her's another Williams classic, Hey Good Lookin'. Note that Matte finally gave up on his straw hat, which kept blowing off in the persistent wind. If you want the Jambalaya Cajun Band with Menard in quantity, here's a 90-minute concert celbrating Menard's 82nd birthday from earlier this year at the historic Liberty Theater in Eunice, Louisiana. 

Menard's best line of the day: "Well, another year has gone by. We should have this festival twice each year. Just once a year's not enough. That's right. You know, I thought that up all by myself."


After that wonderful show, we had some more time to kill, so we went over to the Blues Tent to see some of the set of Omara "Bombino" Moctar, the acclaimed Tuareg guitarist and singer-songwriter from Niger in West Africa. We saw Bombino and his band at Wolf Trap last summer, opening for Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters (who made a special round trip from the U.K. to New Orleans to close the Gentilly Stage yesterday). Bombino's music is powerful, emotional, and like nothing you have ever heard. Think of traditional African folk music played by a Chicago electric blues band.

Bombino was born in 1980 in Tidene, Niger, a Tuareg encampment about 80 kilometers northeast of Agadez. He is a member of the Ifoghas tribe. Following the outbreak of the Tuareg Rebellion in 1990, Bombino, along with his father and grandmother, were forced to flee to neighboring Algeria for safety. During this time, visiting relatives left behind a guitar, and Bombino began to teach himself how to play. He later studied with the best guitarist of the Tuareg, a man named Haja Bebe. While living in Algeria and Libya in his teen years, Bombino and his friends watched videos of Jimi Hendrix, Mark Knopfler, and others to learn their styles. He worked as both a musician and a herder in the desert near Tripoli, but by 1997 he had returned to Agadez and began life as a professional musician.

In 2007, when another Tuareg rebellion erupted, the government banned guitars for the Tuareg, seeing the instrument as a symbol of rebellion. Bombino remarked in an interview, "I do not see my guitar as a gun but rather as a hammer with which to help build the house of the Tuareg people." After two of Bombino's fellow musicians were executed, he was again forced into exile, unable to return until 2010. 

While Bombino lived in exile in Burkina Faso, filmmaker Ron Wyman, having heard cassette recordings of his music, decided to track him down. Wyman encouraged Bombino to properly record his music. Bombino agreed, and the two of them produced an album together in Agadez. The recordings culminated in his album "Agadez," released in 2011. It was a huge success, leading to a second album, "Nomad," produced by Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys, and a concert tour of the United States in 2013.

Here they are in a video and another from the packed Blues Tent. We couldn't even get in, but listened from just outside with at least some view of the stage. For the full Bombino experience, here is an entire concert. His story and his music ... both just incredible. 

By the way, if you are interested in what Robert Plant is up to these days, here is a good amount of his show from Jazz Fest, also incredible. We did not venture into the Gentilly throng for this, having already seen this show last year.

We were about to split up again, Laurie to the Gentilly Stage to see the trombone extravaganza known as Bonerama, and me to the Acura Stage to see the Soul Queen of New Orleans, Miss Irma Thomas. On the way to our point of divergence, we hit Food Area I for a second bite to eat. 

Laurie had a spinach and fried oyster salad, from Vucinovich's Restaurant. Frying done right is an art. Vucinovich's does it so well at Jazz Fest that the kitchen should be eligible for an NEA grant. The cornmeal coated oysters, some almost as big as crabs, arrive warm and golden. Few pleasures equal the first bite of a fried oyster, when the crust opens to release a gush of oyster liquor. The salad is a simple bed of spinach topped with red onions and squirt of creamy parmesan ppepercorn dressing. Simply delicious.

I opted for Cajun crawfish rice, from Smitty's Seafood of Kenner, Louisiana, the purveyors of the plate of just plain mudbugs, boiled and seasoned, which I have yet to try. Smitty's crawfish rice hits a sweet spot between shrimp fried rice and seafood jambalaya. According to the recipe, the secret is the fresh corn that lightens it up ever so slightly. Throw some hot sauce on it and you are in Cajun crawfish heaven.

A couple of words about Bonerama, who we spent a great evening with at The Hamilton last year. You wouldn't think a funk rock band fronted by three trombones, pluss bass and lead guitars and drums would work, but it sure does. The music is powerful and exciting to listen to.

