Day 11 / Sunday, May 1

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At least there was no rain in New Orleans this morning. In fact, as we looked out on Poydras Street from our window, the streets looked to be relatively dry. Some puddles remained here and there, but it didn't look all that bad. However, it was difficult to imagine what condition the Fair Grounds would be in after yesterday's flooding. 

Then we turned on the television, listened to the local weather people, and saw the radar. There was no getting around it, more rain was on the way, and lots of it, including at least one cell of very heavy rain embedded in a thunderstorm. At this point we were wondering if Jazz Fest would open at all, much less get the entire day in. However, around 9:30 they announced that the Jazz Fest gates would indeed open at 11 a.m.

So, one more time, we did the 2016 drill: gather tickets, cameras, phones, and most definitely our blue and white umbrella and well-used poncho-type pieces of plastic. However, we did not even bother with the sun block this morning, as it was pretty obvious that the sun would not be making anything close to an appearance today. 

Officially, today's weather was overcast to begin, becoming cloudy around 10 a.m. At that time, when we were leaving for the shuttles at the Sheraton, the temperature was 78 degrees, the highest it would be all day. Mostly it was in the low 70's. Humidity, of course, was off the chart, and the wind varied from 8 to 10 mph generally, but much stronger during the thunderstorms and in the early evening after the rain ended. When weather systems clear out, they always seem to do so with wind around here. The official total of rain was another 1.85 inches. 

At the Sheraton, the line for the bus was virtually nonexistent. You could tell a lot of people were waiting out the weather to see what would happen before they headed out to the Fair Grounds. The bus ride was quiet. Regardless of the circumstances, it was still the last of the seven days. That's never fun, regardless of the conditions.

When we arrived, it looked more like dusk than 11 a.m. We found a lot of mud and squishy grass (see the top of this page), but no sign of yesterday's flooding. The organizers of the festival had done an incredible job of cleaning up and repairing the grounds. 

Because there was hardly anyone there, we had plenty of time to spare for some food before the music started. Laurie's last Jazz Fest brunch was Caribbean fish with a generous heaping of steamed cabbage, carrots, and squash with rice from Palmer’s Jamaican Cuisine of New Orleans. Cecil Palmer, the chef who runs the booth, previously operated Palmer's Restaurant in Mid-City. Laurie had this on Day 8 last year as well, and you can read a bit more about it there.

I had the other jambalaya at Jazz Fest, meaning not the one from Catering Unlimited, next to the Crawfish Bread people. This one is from Wally Taillon of Gonzales, Louisiana, and it's the only thing sold a his large stand in Food Area II. I had this one for the first time on Day 4 way back in 2012Taillon is President of the Gonzales Jambalaya Festival Association, so he knows his stuff. I think I have had more of the jambalaya from Catering Unlimited, but only because of its location in Food Area I near the Fais Do Do stage. Both are good, but I think Taillon's gets the edge by a rice kernel or two. Here is a video by the Times-Picayune on how Taillon makes his jambalaya for Jazz Fest. If you are ambitious, here's the recipe.

Have a look at today's cubes, for what they were worth given the weather that was now imminent. We really, really wanted to go to Congo Square to see the Brass-a-Holics, the brass band that have added go-go beats for an absolutely infectous sound, but the rain was beginning and the radar was indicating that once again it was going to be pretty intense. Given this video of the Brass-a-Holics show, it's a good thing that we went with Plan B.

Plan B was the Blues Tent, where we would see the awesome, awesome New Orleans soul singer Brother Tyrone and his band the Mindbenders, led by lead guitarist Ernest Eglin with backing vocals by the singing pastors, Reverend Mark Sandifer and Brother Joey Gilmore. This would be the first time we've seen these guys play indoors; usually they have been on the Congo Square stage, and you can read a whole lot more about them on those occasions, Day 9 in 2014 and Day 11 last year.

Today the story was the distraction caused by the intense thunderstorm taking place outside the tent. It was enough rain that all of the good done by the Jazz Fest people overnight was entirely, er, washed away. As we sat in the Blues Tent, water began to puddle around our feet. We must have had a guardian rain angel, because just a few rows in front of us the water was above those people's ankles ... and rising.  

Regardless of that distraction, Brother Tyrone did his usual fantastic show. Simply outstanding. Almost all of his material is original, so you know he gets it when it comes to old-school soul music. Here is my video of this show.  It was a great way to start the day. However, at this point we had no idea how long the day would turn out to be.

Fortunately the heavy rain slowly but surely ended. We sat through the change of stage, but noticed just as the next act in the Blues Tent began that it would be possible to move around. Make no mistake, it was still raining, but a band we wanted to see was next door in the Jazz Tent, so we walked (OK, we ran so we could stay dry) over there and found seats up on the bleachers in the back (just in case, you know?) to hear most of the show by the Trumpet Mafia.

