Day 8 / Thursday, May 1

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On Thursday morning it was back to 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, and head out to walk to the shuttle buses at the Sheraton. No umbrella needed again today. The weather was beautiful. Temperatures were in the mid-70's, the humidity was low, and the breeze was light. It could not have been more perfect. 

The Thursday cubes led us straight to the Acura Stage to start out. There, we would finally catch our first full set by the local funk-rock ensemble Flow Tribe. Each of the two previous years we'd passed Flow Tribe performing on the Gentilly Stage, and each time we were interested but on our way somewhere else. We promised ourselves that we'd definitely see this really good band sometime, and the cubes aligned for us this year. 

Flow Tribe comes at you with no holds barred. They play what they call "backbone cracking music," a soul-shaking mixture of styles and sounds. It's urban street funk, full of second-line beats and tunes that are both spunky and soulful. 

You can't listen to Flow Tribe without giving into the groove. The music is full of bold, bouncing bass, sticky synth, and smooth vocals, accented by swinging guitar licks with screaming trumpets and some scrub board as lagniappe. We even heard some Chicago-style electric harmonica. It all flows together, though (get it?). On stage, the groove manifests into more than just a performance; it's a party of powerful funk that is infectious and invigorating.

The members of Flow Tribe consider themselves more brothers than bandmates. They are K.C. O'Rorke on vocals and trumpet, Chad Penot on bass, Bryan Santos and Mario Palmisano on guitar, John Michael Early on harmonica and scrub board, and Russell Olschner on drums. In the days and weeks after their 2004 graduation from Brother Martin High School, O’Rorke, Penot, Santos, and Olschner teamed with Early, a Jesuit High School graduate, for informal jam sessions in Penot’s back yard. By summer’s end, they realized they had the makings of a band, even as they went their separate ways: O’Rorke to the University of Alabama, Early and Santos to Louisiana State University, Penot to a construction job, and Olschner to Iraq with his National Guard unit. 

The next year, in the aftermath of Katrina, they resolved to reconvene the band in New Orleans as a serious pursuit. O'Rorke said the storm "made us realize that New Orleans was where we needed to be, to try to put our little musical stamp on the city, or just do something for New Orleans. Most of our families lost their houses. It was one of those situations where you realize nothing’s permanent. So we said, 'Let’s really try to do this band thing.' It has always been based on that foundation, that chemistry, that friendship, and it just grew from there." 

"There were a lot of questions in the news," Early remembers. "People were saying, 'Is it worth rebuilding New Orleans? Should we send all this money to a city if a disaster might happen again?' There was a big debate going on about the importance of New Orleans. We thought about our love of the city's music, the history, the culture. We were just a bunch of 18 and 19-year old kids, rebuilding our parents' houses during the summer ... and we knew the only way we could contribute on a bigger level was with music."

O’Rorke said, "Every step of the way when we could have given up, we doubled-down."

Dedicated to revitalizing and rebuilding the city that influenced them, the band continued honing their craft, creating an undeniably talent-laden and diverse sound reflecting the cultural and historical mixture of music rooted in New Orleans. They landed a regular Sunday gig at the now defunct Friar Tuck’s in the summer of 2006, building a following and a sound. 

Each musician has individual influences, but all six are keen to honor their New Orleans heritage. "It’s that feeling of when you go see Dr. John, or George Porter Jr. and Johnny Vidacovich at the Maple Leaf on Thursdays," O’Rorke said. "It’s kind of indescribable, but it’s definitely rooted in New Orleans tradition. The crossroads for us is the backdrop of New Orleans and that funk feel that permeates." (That's the very cool June Yamagishi on guitar with Porter and Vidacovich in the video.)

O'Rorke again: "Our music comes from everywhere. Taking time to notice and note the eccentricities of life is really the coal that fires the creative engine of the band. We all listen to different types of music and we’re always open to different ideas. It’s like a filtration process through six people and so you kind of get the best parts and ideas from each person. It’s fun to work that way."