Even in a city that doesn't play by the rules, Bonerama is something different. They can evoke vintage funk, classic rock and free improvisation in the same set; maybe even the same song. Bonerama was formed in 1998 by trombone players Mark Mullins and Craig Klein, who at the time were also members of Harry Connick Jr.'s big band. Greg Hicks is the third trombone.

Other members of the band are Bert Cotton on guitar, Matt Perrine on bass (and sometimes sousaphone ... see yesterday), and Alvin Ford Jr. (see Tysson earlier today) on drums. I wouldn't be surprised if Corron is in some other band we have seen or will see, it just goes that way in New Orleans. The Bonerama horn section can and have shown up almost anywhere.

Touring with Connick brought the two trombone players to New York quite a bit, and that’s where the idea for Bonerama was born. Klein explains, "There was a Cuban band with five trombones as the horn section, with Ronnie Cuba, the jazz saxophone player who’s played with everybody, and still plays in Dr. John’s band. He was the featured jazz guy with this Cuban salsa band. When I saw all the trombones together I thought, 'Wow, I want to start a New Orleans band like that.' So I talked to Mark, and we put Bonerama together."

Bonerama carries the brass-band concept to places unknown; what other brass band could snag a Best Rock Band award? As Mullins puts it, "We thought we could expand what a New Orleans brass band could do. Bands like Dirty Dozen started the 'anything goes' concept, bringing in the guitars and the drum kit and using the sousaphone like a bass guitar. We thought we could push things a little further."

Along with his jazz connections, Mullins is Bonerama's resident rock 'n' roller: It was Mullins who instigated the offbeat classic-rock covers that have become a band tradition. Edgar Winter's Frankenstein was the first nugget to get the treatment, and songs by Hendrix, Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and the Allman Brothers Band have since appeared in their set right alongside the funk and jazz-flavored numbers. "There's definitely something about the guitar and the trombone that are related," Mullins figures. "You compare the fretboard to the slide; there's a lot of similarity there." Indeed, the sounds Mullins makes by playing through a guitar amp and wah‐wah pedal may explain why he's named Jimi Hendrix as one of his favorite trombonists. "It's great to grab people with the rock songs, and then turn them on to some New Orleans music at the same time," Klein says.

Klein also points to the comradery of the New Orleans music scene, which he says has been strengthened since the Federal flood that followed Hurricane Katrina decimated the city. That energy is pulling musicians there like a magnet. He believes the music scene is as open as it’s ever been. "There isn’t a barrier really, and it seems like after the flood that became even more evident. It forced people to play with each other because right after the flood there weren’t that many places around to play, or musicians around to play with. Because of that there has been a lot of positive music to come from around here," he said.

As their sound evolves and changes Bonerama is still unlike anything you have ever heard. They’ve changed the way people think about the trombone, and paved the way for newer acts such as Trombone Shorty and Big Sam’s Funky Nation, firmly establishing New Orleans as a bonafide "Trombone Town."

To quote the band: "Shake it, baby. To the left and to the right. Or anyway you like. And all in between." That nerdy kid in the band room with the trombone just might have the last laugh after all.  

Mark Mullins' 13-year-old son Michael played with the band today, which you'll see in the video. And damn, Laurie never told me Papa John Gros was on stage with them, too. Oh, well. Here's 15 minutes of Bonerama from Jazz Fest 2014. That was a tough choice, Irma or these guys. 


But as long as Irma Thomas is at Jazz Fest, I will be there. There's just something abot her voice and her show, the way she cares for her fans, the music, and the musicians that make you want to do that. That was proven on Day 4 in 2012 and Day 11 last year. 

Decked out in a Bayouwear dress, Irma, now 73, did her usual thing, singing all her danceable R&B and soul hits backed by her great 10-piece band, the Professionals. The four-piece horn section didn’t just play her signature songs and solos, they danced old-time choreographed moves right along with Irma. 

Irma's onstage energy and vocal authority seem little diminished by the passing decades; in fact, in the three years I've been attending these shows, she seems to be getting stronger.