Trumpet Mafia is pretty much what its name implies. It's a supergroup of New Orleans trumpet virtuosos. A dozen of them. It was organized by Ashlin Parker, who seemed to be everywhere this year at Jazz Fest. This group is nothing less than a wrecking crew of New Orleans based trumpet players. To keep the backbeat going, there are also drums, percussion, bass, and keyboards. 

When we arrived, they were engaged in a battle of some sort, divided into two groups that kept charging at one another, ratcheting up the musical intensity as they went back and forth. It was incredible. 

Parker is a member of the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra (NOJO) (see Day 9), and the Trumpet Mafia formed organically when a group of NOJO members and other assorted musicians started to gather for daily practices.

"It started in 2013 during that really, really hot summer," Parker said. "Some of us trumpet players got together in the Ninth Ward, and because there were no gigs and it was hot like Mars, we just practiced all day."

Through a flurry of texts and social media posts, Parker got the word out that they were "shedding," or practicing. Like moths to a flame, musicians gravitated to these informal and communal shedding sessions. "All of the sudden, there's like 15 cats that came by," Parker said. "Everybody came at least twice, and benefitted from the forum that we started."

All musical egos and performance baggage were checked at the door. "We're all here doing the same job," Parker said. "Instead of competing with each other, we're trying to help each other. We're trying to figure out 'what do you do on this problem?' We're sharing issues, sharing warm ups, exercises, things like that."

The practices that led to the formation of the Trumpet Mafia ended up lasting for four months, with the musicians shedding at least eight hours each day.


When Delfeayo Marsalis and his Uptown Jazz Orchestra hosted a battle of the bands against Russia's Igor Butman Jazz Orchestra in January of 2014, Parker welcomed the visiting trumpet players with open arms. "We took the whole Russian trumpet section to my house," Parker said. "People were having nosebleeds we were practicing so hard. It was such an intense practice session."


One of the Russian trumpeters noticed something strange. "Every 10 minutes, another trumpet player would walk in to my house," Parker said. "One of the Russians said, 'Man, there are so many trumpet players. It is like a trumpet mafia!' He coined it. We're like 'That's damn right what it is!'"

Soon after, the loose and informal group with a newly minted name began to coalesce around Parker's natural leadership skills.

"There was a point where we would practice our exercises in harmony, rather than in unison," Parker said. "One day, we were practicing something really difficult, and one of the guys said 'Damn, we sound good. We could actually perform this.'"  

A little more than one month later, Trumpet Mafia performed at Tulane University as part of the Jazz at the Rat series, blending hip hop and traditional jazz in a well-received formal debut. The next step ended up being an invitation to play at Jazz Fest, which Parker readily accepted. After Jazz Fest, they began to think about recording, but Parker is taking one thing at a time.

Parker’s arrangement of a Harold Battiste tune called Harlis Laughing for a performance at Snug Harbor caught the attention of Jesse McBride, who connected the band with Batiste so the elder master could see his work performed by a new wave of musicians.

"One thing that we really want to do is pay homage, that's really important for us," Parker said. "Before we go to the studio, we need to pay homage. These cats are still here. It's crazy. We get to play this beautiful music, and that's just what we need to do. That's satisfaction."

I can't identify all of the people on the stage during this performance. In addition to Parker, Nicholas Payton was there, as were John Michael Bradford, Chris Cotton, Branden Lewis, Alex Massa, Scott Frock, Jeremy Thomas, Leon "Kid Chocolate" Brown, and 7-year-old Deuce Brown. Julian Addison was on drums and Chris Severin on bass. So I got everyone but two trumpets and the guitar, keyboard, and percussion. Not too bad. Here's my very shaky video of the performance, taken from way in the back of the Jazz Tent. It gets better toward the end, so don't give up on it! Here's another, a very short one taken from the front of the stage.

Now it was time to venture into the great outdoors. One of of favorites, Ivan Neville's Dumpstaphunk were du to appear on the Acura stage. Ivan plays the phunky keyboards, Tony Hall and Nick Daniels play phunky bass (two bass = maximum phunk), Ian Neville plays guitar, and Alvin Ford Jr. play the drums. We've seen them every year at Jazz Fest: see Day 2 in 2012, Day 3 at Tipitina's and Day 5 at Jazz Fest in 2013, and Day 11 in 2014, and Day 3 last year. Not to mention once more at the Hamilton in DC in 2012.