Flow Tribe operates under the philosophy, "Take the music seriously, but don’t take yourself seriously." On stage, they often rock second-hand suits. O'Rorke’s is purple; Santos selected sharkskin. "When you put on a funk suit, it takes a shorter amount of time for people to respond," O'Rorke said. He believes that the organic nature of Flow Tribe's music is what attracts the audience to their sound. "I think people are tired of stuff like EDM and computer-generated noise. They want something organic that they can dance to." Dance you do at a Flow Tribe show, whether you are walking by on your way into Jazz Fest or right up front at the Acura Stage for the opening set of the day.

Another interesting aspect of some Flow Tribe shows is that painter Alex Harvie is on the stage interpreting the performance on canvas. 

        

Flow Tribe has music that you can listen to on Soundcloud, and the music is really good, but you should see them as well as listen to them. Here is a complete performance from 2014 and here is their performance at the 2013 Voodoo Fest in New Orleans (and I know there is one person ... RUTH ... who will appreciate the outfits here). Here's my video, which shows the scene at the Acura Stage at Jazz Fest this year (you can also see the painting in progress).

This was a great way to get back into Jazz Fest, for sure.

After this show, we zipped over to the Blues Tent to catch the last part of the set by Colin Lake, songwriter, blues singer, and master of the slide and lap steel guitars. Lake's vocals combine with musical elements of soul, rock, and folk to create a sound and feel that is completely original. Not that seeing somebody completely original is a surprise to us in this city anymore.

The one wrinkle is that Lake was not born in New Orleans. However, you could say that in New Orleans he was re-born. Six years ago, while visiting, he was overwhelmed by the gravity that seemed to be drawing him in. He moved to town less than a year later and his passion and innate feel for roots music would find fertile ground from which to spring. "The reason that everybody loves this city is because they’re drawn to it and I was drawn to it in this way where I just kind of had this awakening, that what I’m trying to do needs this," explains Lake on his move to the Crescent City.

"This city teaches you how to be yourself. Here all you got to do is be yourself to the max. From every notorious music character the city has, it is not necessarily because they’re the best musician in the world, some of them are, but a lot of it is because they are the best at sharing whoever they are," he says, naming such figures as Professor Longhair (here with the Meters) and Dr. John, whose style and appeal could never be duplicated in the way that they truly represent themselves. Lake feels the same quality has been brought out of him by the city allowing him to continually shed his skin, outdoing his own expectations.

It was only about 10 years ago that Lake picked up a lap slide guitar and felt a natural connection between him and his new instrument. Inspired by the style of Pacific North West player Kelly Joe Phelps, he then practiced with great enthusiasm, mimicking great players like Phelps until he developed his own style. 

It took a few years before he would teach himself to sing, mostly through the same process. "I would emulate the singers that I liked the most. What I realized was that the singers I liked the most were the ones who really pushed through their voice, people like Howlin’ Wolf and Elmore James with this powerful, overdriven kind of voice." 

Lake grew up in Seattle. He first visited New Orleans at age 19 to play in a lacrosse tournament. The city didn’t make much of an impression, but his parents regaled him with tales of Jazz Fest. They decorated the family home with Jazz Fest posters, and their post-fest behavior was ... curious. "My folks," Lake recalled recently, "would always come back from New Orleans acting funny."

He finally made his own Jazz Fest pilgrimage in 2008, after he’d moved to Portland, Oregon, and launched a career as a folk- and blues-based guitarist. He quickly realized, "there was something going on. I got a feeling that I needed to take what I was doing here." He and the only local he knew rented a Bywater apartment. An extension cord to a neighbor’s house supplied electricity. Eventually, he landed a regular gig at d.b.a. and things fell into place very quickly. 

Lake's backing band at Jazz Fest today was Marc Adams on keyboards, Bill Richards on bass, and Eric Golson on drums. Next time we are at Jazz Fest, if he is there, we will definitely take in the whole show.

Here's 15 minutes of Colin Lake at the Louisiana Music Factory in 2011. For some individual tunes, here's his YouTube channel solo and with his Wellbottom Blues Band. From Jazz Fest this year, here are a 10-minute video and a 5 minute video from the Blues Tent, with the requisite Blues Tent crummy sound. Here are one and two videos from the 2013 T-Bois Blues Fest in Larose, Louisiana. And finally, Colin Lake is on Soundcloud if you just want to listen.