"I’d like to sing the song that got me into this business," she told the crowd. "It's older than most of you." Indeed, Irma's debut single, You Can Have My Husband (But Don’t Mess With My Man), was released 54 years ago. Nonetheless, she unleashed the song’s "Yeah, yeah, yeah! Yeah, yeah, yeah! Ah, yeah! Ah, yeah!" with commanding volume and impact, as if it had just hit the charts.

Of course, Irma also sang the beautiful Allen Toussaint ballad It’s Raining, featuring the tick-tock rhythm that counts down the lonely hours. "I’ve got the blues so bad, I can hardly catch my breath," she sang.

And of course we broke out our handkerchiefs for the obligatory second line segment during the medley of Sing It and Iko Iko because "We celebrate evvvverything in New Orleans." She admonished the people in the Big Chief big-bucks special-access grandstand (she called it the peanut gallery) for not participating.

"Now," she instructed the audience, "the proper way to do this is to wave your handkerchiefs and umbrellas and towels in the air and put your backfield in motion. I shall repeat: you put your backfield in motiion. Are you ready? Oh come on, you can do better than that! Are you ready? All right ..."

Here are the Irma at Jazz Fest 2014 videos: mine, and 1234 more. Number 4 is her great take on Dylan's Forever Young, which is how she ends every show. May she continue to do so ... for as long as possible.

We reunited for the annual funk rock blowout from Galactic, another show we just won't miss (see Day 5 in 2012 and Day 10 in 2013). A huge crowd was at the Gentilly Stage for this mid-afternoon affair. The funk-jam powerhouse got an extra boost from the Mike Dillon, who joined them on percussion for the duration of their set. The band was also helped by frequent collaborator Maggie Koerner, who sat in for Heart of Steel, Dolla Diva, and a lot more. 

Stanton Moore's virtuosic drum solo-turned-duo with Dillon was a highlight, but the force and energy of Koerner's vocals and performance kicked this set way up beyond a notch. Her take on Gimme Shelter was delivered the with so much force that it looked the whole band was going to be launched into orbit. Even if you walked into Gentilly expecting an instrumental performance by Galactic, you probably walked away talking about Maggie Koerner.

Galactic, together nearly 20 years, keeps its sound fresh by changing partners. The first time we saw them, in 2012, Corey Glover from Living Coulour was up front. Last year it was Glover joined by David Shaw of the Revivalists. This year, Galactic gave the stage to Louisiana native Koerner.

"She’s just got a wonderfully huge voice, and a really big, commanding stage presence," said saxophone player Ben Ellman (whose Shreveport-born wife, he said, was the first to hip the Galactic camp to Koerner). She's been on tour with Galactic for a few months and simply blows the doors off any venue where she performs, singing lead for most of the show, putting her spin on vintage covers by Allen Toussaint and the Rolling Stones as well as Galactic originals plus Galactic’s own arrangements of some of Koerner’s songs, from her albums "Quarter Life" and "Neutral Ground.”

"It’s fun to be around someone to whom this is all fresh," Ellman said. "It’s a contagious enthusiasm."

The feel and sound of New Orleans, its deep roots and its creative fertility, were also contagious to Koerner. The city's influence is audible in the growth between the rootsy "Quarter Life" and the moody "Neutral Ground." "It’s self-explanatory," she said. "You can hear New Orleans got into my veins in some of the darker songs on 'Neutral Ground.'"

"I used to be one of those people who was obsessed with finding out about new music before anyone else did," she explained. "That completely changed when I moved to New Orleans, because suddenly I was surrounded by so much history, and I really feel honored to be. So I started doing my research, and began collecting vinyl, all the influences of the bands I loved, and their influences' influences."

Koerner’s voice is a flexible thing that can shape-shift from a delicate coo to a shattering, powerhouse yowl. On "Neutral Ground," more so than on the straight singer-songwriter project "Quarter Life," she explores its possibilities as an instrument beyond lyrics, winding sinuously between mournful strings and belting, with Joplin-style sexy desperation, over a blues piano. It all creates a haunting soundscape that’s both earthy and ethereal at once, full of ghosts and gospel, sensuality, spirits and soul.