We had just one small problem, though. We got out into the rain and our umbrella and poncho plastic bag things kept us pretty dry, but when we left the Jazz Tent we zigged when we should have zagged. That is, instead of going to the right and approaching the Acura stage from the infield, we headed left to approach the stage from the track side. That was a big mistake, because the flood was back in the low area that runs outside the turf track. We followed it back as far as we could, and rather than retrace our steps back to the Jazz Tent and today's better route, we decided to just walk through it in an area that at least wasn't deep. Thank heaven it wasn't as bad as yesterday. Our waterproof sandals are worth their weight in gold when it rains at Jazz Fest. 

We finally made it pretty close to the front of the stage, but didn't venture too far into the crowd. We had a real good view of most of the stage and the video screen at its left. It seemed like it took forever for the band to get set up, but when they did it was a typically great Dumpstaphunk set, with special guests, as they have been the last couple of years, Ian's father, Art "Poppa Funk" Neville, and Ian and Ivan's Uncle, Cyril Neville (Ivan's father is Aaron Neville). 

Seeing these generations together, particularly watching Ian looking at his father with a mix of admiration and care, provides one of those great Jazz Fest moments. Big Chief Juan Pardo also made an appearance to sing some Mardi Gras Indians chants with Cyril.

Here's my video from today. It's not the best, but today was not so much about making good video as keeping the iPhones dry! I highly recommend searching the FunkIt blog, or or even the YouTubes themselves for Dumpstaphunk. This band is one of a kind, and their music is positively infectious.

At this point, we grabbed some food together before going our separate ways, probably for the duration of the festival. We went into Food Area II because of its proximity to the Acura stage. Laurie got a platter with falafel, humus, tabouli, Greek salad, and pita bread prepared by Mona's Cafe of New Orleans. Mona’s has been serving Lebanese specialties for more than 20 years. They are known for plating the freshest, most authentic Middle Eastern fare in the area. She also had this on Day 9 last year.

I wasn't feeling too hungry, but took advantage of the location of Mona's booth to grab a quick snack of strawberry shortcake next door at Cecelia Husing's booth. Laurie had this on Day 10 in 2014 while I had the key lime tart from the same booth. 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). The shortcake is topped with real-deal whipped cream. It's fantastic. 

At this time we split for what turned out to be the duration of the festival. I turned the umbrella over to Laurie, who splashed back over to the Acura stage to see Neil Young and his new band, Promise of the Real. The band is led by Willie Nelson's son Lukas and on its own plays what they call "cowboy hippy surf rock." These guys are a really good band in their own right, as you can see here, here, and here, from that awesome Jam in the Van place. What they do with Neil is incredible. Today they were joined by Willie's other son, Micah, as well.

In two-plus hours, Young did nine, yes just nine, songs. He created a droning atmosphere that seemed to match the thunder, lightning, and wind-whipped rain. With Promise of the Real, he built walls of sound powered by three guitars, including Young's shrapnel shredding standby Old Black, which he finger picked, wrangled reverb out of and shoved against a kick drum microphone. Nelson and the band weaved seamlessly with Young, emulating Crazy Horse's layers of guitars and locked-in instincts for rising and falling moments through each song. Young's sharp, brittle voice still sliced through the noise. Honestly, Neil is 70 now, but he still shreds like it was 40 yeas ago when I saw him on the Rust Never Sleeps tour.

The band's Crazy Horse-like dynamic tore into the set opener, Fuckin' Up, and then did a dizzying 20 minutes of Cortez the Killer filled with waves of twisted metallic solos. Next were Country HomeI Won't QuitSeed Justice, and Monsanto Years, all of which played to the band's anti-establishment takedown of Big Ag. Before his band stepped foot on the Acura Stage, Young’s performance space was literally seeded by people in farmer's dress and later "treated" by technicians representing Monsanto in HAZMAT suits.

Young was definitely looking for a mood on the stage, as at one point he asked rather pointedly for the bright lights on the stage to be turned off. Somewhere near the middle of the concert, a flash of lightning and thunderclap caused the whole crowd to flinch in unison and gasp or laugh nervously afterwards. I heard it from inside the Jazz Tent, but got no reply from Laurie. She was too busy dancing across the water.

Young still is an inimitable player drawing power that's psychedelic, emotional, sometimes funny, sometimes delicate. He proved why, at 70, he remains a hero to two or three generations of gritty guitar lovers, as the set finished with an incredible run of Love and Only Love (clocking in at almost 30 minutes), Keep on Rockin' in the Free World, and finally Powderfinger

I heard quite a bit of Neil's set as it got started before the first show I was seeing in the Jazz Tent and continued between sets and even after the second set. I even ventured out into the rain toward the stage for a couple of minutes as I went out to grab a snack between the two sets. What I heard was awesome, just perfect for the day. Here's what one reviewer wrote. I think it sums up the performance perfectly:

"Now, I've seen my share of Neil Young performances, including Jazz Fest 2009 when the torrents held off until the last note of A Day in the Life faded, and the Jurassic thunder of the Psychedelic Pill tour with Crazy Horse at Voodoo 2012. But this was Mr. Young tangling with the Gaia spirit in a big way, and I'd say he got over pretty good. Throughout Young's five-decade catalogue, love conquers, but nature rules. And the rain never let up through the two-plus hour, eight song set as Young rode Old Black the whole way. 