Our next stop was next door at the Jazz Tent to hear the super soulful voice of Erica Falls, who was doing a jazz and R&B show with veteran keyboard artist Larry Sieberth and his quintet.

Erica truly embodies the essence of New Orleans heart and soul in her music. Like so many others, she was exposed to a variety of music in her home at an early age. That music crossed many different eras and genres but was steeped in New Orleans jazz and funk. It all combined to make one of the finest female vocalists in the city. 

We really enjoyed Erica on the Congo Square stage on our fist two trips to Jazz Fest, the latter with Corey Henry's Tremé Funktet (Day 9 last year) with whom she just killed Voodoo Child and House of the Rising Sun (these videos are from the d.b.a. club).

Born and raised in the Upper Ninth Ward on Pauline Street ("I love my neighborhood"), Erica's musical roots grew from church and family. "I was a pretty sheltered kid growing up. I didn’t go to second lines, never even heard of Irma Thomas until I was a teenager." Erica sang in the church choir and learned to play the piano and violin at a young age. "I grew up with music. Most of my family sings. It’s funny, though. My goal wasn’t to do music because I didn’t think I could sing." She compares herself to her mother (a "real singer"). "When I used to sing in the choir the directors would say, 'You’re going to grow up and sing like your mom.' But my mother sang with such emotion that everyone in the room would say, 'You should do something else.' So I was always off doing something else. I thought I’d open a hair salon. But what happened was that music came and got me. Whatever I would do, music would always bring me back to it. So I thought, 'Okay, I surrender.'"

She made her professional debut on Bourbon Street 20 years ago, fronting a cover band at the Old Opera House. "I was pregnant when I auditioned, so I came to the audition in a big jacket. They noticed, but said, no problem. Maybe that’s why my daughter became a performer as well. Erica’s daughter, Kalie, is also a musician, pursuing a future as a singer, producer, songwriter, and arranger.

As a backup singer, she’s appeared or recorded with heavyweights from John Fogerty to Irma Thomas to Sting. Before her first solo set, which we saw at Congo Square, her appearances at Jazz Fest had been in the Jazz Tent as a frontwoman for Sieberth and at the Acura Stage, singing with Allen Toussaint

The Congo Square appearance showed she had charisma as well as a great voice. She Falls was exuberant from the start, and we remember a jazzy version of Stevie Wonder's Higher Ground in particular. She also did her favorite Toussaint cover, Old Records, originally written for Irma Thomas. "When I heard that one, I went to her and said 'Miss Irma, I’m gonna have to steal your song.' She said, 'That’s alright, honey —- but when you do it, just make sure you do it your way.'" From there she went on to be the featured vocalist in Joe Sample's touring band (that's Sample and his band in the Higher Ground video, with the awesome June Yamagishi on guitar), and she continues to appear with Toussaint. 

Let's let Erica conclude: "Music is my sanity. It’s what I breathe; it’s what I eat. I love it so, and it’s where I get my release. Life happens, and when it does I need a stage and a mike. I am grateful that I am able to do what I love and it’s my place of sanity at the same time. Really, you’re always going to have your peaks and valleys in this industry, and I’ve had my frustrations. But all that’s happened in the past year has made me feel like a fortunate and blessed woman." Later this year she would take over the lead vocal duties with Galactic for a few months. Would we ever have liked to hear one of those shows!


Erica's solo Jazz Fest set at Congo Square was put together by Sieberth, who curates a set in the Jazz Tent every year. Usually they’re conceptual sets with a variety of singers. He's done a gospel show, a soul show, and one built around jump blues. For the Jazz Tent this year, he wanted to do something more soulful with one voice. He chose Erica Falls without hesitation. "I just really admire her vocal talents. She’s very authentic and just a wonderful person.

"We try to make the set different every year, and I thought, let’s go for a straight funk and R&B thing this year. There’s a handful of people in New Orleans who are worthy of much greater recognition. I’d put her in that group with people like Germaine Bazzle and Davell Crawford (see above) in that respect."