Here's most of the Galactic performace with Maggie Koerner from this year's Jazz Fest. It's a pain having the AXS TV camera people all over the stages, and they show far too many crowd shots for my taste (look, if you are way in the back of the crowd, the last thing you want to see on the big screen is the people who are at the front of that crowd!) but they do serve a purpose when it comes to reliving the performaces that you were at. Add to that the aforementioned Gimme Shelter. Since I heard the two back-to-back today, here is a bonus video of Irma singing Heart of Steel with Galactic at Jazz Fest in 2010. Irma was the original singer of this great song on Galactic's "Ya-Ka-May" album.  


I left the Galactic set a bit early to run over to the Jazz Tent to hear the eclectic and talented jazz pianist and singer Rachelle Ferrell. A composer, lyricist, arranger, musician, and vocalist, Ferrell is a recent arrival on the contemporary jazz scene, but her visibility on the urban contemporary R&B scene has boosted her audience's interest in her jazz recordings. 

Born and raised in the Philadelphia area, she was surrounded by music as a child. Her father was an amateur jazz musician, and she heard jazz, gospel, and classical music around the house. She received classical training on violin at school and learned to play the piano at home. She got started singing in the second grade at age six; this no doubt contributed to the eventual development of her startling six-and-change octave range. 

She decided early on that she wanted to try to make her mark musically as an instrumentalist and songwriter. In her mid-teens, her father bought her a piano with the provision that she learn to play to a professional level. Within six months, Ferrell had secured her first professional gig as a pianist and singer, writing much of her own material, accompanying herself on piano, and singing both popular and jazz styles with equal ease. 

At 18, she enrolled in the Berklee College of Music in Boston to study composition and arranging, where her classmates included Branford Marsalis, Kevin Eubanks, Donald Harrison, and Jeff Watts. She graduated in a year and taught music for a while with Dizzy Gillespie for the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. Through the 1980s and into the early 1990s, she worked with some of the top names in jazz, including Gillespie, Quincy Jones, George Benson, and George Duke.

In her late twenties she secured a record deal. Since the release of her first album in 1990, her reputation has spread slowly but steadily. She has toured Europe and the United states, performing to rave reviews at both pop concerts and jazz festivals. More than a natural singer, she is a natural wonder, capable of singing anything and everything. Few, if any, singers on the pop scene can match Ferrell’s dynamic, octave-leaping range, bordered by low, resonating chesttones that imbue her ballads with a sultry allure, and ear-splitting falsetto flourishes.

Although she has captured the jazz public's attention as a vocalist, Ferrell continues to compose and write songs on piano and violin. Her prolific songwriting abilities and ability to accompany herself on piano seem only to further her natural talent as a vocalist. "Some people sing songs like they wear clothing, they put it on and take it off," she has said. "But when one performs four sets a night, six nights a week, that experience affords you the opportunity to present the song from the inside out, to express its essence. In this way, a singer expresses the song in the spirit in which it was written. The songwriter translates emotion into words. The singer's job is to translate the words back into emotion."

Ferrell has steadfastly resisted the efforts of some in the industry to force her to narrow her musical range to just jazz or pop. "After close to 20 years of being accepted for who I am, and having diversity being a moniker for my sound, to have to deal with the constant pressure from the record company, as well as the media, to have to choose or splinter myself in order to accommodate their structures is a bit much. My major focus and goal right now, is to be able to find some type of way to strike a balance in my life and in my career and to be able to retain my integrity. If I can’t do that, the cost is going to be too much and I’m not willing to pay it.”

Well said. Ferrell's music is not easy, but it is very, very good. Here are 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 videos from the Jazz Fest performance (only the last one has her at the piano). Note to Jazz Tent performers: don't wear white. The lighting they use in that venue is horrible and our videos won't look good at all! For something of some better quality, here is an entire performance from 2011.

After Galactic ended, Laurie came over to the Jazz Tent and before heading to the outer reaches of the Acura Stage ... we still had not decided on Eric Clapton or somebody else ... it was time for some food. The Heritage Food Area is just outside the Jazz Tent, so that's where we went, both of us to Lil' Dizzy's booth, where we each had the signature dish, Trout Baquet

Trout Baquet is fresh Louisiana seafood served Creole-style, meaty trout covered in Louisiana crabmeat. Nothing more, nothing less.