Fucking Up and a mighty Cortez the Killer alone went over 40 minutes, Young lingering on "dancing across the water" over and over, a spiritual salve to the drenched who braved the day. And with the rain coming down harder, he had his crew cut the side lights to the stage. Country Home, Monsanto Years, and Seed Justice followed and at one point, a booming thunder clap and close lightning strike startled the crowd, but left Young unfazed. I could swear he was conjuring the tempests. Promise of the Real, to a man, seem to ignite something potent in Young. He still prowls the stage, but with less stomping and more dancing, the brothers Nelson and Young body-heat close while trading solos. Love and Only Love went 15 minutes, and the coda that followed went that long plus. Rockin' in the Free World hit hard, as it should in this election year, and Powderfinger wrapped what was truly an epic set I'll remember for years to come."

Laurie finished out Jazz Fest 2017 in the Blues Tent, where she joined some friends from back home to see Arlo Guthrie and his band, including his daughter, celebrate the 50th anniversary of Alice's Restaurant. Laurie is acquainted with Guthrie's drummer, Terry Hall, who has been with Arlo for 40+ years. Under the name Terry a la Berry (a name coined by Arlo), he also records albums of music for children and performs in children's hospitals and shelters. That's how Laurie met him, through the organization called TAFFY (Theatre Arts Festival For Youth) that she is also affiliated with.

Check out this excerpt from the Huffington Post: "Terry a la Berry and Laurie Mangold (singer/guitarist) and Yasmin Maksutova, a teen TAFFY Talents member, gave a dinner concert at the Katherine K. Hanley Family Shelter in Fairfax County, Virginia. The families and all of the children had a great time interacting with the classic rock songs. Terry played drums and sang accompanied by Laurie on guitar. Yasmin helps TAFFY with programming whenever she can and has become a new budding performing artist."

Back to Jazz Fest. Alice's Restaurant Massacree is beloved by just about anyone of a certain generation. Folks sway, giggle, sing along and let themselves disappear into Guthrie's 18-minute tale of how he avoided the draft through a series of comic misadventures. The tour, which began in 2014, celebrates the 50th anniversary of the incident that inspired the song. The story goes that on Thanksgiving in 1965, Guthrie and a friend illegally dumped "a half ton" of garbage from their friend Alice Brock's restaurant. They were arrested for littering and because of having an arrest record, Guthrie was later ineligible for the draft -- and so avoided a tour in Vietnam.

Two years later, he wrote the anti-war mix of witty, irreverent storytelling and song. The album went platinum in 1967 and became a motion picture in 1969, setting Guthrie off on a storied career that includes the 1972 hit that's likely closest to the Crescent City's heart: City of New Orleans (written by Steve Goodman). Today, he told the story of Alice ... and the restaurant in its entirety, clocking in at 17 and a half minutes.

Arlo opened with the upbeat The Motorcycle Song and then spent the hour or so taking the audience down memory lane, with turns on guitar and keyboard and harmonica. After doing Chilling of the Evening, he said, "There are a couple of songs we can't not do when we're here," Guthrie said, before launching into a bluesy, honky-tonk version of St. James Infirmary. He played Lead Belly's Pigmeat, noting, "I have to do at least one Lead Belly song every evening; that's the way I was raised."

He spent some time talking about Woodstock, saying, "We were trying to reminisce, but nobody could remember anything." 

Then he launched into Coming Into Los Angeles and then right into Alice's Restaurant, with its familiar opening notes. The audience applauded and Guthrie joked, "Sounds like you heard this before. I know I have. If I'd have known it was going to be so popular when I made it, I would have made it a hell of a lot shorter." The near-full tent sat quietly for the full turn, laughing in all the right places and joining in on the chorus (Parts 1, 2, and 3).

He followed with the poignant I Hear You Sing Again, which he said his father wrote about his grandmother, who sang old Scottish ballads. Then came City of New Orleans and Highway in the Wind before his daughter joined him onstage for Woody Guthrie's  This Land Is Your Land. As the crowd sang along, he interrupted to say, "There's a spirit to this song and I can feel that spirit here."

For his finale, Guthrie sang his lovely anthem to peace, with words by his father and a tune by him. He explained that he would sing Peace once all the way through and then help the audience by repeating the lines, so they could sing along with him. He said audiences once easily sang along with songs such as this, but he added, almost apologetically, "it's a little too Kumbaya for people these days."