While based in jazz, Sieberth’s musical vision is not limited by genre barriers. He prefers to integrate the many facets of music and performance into an engaging, inclusive experience. His own neo-bop improvisations and experimental inclinations combine with his classical and world music influences in both his performances and his compositions for television, film, and stage. 

To give you an idea, here are Sieberth's last three recordings. "New New Orleans" was a solo piano set in which traditional New Orleans jazz pieces received a brilliant survey, with judicious modern overtones sprinkled throughout. In "Arkipelago," fevered fantasy coalesced with funk, in what was described as a second line strolling Alpha Centauri. "It’s Magic" was straightahead vocal jazz with Bazzle. In addition to all of his individual projects, Sieberth also performs and tours with Gerald French and the Original Tuxedo Jazzband.

Typically, there isn't any video of Erica and Larry Sieberth in the Jazz Tent exept mine, for better or worse.  

While I went to the Jazz Tent, Laurie was interested in seeing the New Orleans Bingo! Show, which was performing over at the Acura Stage. The New Orleans Bingo! Show is a late night, early morning ride through downtown New Orleans. It’s the soundscape created by the sirens, a calliope, a car alarm in a dark alley, the pulse of the nightclubs, a horse-drawn buggy, the church bells, the brass on the street, and a passing conversation. A jagged series of vignettes and a songbook of love letters written while delivering food on a bicycle. A spinning wheel of possibilities entangling the audience in a game of chance. It’s a Musical Game Show Cabaret. It’s the desire to be someone else, with your name in lights. OK, those are their words.

What it is, more directly, is an interactive theatrical cabaret and music group. It also features original short films, comedic skits, other vaudevillian antics, and a live game of bingo played with the audience wherein any winner gets a dubious minute or so as the star of the show. The show features original music by New Orleans singer and songwriter Clint Maedgen, who created the show in 2002. Maedgen also play saxophone and sings in the Preservation Hall Jazz Band. So that lets you know that the glue holding the whole thing together is the music, which ranges from creepy squawking through bullhorns in the manner of a newsboy hawking an extra edition of the paper to poignant ballads of downtown New Orleans living. It's a unique combination of old-time carnival hucksterism and serious musical chops.

Laurie found it ... interesting. This page from YouTube has a dozen videos shot in a club in Jackson, Mississippi. Judge for yourself!

By this time we were really ready for some food. I went the repeat route, straight to  Panorama Foods for some sausage and jalapeno bread. No need to describe this any more. If you've been reading these reports you know how good this is. A lot of people prefer it to the crawfish bread because it doesn't cost as much and has more flavor. Laurie got vegetarian red beans and rice from Burks and Douglas of New Orleans. The red beans are just creamy enough, not tricked up, and the real flavor of the bean comes through. This cornerstone of New Orleans cuisine is done very well, by one of the longest established food vendors at the Jazz Fest -- 41 years and counting.

When she was young and Jazz Fest was young, Judy Burks says, "It was really exciting, learning to do cooking for lots of people. It's not something that's easy to step into. I wanted to do something Southern, and something I could cook, but work up a recipe to make in large amounts. We only learned it by letting it happen. But in my heart, I now recognize that it's a really big deal." Jazz Fest "is massive and wonderful." 

It took awhile for us to get to the Fais Do Do Stage today, but when we did it was for one of our favorites, Lil' Nathan and the Zydeco Big-Timers. We first caught Nathan Williams Jr. on Day 3 in 2012. He is the son of Nathan Williams who we have seen on Day 11 last year and Day 2 this year, both of which rate among the very best we've seen at Jazz Fest. Except that Laurie wasn't at the show last year. Anyway ...

Nathan Jr. has all of the charisma of Nathan Sr. but brings his zydeco to a younger audience with an edge that comes from hip hop and rock. He is a fantastic performer and, like Nathan Sr.'s Cha Cha's, the Big Timers, are the perfect backing band. Nathan's cousin, Isiah "Sanchez" Williams is on scrub board, Jesse Duplechin is on guitar, Michael Broussard is on bass guitar, Brandon Miller is on drums and Broderick Freeman is on the keyboard. Their music is definitely zydeco, nearly all of their songs use the accordion, but they are definitely more densely layered, electronic-centric arrangements. A very rich sound, and Nathan's low, smooth voice fits it perfectly.