Lil' Dizzy's is a family business that makes its New Orleans regulars feel like kin, too. Dizzy Baquet learned how to run a restaurant from his father, Eddie Baquet. Eddie learned the business in the 1940s working at the Paul Gross Chicken Coop with his aunt, Ada Baquet Gross. Lil' Dizzy's is the only Baquet-owned restaurant still open, and at mealtimes, it fills with police officers, politicians, and neighborhood regulars who often answer the waitress' "What are you having, baby?" with simply, "The buffet." The hot-food line features a changing array of dishes, including expertly made fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, rich dark roux gumbo and meaty cornbread dressing. Trout Baquet is a New Orleans Jazz Fest favorite and it's always on the restaurant's menu. If you’re not a regular, you may feel a bit like a tourist in your own hometown, but you’ll be a warmly welcomed, well-fed tourist.

As we sat at the picnic tables near the food area enjoying our Trout Baquet, Allen Toussaint strolled by. If you keep your eyes peeled, you could see anybody; the musicians enjoy Jazz Fest as much as the Fest-goers. 

After the trout, we actually had dessert. Laurie had a Key lime tart and I had peach cobbler. 

The tiny Key lime tart is silky, tangy sweet-sour spoonfuls of lime, in a superior, crunchy crust, topped with a dollop of dense, melt-in-your-mouth whipped cream. It's made by New York native Cecelia Husing. The filling is traditional, made with egg yolks, condensed milk and real lime juice; the recipe comes from a Junior League Creole cookbook. 

Husing has been serving the Key lime tart at Jazz Fest for 29 years. She knows her stuff, having opened the original K-Paul’s alongside chef Paul Prudhomme. When she’s not slinging pie crust at hordes of Festers, Husing operates Legal Perks, a café and coffee shop tucked into the Tulane Tower at Tulane and Broad, known in the neighborhood as an oasis of made-to-order freshness.

The peach cobbler is made by a catering company called Down Home Creole Cookin’. They also sell meaty white beans and BBQ turkey wings, neither of which I have tried but certainly aim to. Bertrand and Renee Bailey met at Louisiana State University, and this is the 14th year they have been vendors at Jazz Fest. They are able to tell exactly, because their daughter Blaire, now a cashier at the booth, was born the year they got in.

"I've been in food service 30 years," Bertrand said. "I started cooking as a way to put myself through college. I always had a passion for cooking." In addition to the catering company, Renee is a teacher and librarian at Winbourne Elementary in Baton Rouge. She grew up in the capital city, and Bertrand is from Edgard in St. John Parish (home of Dave Malone of the Raw Oyster Cult and Dave Bartholomew, Fats Domino's songwriting partner), where his father was a farmer. Both learned to cook from their mothers.

Moving on, we have found that the Jazz Fest people don't make it easy to see the Acura Stage from the racetrack, blocking the view with beverage stands and special-access grandstands until you get about as far back as you can be and still be on the Fair Grounds. So you can listen, but you can't see. You can barely see the big video screens. Other festivals put a second bank of screens about halfway back for the big crowds, but not Jazz Fest, at least not yet. So we listened to Eric Clapton as we made our way to the back of the throng, easily the biggest crowd of the weekend.

Once we got back there, it was crowded and noisy. We got sucked into a conversation with a very nice guy who worked with the Jazz and Heritage Foundation, and it would have been very interesting to talk to him, but we really wanted to listen to some of the muisc. 

Clapton was backed by a veteran band that included Andy Fairweather-Low on guitar and Chris Stainton on keyboards. He was doing a low-key, blues-heavy set, and we got there just as he was launching into an acoustic portion of the show, which frankly was not a good choice for such a huge crowd. Inconsistent sound due to the windy conditions in the back of the field didn't help either, often leaving Charlie Wilson’s show at Congo Square Stage more audible. We moved on, and word was that many were disappointed by the overall lack of energy and recognition of New Orleans in Clapton's performance. Here is an excerpt; judge for yourself. We weren't really there that long to develop an opinion. When we can see lots of Clapton live on TV as Palladia shows his Crossroads Guitar Festival regularly, why put up with bad sound and incessant chatter?