By the time he finished, the crowd -- still on its feet -- was singing along to his prompts, swaying in unison, with many hands held aloft in peace signs. So maybe it wasn't too Kumbaya for Jazz Fest.

Here are three videos that show Jazz Fest from the artist's perspective, that of Laurie's friend Terry. First, Terry's trip to Bourbon Street on Saturday night, then the Sunday morning rainstorm (the one where we were in Blues Tent watching Brother Tyrone), and third the band's arrival at Jazz Fest and exploring the grounds, including backstage during Mavis Staples' set. I would have loved to see this show. I have the record (that's vinyl) of "Alice's Restaurant" and we used to sing it at youth group meetings back when I was in high school. I knew all the words back then.  

So, what was I doing while all this was going on. Umbrella-less after the strawberry shortcake, I headed over to the Jazz Tent, becoming waylaid for just a couple of minutes by the great Storyville Stompers Brass Band at the mudpit formerly known as the Jazz and Heritage stage. I saw this wonderful traditional Jazz Band under much better conditions on Day 11 in 2014, and you can read more about them there. For today, have a look at the rainy, muddy scene at their performance today here

First up for me in the Jazz Tent was a group known as the Mashup, featuring Ike Stubblefield on the Hammond B-3, Grant Green Jr. on guitar, and Terence Higgins on drums. This was a jazz jam of the highest order performed by three quality local musicians. 

Ike Stubblefield cut his teeth backing Motown legends like the Four Tops, the Temptations, Marvin Gaye, Martha Reeves, Stevie Wonder, and Rare Earth on the Motown Review. Later, he lent his soulful R&B style to Al Green, Ike and Tina Turner, Curtis Mayfield, B.B. King, the Pointer Sisters, and George Benson, and helped create the modern B-3 jazz that many others would imitate. 

A fixture of San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury neighborhood in the early 1970's, Stubblefield broadened his sound to fit the rock stylings of Janis Joplin, Eric Clapton, Jerry Garcia, Rod Stewart, and Boz Scaggs. His reputation as a musician's musician ensured his spot at the top of industry insiders' lists of the most sought-after supporting bandmates.

After traveling the world as a performing artist, Stubblefield took to the studio in 1976, producing, composing, and writing songs with the likes of Phil Spector and Quincy Jones. Other world-famous collaborators include Jim Capaldi of Traffic and singer-songwriter Larry Lee.

Following 13 years of studio work through the 1980's, Stubblefield spent much of the 1990's performing in jazz clubs across the Pacific Northwest, such as Vancouver's Purple Onion (which he founded) and Seattle's Jazz Alley. He relocated to Atlanta in 2001, playing local clubs and festivals. During this period, his career twists and turns even involved writing and scoring music for commercials, TV shows, and film.

After 10 years off to deal with cancer, he is back up and running stronger than ever, with a new recording and performing on 29 recordings in one year alone, including those of Jimmy Herring, Ruthie Foster, and Cee Lo Green. You can find him playing with friends such as the Warren Haynes Band, Widespread Panic, Gov't. Mule, Zac Brown, Derek Trucks, the Allman Brothers Band, and many others. 

These days, he stays busy jamming with Papa Mali in New Orleans, rocking with Big Hat in Nashville, and producing out of his Atlanta studio. Drawing from his recent time with the Derek Trucks Band and years on the road as a musician-for-hire, Stubblefield is finding his true passion collaborating with old friends and bringing the loose ends of an illustrious career together on his new project, the Ike Stubblefield Trio.

"I'm combining all elements of my 46 years of playing," said Stubblefield. "My style's kind of all over the place so it's not a jam band, or jazz or funk necessarily, but it has all those elements." One thing is certain. At his hands, the B-3 becomes a force of nature.

Grant Green Jr. (real name Gregory Green) is the son of jazz guitar player Grant Green. He made a name for himself as a member of the group Masters of Groove, along with drummer Bernard Purdie and B-3 organ player Reuben Wilson, who also worked with the elder Grant Green.

Green was born in St. Louis, Missouri. His family moved to New York in 1965, when he was 10. There he met numerous jazz musicians who stopped by the family home. He began to play guitar at age 14.

After four years in New York, he moved to Detroit with his father. His next door neighbors were Stevie Wonder's parents. Marvin Gaye lived a few blocks away, as did members of the Four Tops and other Motown artists. His father and Stevie were great influences on him, and it's no wonder that Motown music was as well. 