Like the young brass bands in New Orleans, many zydeco artists today are of the hip-hop generation. In today's zydeco you'll hear accordion and rubboard, but also drum machine, Autotune, and other markers of contemporary urban music. You might hear a rapper rhyming over an accordion. Those kinds of innovations are well in line with zydeco's history. After all, it was the addition of rock and R&B instrumentation to Cajun tunes by artists like Clifton Chenier, in the first place, that galvanized the sound we think of as zydeco.

As always, the music was nonstop. Here's a nice long video from Nathan Jr.'s set today. Here's an entire show from California this year, interesting in that the band includes Dennis Paul Williams from Nathan Sr.'s Cha Cha's (and Lil' Nathan's uncle) on guitar. The way the two of them play off of each other is really great. By the way, Nathan found time to attend University of Louisiana at Lafayette, where he majored in jazz studies and music media. He says that in college he was "exposed to chord progressions and different types of music that have influenced me in a lot of ways. I’m open-minded. I’ll listen to anything and make it work." 


Frm this show we ran over to the Jazz and Heritage Stage to catch A Tribe Called Red, the Canadian First Nations electronic turntablists out of Ottawa. We saw them last year on Day 3 and they were so different and so good that we had to see them again. 

This year Ian Compeau (also known as DJ NDN), DJ Bear Witness, Dan General, (DJ Shub) were joined by a hoop dancer. As the show was wrapping up, he went down into the audience and let a giant circle dance, to the delight of the DJ's, who were taking videos from their phones while it was going on. Here's a performance in Halifax, Nova Scotia this year, where you'll see the dancer, too. Would love to see these guys at night to get the full visual effect. Here's my video that shows the scene at Jazz Fest.


Here we split again, but both of us stayed in the same general neighborhood. I went back to the Fais Do Do Stage to see Rosie Ledet and the Zydeco Playboys. We saw some of her performance last year on Day 8, and they played Wolf Trap's Swamp Romp last summer, but she's just such an engaging performer I had to hear some more. 

Rosie

Rosie and the Zydeco Playboys began performing in 1994 on the Texas-Louisiana zydeco circuit. The queen of teasing lyrics and the zydeco artist most likely to be a centerfold provides a unique female presence in the male-dominated zydeco world. She sings in both Creole French and English, her songs often sly and lusty, renowned for lyrics with double meaning. Most of her tunes are original compositions that feature funky bass grooves, solid danceable beats, and blues rock guitar to go along with Rosie's skilled accordion playing. Her melodies recall early-'60s New Orleans soul classics, but there's also a hint of norteno, the accordion-driven Mexican style that flavored Texas rock-and-roll around the same time.

And those lyrics! In one song she advises a female rival to keep her dog on a real short leash because she's got a place where he can bury his bone. On another, she tells her wandering man that she's had enough of his roaming ways and he can eat her poussiere. That word is French for dust, in case you are confused. Rosie's zydeco salute to Viagra, Pick It Up, is the title cut from her new recording. But Rosie is not just a tease. While many of her zydeco contemporaries churn out one-liners and animal rhymes set to a dancing beat, Rosie sings original stories of smiles, kisses, heartache, birthdays, and having a Zydeco good time.

The Playboys are Andre Nizzari on guitar, Chuck Bush on bass, Lukey Ledet on drums, and Alex McDonald on the scrub board. Today Rosie's daughter Kasaundra was singing backing vocals and playing tambourine. 

After catching a good bit of this show I was going to head over to the Acura Stage to see the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. While we have seen them at Wolf Trap's Swamp Romp, we have yet to catch them at Jazz Fest, and that just didn't seem right. So, to get to Acura from Fais Do Do, you can either walk back through the crowd to the infield sidewalk, or you can walk through the gates behind the African marketplace, sort of skimming by the side of the crowd at the Congo Square stage. I chose the latter path and am I ever glad I did, because old friend Donald Harrison was there with the same group of musicians that was with him the other night ... and them some, namely funk founding father Fred Wesley and the awesome singer and pianist Davell Crawford. The brakes were applied immediately! 