We continued along the backstretch of the track. I peeled off at our sort-of secret entry to the Fais Do Do Stage, while Laurie headed to the Gentilly Stage to hear its headliners, indie stars Vampire Weekend

This band formed in 2006 and consists of lead vocalist and guitarist Ezra Koenig, guitarist/keyboardist Rostam Batmanglij, drummer and percussionist Chris Tomson, and bassist Chris Baio. They met while students at Columbia University in New York City. They self-produced their debut album while simultaneously working full-time jobs, Tomson as a music archivist and Koenig as a middle school English teacher. By 2014 they had won a Grammy for their third album. Here are a few samples of Vampire Weekend from Jazz Fest: 1 , 2, and 3.

At Fais Do Do I was catching the zydeco sounds of C.J. Chenier and the Red Hot Louisiana Band. C.J. is the son of zydeco founding father Clifton Chenier. And, as you can see at the bottom of this page, at the Fais Do Do Stage C.J. performs next to a towering painting of his father. And on the other side of the stage is a towering painting of his uncle, Cleveland Chenier, master of the scrub-board. No pressure there, I'm sure.

We heard C.J. on Day 4 last year, at the Gentilly stage between downpours one and two, so you can read all about him and his famous family there. Here are one and two videos from this year's show, and here is mine. Call it heredity, call it what you will, but this band is really really good, with just a bit of edge to their music that takes it just up to but not into rock. Simply awesome.

There was no rest for the weary this evening. As soon as the shuttle bus dropped us off at the Shearton, we hustled back to the Staybridge, quickly ate some leftovers, and then grabbed a cab and headed out to Mid-City Lanes, the famous Rock 'n' Bowl to see one of our favorites, the great slide guitarist Sonny Landreth. He was playing as the middle act on a triple bill that opened with Little Freddie King and ended with another great guitarist, Tab Benoit.

We got to the Rock 'n' Bowl just in time to see the last song from Little Freddie King's set. This was a big disappointment, because he's someone I've wanted to see for a long time, but it just never seems to work out. I don't know why the good folks at this club need to start their shows at 8 during Jazz Fest ... it's just impossible to stay the entire day at the festival and get there in time. I guess it would work if you took a cab right from the Fair Grounds, but with the long evening at the Rock 'n' Bowl you could come out feeling pretty gross. 

So anyway, we got to hang around while the stage was changed out, watching the bowlers and grabbing a beverage at the bar, and we staked out a pretty good spot at the front, at least until some very large guy shoved his way in front of us just as the show started. The short person's lament. But the set was still great.

Sonny Landreth is a guitarist's guitarist, a wizard of the slide guitar. Eric Clapton has praised him as one of the most advanced guitarists in the world and also one of the most under-appreciated. Landreth almost always appears at and with Clapton at the latter's Crossroads Guitar Festivals, one of the reasons we got tickets for this show on the day Clapton was at Jazz Fest, hoping against hope for a surprise appearance. That wasn't to be, but no matter. Landreth, whose music encompasses Mississippi Delta blues, zydeco, and Southern rock, can stand on his own, believe me.

I'd been aware of this guy for some 20 years, based on a review in the Pulse! magazine that Tower Records used to give away every month. We finally got a chance to see him in person at the State Theater in Falls Church a couple of years ago. Since then we have seen him at the Birchmere in ALexandria and at Wolf Trap's annual Louisiana Swamp Romp.

He lives outside of Lafayette, in an unassuming townhouse in the town of Breaux Bridge. It's crowded with amplifiers and guitars. Technically, what makes him so good and so unique among his slide guitar playing bretheren starts when he slips a tubular glass slide onto his left pinky finger. Most guitarists rest the slide on the strings over the frets to create a quavering, fluid sound. They pluck the strings above the guitar's sound hole. Landreth does that, finger-picking in a Chet Atkins style, but he also plays chords, as he says, on the "wild side" of the slide, up on the neck -- creating what John Hiatt calls "ghost notes."

"It makes a more complex sound," says Landreth. "It opens up a lot of colors because you have harmonics and tones on both sides of the glass."

But there's more. Landreth has also perfected a tremolo using the palm of his hand as a baffle over the sound hole, which he combines with the notes behind the glass. "Kind of an accordion effect," he says. "So you can manipulate the sound with the motion of your palm." He's also known for tapping, slapping, and picking strings, using all of the fingers on his right hand. He wears a special thumb pick/flat pick hybrid on his thumb so he can bear down on a pick while simultaneously using his finger style technique for slide.