His first real gig was with Richard "Groove" Holmes. He went on to play with other greats, such as Leon ThomasJimmy McGriff, Lou DonaldsonJimmy Cobb, Pee Wee Ellis, Col. Bruce Hampton, and Dr. Lonnie Smith. He started a like-minded band in the 1990's to carry on his father's legacy. He spent a few years writing and performing, and by 2002 he had enough material to release the fiery recording "Introducing G.G." It was during that session that he met Reuben Wilson, which led to the Masters of Groove. 

Green describes his music as modern, but recognizes where it comes from, saying "the blues is the roots to modern music. Jazz comes from the blues. The blues comes from gospel music from the old black church." He says his sound was influenced by his father and a lot of different artists. "I loved Motown, I loved so many types of music and this influenced the way I write."

When asked about the future of jazz, he says, "I think today, pop music is not that good. Some of the music is stuff you write when just learn to play because anyone can learn a computer music program and come up with something, but it takes years of study to make them players. So in some ways I think technology has hurt music. It makes it easy for non-musicians to write simple songs. I'm hoping that we will have some more innovative players and writers. Feeling it in your heart and soul, that’s when you know it's good."

Terence Higgins we've encountered before, a lot, even at home, as drummer for Tab Benoit's band, and also way back in 2013 on Day 1 as live druumer for turntablist DJ Logic at the Blue Nile. Not only that, we've also seen him in his role as drummer for the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. Among those three and today, I'd have to say he definitely is not one-dimensional!

Higgins is a native of New Orleans and was raised in the suburb of old Algiers. When he was young he was mentored by George Porter Jr. and through him had the unique opportunity of playing with a number of music legends, including Earl King, Johnny Adams, Snooks Eaglin, and Fats Domino, at only 23 years old. "He had me playing with artists that I was almost too young to even know," says Higgins.

Among the jazz artists Higgins has played with is John Scofield. "You have to be pretty versatile to play in my band, and Terence can do all that," says Scofield. "What turns me on is where he puts the beat, and how musical a drummer he is. He can play all the things I want to do, so he's perfect."

Higgins demonstrated his creativity soon after starting with Scofield. "There was a drum solo in one of the tunes, but I opted to do a tambourine solo," he says. "Scofield loved it because it was only tambourine, and I took it to another level."

His command of the tambourine came from years playing in church, and much of Higgins' talent can be traced to his musical education. He got his first bongo at age four from his great-grandfather, and grew up drumming in the O.P. Walker Sr. High marching band, where he was chosen to perform in the now-defunct McDonald's All-American marching band.

Scofield is not the only legendary guitarist to seek out Higgins. He recently was asked to join the Warren Haynes Band. Haynes wanted a New Orleans drummer, and everyone he asked, from Ivan Neville to Ron Johnson, recommended Terence Higgins.

"Terence is schooled in a lot of genres that people might not expect him to be," says Haynes. "And it makes for a well-rounded musical personality."

"When you get inside the New Orleans thing you just do it," says Higgins. "It has nothing to do with technique or talent. It's just a spirit that takes over."

But Higgins isn't lacking in technique or talent. Haynes, too, says he's an amazingly musical drummer, adding, "He has technique and chops, but also knows how to play songs." An accomplished songwriter himself, Higgins released his first solo album, "In the Bywater," in 2005, with his own funk-fusion band, Swampgrease.

"He has kind of a built-in love and understanding of songs and how songs work," says Haynes. "Some drummers spend so much time working on being a drummer that they forget how important it is to be part of the song."

According to Haynes, that unspoken way of communicating through music happened instantly with Higgins, where they could look at each other and know what the other one is thinking.

"Drummers from other cities may be technically proficient and can read music," says Higgins. "But there's something about New Orleans drummers that gives them a certain feel that no other drummers have."

"When you think about how important New Orleans music is to the overall picture of American music. It's something that we sometimes take for granted, but absolutely should not take for granted," says Haynes. "New Orleans musicians live and breathe that style of music. They're playing it every day of their life. They're not just studying it like it's a class. It's part of their DNA."

Education has paid off for Terence Higgins, so he's passing it on. He is the founder and director of Louisiana Drumline Camp. In its third year, the program reaches students from ages 8 to 18, hosting a one-day mini-camp and conducting small classes within schools.

"We teach and mentor young drummers," says Higgins. "I want to let these kids know that I came up through band programs at school, and look, I turned out alright."

These three very talented individuals together played some really good soul jazz. While they were playing you could forget all about what it was like outside. Here's my video so you can experience it.

One more act to go in the Jazz Tent, two more to finish Jazz Fest 2016. While the stage was changed, I stood in the back of the tent to hear some of Neil Young's set taking place across the track, and then decided to take a quick dash back to the food stand of Creole Lunch House to get one more stuffed bread to close out my Jazz Fest eating for the year. That little guy is simply delicious. I told Ms. Merline that I hoped she would be back next year and she said she was planning on it, and that was good news.