When I got there, Harrison and Wesley were having some funky good back-and-forth fun on the sax and trombone, but they also brought a couple of excellent high school students out to play trumpet and second trombone. They were all having a great time. Here they are Doing It to Death

During the 1960s and 1970s, Fred Wesley was a pivotal member of James Brown's bands. He played on many of Brown's biggest hits and was co-writer of many of them as well (Hot Pants, Get on the Good Foot, Damn Right I Am Somebody, the latter video featuring Fred on the 'bone). His trombone riffs complemented those of saxophonist Maceo Parker (also with Fred), giving Brown's R&B, soul, and funk tunes their instrumental punch. In the 1970s he also served as band leader and musical director of Brown's band, the J.B.'s, and did much of the composing and arranging for that group. 

Wesley left Brown's band in 1975 and spent several years playing with George Clinton's various Parliament/Funkadelic projects, even recording a couple of albums as the leader of a spinoff group called the Horny Horns. He became a force in jazz in 1978 when he joined the Count Basie Orchestra. In the early 1990s he toured with colleagues from the James Brown band as the JB Horns and then the Maceo Parker Band. In 1996 he formed his own band, the Fred Wesley Group. Now, those two paragraphs have enough great music to keep you funked up for quite some time. Over the years, in addition to these bands, Fred has played with a diverse list of artists that includes Ray Charles, Lionel Hampton, Vanessa Williams, Cameo, and Van Morrison. 

Davell Crawford, New Orleans keyboardist, singer, composer, and arranger soaked up the rhythms and from his deep musical roots and combined them with his natural talent and became the "Piano Prince of New Orleans." A multifaceted performer, he brings equal exuberance to both modern and classic jazz, R&B, funk, blues, gospel, soul, pop, American folk, and country and western. His music influences run the gamut from Fats Domino to Sarah Vaughan to Patsy Cline and even Liberace. In the tradition of those from the Crescent City who came before him, he also believes in the art of entertainment. Here's a short set from the Louisiana Music Factory.

Davell grew up in New Orleans and presently resides there today but spent many days in Southwest Louisiana when he was young. He's the grandson of the great pianist, singer, and composer James "Sugar Boy" Crawford, who wrote Jock-a-Mo (which turned into Iko Iko for the Dixie Cups, shown here in one of the worst examples of lip-syncing ever to be seen, I guarantee). As a child, he attended both Baptist and Catholic churches. He watched the pipe organists so attentively that when he first sat in front of the impressive instrument he already knew the function of the stops and pedals. The organ at his church was the first he ever played and throughout his life he's continued to man the organ in both church and club settings. At age seven, Crawford made his first public appearance, playing his favorite Ray Charles tunes on a keyboard outside Café du Monde. From that point on he has been compared to Charles. 

At just 10 years old, Crawford made an impression on the New Orleans gospel community by taking on the position of accompanist to the St. Peter Claver Catholic Church choir. By the time he was 11, his talents were utilized by the St. Joseph Baptist Church where he became the youth choir director, pianist and organist to the sanctuary and men’s choruses. Since then he has traveled the world conducting choral workshops and leading a host of award winning gospel ensembles. 

Today he was at the B-3 on the Congo Square Stage during Harrison and Wesley's funk escapades. The other musicians were drummer Joe Dyson, bassist Max Moran, pianist Zaccai Curtis, percussionist Bill Summers, and guitarist Detroit Brooks. 

                            

Conun Pappas took over on the keyboards when Crawford moved to the front of the stage to take over the aforementioned Jock-a-Mo after Harrison started the song while members of the Congo Square tribe filled the stage with absolutely astonishing suits. 