This video isn't from the show we were at, but it is taken from very close in and you can see Landreth's technique up close on the song Back to Bayou Teche.

If you listen to Landreth, you hear the unmistakable sounds of Acadiana in his music. Though Landreth was born in Canton, Mississippi, his father moved the family to Lafayette when Sonny was young. That's where he began to drink in the music of South Louisiana. He heard it on the radio and jukeboxes and in clubs like the Blue Angel Lounge. He heard Cajun, zydeco, swamp pop, and rock 'n' roll.

Landreth learned to incorporate what he was hearing and eventually went on to hold the distinction of playing with the Holy Trinity of Acadian music: songwriter and Cajun rocker Zachary Richard (see Day 3), the Cajun supergroup Beausoleil, and the King of Zydeco, Clifton Chenier. Landreth was in his late 20's when he became the first white member of Chenier's Red Hot Louisiana Band, standing every night between drummer Big Robert St. Julian and Clifton Chenier's brother, Cleveland, who, as we mentioned above, was master of the scrub-board. That, Landreth says, was the beginning of his real musical education.

"People ask me about it and I liken it to if I'd grown up in Chicago and Muddy Waters had taken me under his wing, that was what it was like for me here in this part of the country."

Landreth has released 10 CDs of his own, and appeared on many others. His latest album hit No. 1 on Billboard's Blues Chart, but you could be forgiven if you didn't think it was blues. "Sonny's difficult to find a category for. He's unique," says Tony Daigle, a recording engineer from South Louisiana who's worked with Landreth for years. "He has this Creole-Cajun influence, but yet it's 60s and 70s kinda good rock 'n' roll. And he's such a unique guitar player. Nobody else does what he does."

So, at 63 years old, with graying shoulder-length hair, is Sonny Landreth finally ready to break out? "If a guy ever deserves to break out it's Sonny," says Herman Fuselier, a long-time entertainment writer in Lafayette and host of a radio program called Zydeco Stomp. "We're in this era now where people are famous for just being famous, and don't have an ounce of talent. Here's Sonny with talent running out of his ears and out of his fingers. So he deserves it. But, the type of guy Sonny is, he really doesn't need the fame. The people that know who he is and how good he is, they already know that, they really appreciate that."

Landreth is pleased with the emergent buzz about him. But it seems like he gets more excited about coming home from his almost nonstop tours with his band and others and going down to Don's for a cup of gumbo and a Manhattan, or sitting in around Lafayette with the Mamou Playboys.

"I have to come back to recharge my spiritual batteries, I always say, that's part of the blessing of living here -- the culture. For me, it's about the food, the music, the dance. There's a very soulful undertow to all of this," he says. "You plug into it, you don't forget it."

Sonny's band tonight were regulars David Ranson on bass and Brian Brignac on drums. Landreth plays with a couple of different drummers, but we think Brignac is the best. Ranson and Brignac are great musicians in their own right.

So here's a YouTube playlist that shows virtually the entire show that we saw at the Rock 'n' Bowl, including three songs at the end where he came out to join Tab Benoit during his set much later in the evening. If you are interested in hearing more of this incredible guitarist, and I can't imagine why you wouldn't be -- I have listened to a lot of guitar over the last (choke) 50 years and Sonny Landreth is one of if not the best I have ever heard -- here is a page from NPR music that has a number of performances and interviews.

After Landreth was done, we hung out while they turned the stage over for Tab Benoit and listened to a few songs from his set from the back of the crowd. He is an incredible blues singer and guitarist in his own right and also a major force in South Louisiana music. You can find out a bit more about his Voice of the Wetlands project on Day 3 of last year's report and his solo act on Day 9. I admit it, we did leave early, worn out from the travel and three days of Festing, knowing that we would miss the joint appearance with Landreth but also knowing that there would be other opportunities, even if not this year, because the two are billed at the Rock 'n' Bowl together a lot. 

We had a bit of a struggle getting a cab outside the club because there is no organized queue and people were running out to the entrance of the parking lot to snag cabs as they pulled in. We finally met up with another couple who were going to our part of the Central Business District and asserted ourselves to get a ride, ending a very long but very, very fulfilling day.

And now the Daze Between begin.


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© Jeff Mangold 2012