On the way back to the Jazz Tent I headed over to the Acura stage to sneak of peek of Neil and Promise of the Real, but just then the rain picked up and the crowd (yes, there was a crowd there) and the muck made the releative comfort of the Jazz Tent seem very appealing.

I enjoyed my stuffed bread back in the Jazz Tent with my last beverage of the festival. Light crowds mean relatively short waits for beverages.

There, the great alto saxophonist Gary Bartz was fronting his band called Heads of State, featuring Larry Willis on piano, Al Foster on drums, and Buster Williams on bass. I can't believe how lucky I was during this Jazz Fest to see so many great jazz artists. This will definitely go down as the year of the Jazz Tent for me.

Gary Bartz is one of the all-time great alto saxophonists. Since his debut stint with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers nearly six decades ago, he has played with a host of jazz immortals, including Miles Davis, Charles Mingus, Max Roach, and Jackie McLean, and won a Grammy in 2005 for his playing on McCoy Tyner's album, "Illuminations."

He has appeared on -- get this -- more than 200 recordings as a guest artist, and also on more than 40 recordings as a leader. He has been known as a trailblazer in the music business from the moment he started playing. 

Bartz began playing alto saxophone at the age of 11. He played in the Alabama State Teachers College band, at his father’s club, and studied at the Juilliard School of Music in New York and the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore. 

When hfirst went to New York in 1958 to attend Julliard, at just 17 years old, he said he couldn't wait to get to New York to play and learn. "It was a very good time for the music in New York, at the end of what had been the be-bop era," says Bartz. He worked with Lee Morgan and Grachan Moncur III, but his first regular professional engagement was with the Max Roach band with Abbey Lincoln in 1964. 

In 1965, he made his recording debut on Blakey's "Soulfinger" album. Then he had a second stint with Roach and periods with Charles Tolliver, Blue Mitchell, and Tyner (in what Tyner once described as the happiest and most integrated band he had ever led). His work with Tyner included participating in Tyner's classic "Expansions" and "Extensions" albums. Playing with Tyner proved especially significant for Bartz because of the bandleader's strong connection to John Coltrane

For 18 months beginning in August 1970 he was with Miles Davis, playing on "Live-Evil" and at the historic Isle of Wight Festival. His work with Davis was his first experience playing electric music, and it also reaffirmed his yen for an even stronger connection to Coltrane. 

In 1972, he formed the Ntu Troop (listen), moving further into the funk fusion field as the 1970's went on. The group got its name from the Bantu language: ntu means unity in all things, time and space, living and dead, seen and unseen. Outside of the Ntu Troop, Bartz had been recording as a group leader since 1968, and continued to do so throughout the 1970's, during which time he released such acclaimed albums as "Another Earth," "Home," "Music Is My Sanctuary," and "Love Affair." By the late 1970's, he was doing studio work in Los Angeles with Norman Connors and Phyllis Hyman

In 1988, after a nine-year break between solo releases, Bartz began recording what music columnist Gene Kalbacher described as "vital ear-opening sides" on "Monsoon," "West 42nd Street," "There Goes the Neighborhood," and "Shadows." 

Bartz followed those impressive works with the 1995 release "The Red and Orange Poems," a self-described musical mystery novel and just one of his brilliantly conceived concept albums. Back when Bartz masterminded the much-touted "I've Known Rivers" album, based on the poetry of Langston Hughes, his concepts would be 20 years ahead of those held by some of today's jazz/hip-hop and acid jazz combos. 

More recently he has returned to the hard-bop fold, a genre that shows off his assertive and agile improvising to best advantage, and has continued to release new material on his own label.


Bartz's non-stop style live performances are legendary. Heads of State has been called a stunning, simpatico ensemble, featuring Bartz's regal playing with a premier rhythm section made up of fellow potentates. Can't argue with any of that. 

Born in 1942 in Harlem, Larry Willis grew up around music. Jazz was popular in his neighborhood, and closer to home he had a brother who played piano. As a child, Willis noodled around on the piano that was in the house, but his talent seemed to lie in singing.

Willis was accepted into New York's High School of Music and Art as a voice major. His career there was very successful and included a performance of a Copland opera conducted by Leonard Bernstein. His senior year, Willis found his way back to the piano. Later that year, he started gigging around town with his fellow classmates, Al Foster and Eddie Gomez.

Willis continued his musical studies at the Manhattan School of Music, where he switched his concentration from voice to music theory. He also spent more time at the keyboard and soon began studying with John Mehegan, his first and only piano teacher.