Harrison disappeared until he came out in his role as Big Chief of the Congo Square tribe, in one of the most elaborate suits I've ever seen. That's him on the right in the photo below and here's a video of the whole thing, including Harrison's entrance. Harrison takes his suit seriously. He created it in what he calls an "Uptown style." That involves a wider variety of feathers (ostrich and pheasant) and animal skins ("Nobody's ever done that before"). He's also applying Swarovsky rhinestones. "My father [the late Donald Harrison Sr., Big Chief of the Guardians of the Flame] was the spearhead in the Swarovsky rhinestones," Harrison says. "They add iridescence, like a rainbow." The show concluded with almost a half hour of chants and funk music that had the crowd ecstatic. 

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That was a great chance encounter, and those happen at Jazz Fest, so you just have to go with the flow sometimes. That meant no Dirty Dozen Brass Band, or at least not very much of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. I walked over to the area at the back of the Acura Stage viewing area and listened to a few minutes of them while I waited for Laurie. Where was she all this time, you might ask. She had opted for the Jazz Tent where Stanton Moore, the drummer from Galactic, was doing a very creative straightahead set with David Torkanowski on piano and James Singleton on bass. She really liked this show, and I'm sure I would have, too. Here's a video excerpt. At one point he's using a tambourine as a drumstick. Awesome.

   

We were heading back to Congo Square for the next performance we wanted to see, so we stopped at Food Area II for something to get through the rest of today's Fest and into the evening. 

I had a Yakiniku (Japanese BBQ beef) po'boy from the Ninja Japanese Restaurant, located in Uptown New Orleans. The po'boy is thinly sliced and sauteed ribeye and vegetables in a garlic BBQ sauce. It debuted last year when Ninja revamped its formerly sushi-centric menu at Jazz Fest and has rapidly become a top-five offering in many opinions. I ate mine so fast I couldn't tell you, but I think Laurie heard a couple of 'oh my god's' coming out of my stuffed face. Further research is definitely called for. Yakiniku refers broadly to dishes containing grilled meat. The beef in Ninja's po-boy tastes similar to what you've had cooked live by chefs on teppanyaki or hibachi grills at Japanese steakhouses: strip-cut, tender and splotched with a thin, salty sauce caramelized by the grill. The Ninja folks then press this meat into airy French bread with a squirt of mayo and sticks of vinegary but not pickled carrots and zucchini, and a bit of mozzarella cheese. 

Laurie went for a repeat, the crawfish enchilada from Prejean's Restaurant of Lafayette. These people make nothing but good food. They also make the outrageous pheasant, quail and andouille gumbo as well as the seafood stuffed mushrooms. Off the charts, all of them.

The Wailers were on the Congo Square Stage. We found a nice spot up close, out of the crowd but a little to the right of the stage. From this spot you miss some of the performers on the stage but you can always see them on the big screen that's right in front of you. 

Since 1969, when they were the great Bob Marley's band, the Wailers have been bringing reggae music into the mainstream. Although none of the iconic band’s founding members still play, the current lineup can hold their own. Koolant Brown (above) is a gifted front man, and Brown and his Wailers performed an energetic and emotional set. With the band playing a set list of mostly classic Wailers songs, the crowd sang along to nearly every tune.

We heard Is This Love, No Woman No Cry, Could You Be Loved, Three Little Birds, Buffalo Soldier, Get Up Stand Up, Stir It Up, One Love, I Shot the Sheriff, Waiting in Vain, Satisfy My Soul, Jammin', and Exodus.

Besides Koolant, who wore a Bob Marley T-shirt, the rest of the Wailers were just as good. Audley Chisholm (below left) has guitar skills to rival those of Al Anderson's back in the day, especially during the extended version of Exodus (this example is better listened to than watched). Bassist Aston "Family Man" Barrett carries the Wailers flame from the Marley years. He's recognized as having been the pulse of the original Wailers and was behind the controls as engineer on such albums as "Catch a Fire." 

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Vocalist Cegee Victory is fabulous. She sported a Jimi Hendrix T-shirt, dark sunglasses, and a powerful voice. Rasmel lays down the reggae riddim guitar, Keith Sterling is on the keys and the appropriately named Drummie Zeb is on the drums. 

This performance was really an unexpected treat. I never would have expected that we'd stay for the entire show, but it turned out to be perfect for the late afternoon sunshine at the Fair Grounds today.

One more cube to go, and the cubes caused another split. Laurie headed over to the Acura Stage to catch the rest of the show by the String Cheese Incident, a jam band out of Colorado. They are apparently a very big deal in the jam band universe, which I am not really a part of; hence I had never heard of them. Their music is described as having elements of bluegrass, as well as rock, electronica, calypso, country, funk, jazz, Latin, progressive rock, reggae, and occasional psychedelia. Got that? Anyway, the Blind Boys of Alabama and the Soul Rebels were on stage with them at one time or another, adding a New Orleans touch to their show, so they are definitely one of those outside groups that get it. Here's an example with the Soul Rebels, and if you are really interested, here's an entire show, albeit condensed to 90 minutes, from Austin City Limits.

As for me, I went to the Jazz Tent to hear the Hammond B-3 of Dr. Lonnie Smith in a trio with Jonathan Kreisberg on guitar and (for the fourth time on this trip) Joe Dyson Jr. on the drums. We saw Dr. Smith (he's not really a doctor of anything) last year at the Blue Nile, and while we were close enough to hear over the din of the bar patrons, this concert type setting had a lot of promise. I found a seat in the Jazz Tent right up front (the Thursday at Jazz Fest is always the least crowded and in many ways the most enjoyable ... a lot of locals attend, including school groups, and it definitely has a more laid back feel than, like, oh, this Saturday when Springsteen is going to be playing). I knew this was going to be a good show. What I didn't know is that it would rocket to the upper echelon of Jazz Fest performances in this or any other year. 

Smith is a true artist. Even in his 70s, his music keeps evolving. You can read his background in last year's report on Day 6. His excellent jazz trio gave a nightclub feel to the early evening proceeding, but the organ brought it to church. The funk went back 50 years to include Smith's partnerships with jazz greats such as Lee Morgan and George Benson but also showed that the B-3 has a voice of its own. Smith floated out long melodic lines that rose from whispers to incredible swells and then returned to the groove with force. The show went back and forth from body shaking funk to gospel testimony, and we in the audience were prone to shouts of elation like one hears at the Gospel Tent after each soaring note and dramatic pause.

The trio was flawless. Kreisberg, matched Smith at every turn and contributed fantastic solos and counter-points of his own. The two have been playing together a long time, and it shows. They definitely feed off of each other when it comes to the music. The versatile (that's an understatement, going from TYSSON's rock to Henderson's large group earlier today and now to Smith's trio) Dyson provided strong support with unbelievable rhythms understated simplicity as needed (as if through a sixth sense) throughout the set. 

Here are 1, 2, and 3 excerpts from this really good show, and here's what I caught.

     

We met after our respective last shows at our go-to spot, the bleachers outside the Grandstand near the Cajun Cabin (where they do outdoor cooking demonstrations). The picture below shows her in the crowd leaving Jazz Fest, waving at me (the guy with the camera). For a diversion, play a game of 'Where's Laurie?' and see if you can find her! (Hint: she's short.)

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After the shuttle got us back downtown, we regrouped and then walked over to the French Market area, where we had a late-ish dinner at the Louisiana Pizza kitchen, one of our go-to places for a quick, inexpensive meal. It's got a nice atmosphere, very comfortable.

Laurie had wild mushroom pizza (seasonal locally sourced wild mushrooms with bell peppers, fresh basil, feta, and mozzarella. For dessert, she had white chocolate and raspberry cheesecake. 

I had a bleu cheese, pecan and roma tomato salad and a wild mushroom ravioli appetizer (organic ravioli pasta stuffed with locally sourced wild mushrooms, flash fried and served with a smoked chili aioli). For dessert, it was Bananas Foster ice cream cake. 

   

Afterward, we walked up and down a very crowded Frenchmen Street but didn't really find anything that drew us in, so we just headed back to the Staybridge and called it a night. Trust me on this, it was still late, and there had been plenty of music to satidfy one;s soul.

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© Jeff Mangold 2012