At the age of 19, Willis was discovered and recruited by saxophonist Jackie McLean, and he made his jazz recording debut on McLean's Blue Note release, "Right Now!" The album also included two of Willis' compositions. From that auspicious start, Willis went on to play with jazz greats such as Dizzy Gillespie, Woody Shaw, Cannonball Adderley, Stan Getz, Carmen McRae, and Shirley Horn. From 1972 to 1979, he was the keyboardist for the fusion group Blood, Sweat and Tears (listen). He's also been a crucial part of the Grammy-nominated Afro-Cuban jazz group Fort Apache. In all, Willis has appeared on 300-plus albums, with more than 20 recordings as a leader.

Al Foster was born in Richmond, Virginia, and grew up in New York. He began playing drums at the age of 13 and made his recording debut with Blue Mitchell at age 21. He is a versatile drummer who has played in musical styles ranging from bebop to free form to jazz rock.

Foster joined the Miles Davis group when Jack DeJohnette (see Day 3) left in 1972, and he played with Davis until 1985. In his 1989 autobiography, Davis described the first time he heard Foster play, in 1972 at the Cellar Club in Manhattan: "He knocked me out because he had such a groove and he would just lay it right in there. That was the kind of thing I was looking for. Al could set it up for everybody else to play off of and just keep the groove going forever."

Foster played with Miles Davis throughout the 1970s, and was one of the few people to have contact with Davis during his retirement from 1975 to 1981. He also played on Davis's 1981 comeback album "The Man with the Horn" in 1981, thus becoming the only musician to play in Davis's band both before and after his retirement.

Foster began composing in the 1970s, and has toured with his own band, which included musicians such as bassist Doug Weiss, saxophonist Dayna Stephens, and pianist Adam Birnbaum.

Over the years, Foster has toured extensively with Herbie Hancock, Sonny Rollins, and Joe Henderson, becoming a major attraction in all three bands as well as an integral part of them. Other artists Foster has performed and recorded with include Freddie Hubbard, McCoy Tyner, Wayne Shorter, Bobby Hutcherson, John Scofield, Pat Metheny, Charlie Haden, Randy Brecker, Michael Brecker, Bill Evans, George Benson, Kenny Drew, Carmen McRae, Stan Getz, Toots Thielemans, Dexter Gordon, and Chick Corea.

Respected and admired for his keen sensitivity, Foster is known for his unique ability to listen to and play off of others in an almost telepathic way, responding to them with a style that is at once both charismatic and understated. He is a great believer in the purity of the music, a genuine artist who continues to push the boundaries of creativity again and again, devoted to preserving and perpetuating the highest standards in jazz today. He is a magnificent all-round drummer.

Buster Williams is one of the key sidemen in modern jazz, with a rock-solid grounding in harmony, counterpoint, and orchestration. His harmony is impeccable and he has a rhythmic sense that is unfailing, feeling, and utterly original. He is best known for his membership in pianist Herbie Hancock's early 1970's group, working with guitarist Larry Coryell from the 1980's to the present, working in the Thelonious Monk repertory band Sphere, and as the accompanist of choice for many singers, notably Nancy Wilson.

Williams was born in Camden, New Jersey. His father was a musician who played bass, drums, and piano, and had band rehearsals in the family home in Camden, exposing Williams to jazz at an early age. He had his first professional gig while he was still a junior high school student, filling in for his father, who had double booked himself one evening. Just out of high school, he worked with in Jimmy Heath's band and then Gene Ammons and Sonny Stitt. While he was playing with Ammons and Stitt he attended Combs College of Music in Philadelphia, learning composition, syntax, harmony, and theory from Dr. Roland Wiggins.

Williams worked with Betty Carter in 1962 and Sarah Vaughan in 1963. In 1964, he formed a working relationship with Nancy Wilson, with whom he recorded several albums for Capitol Records. As a result, he moved to Los Angeles. The move to the West Coast also facilitated Williams working with the Jazz Crusaders. In 1967, he worked with Miles Davis for several months.

Back in New York in 1968, Williams worked with Art Blakey, Herbie Mann, and Mary Lou Williams, while recording with artists such as McCoy Tyner, Dexter Gordon, Roy Ayers, Stanley Turrentine, Frank Foster, Illinois Jacquet, and, once again, Gene Ammons. 

Having worked with Herbie Hancock in the Miles Davis Quintet, Williams became a fixture of Hancock's Mwandishi Sextet. The Mwandishi Sextet explored new electronic sounds in jazz and featured Williams on both acoustic and electric bass.

Williams made his recording debut as leader in 1975. He also backed Ron Carter on several recording dates. He records with a rotating lineup under the name Something More, and has also worked with the Timeless All-Stars, a sextet.  

The Buster Williams School of Music developed from a summer class Williams ran for the IDEA Performing Arts Center in Camden in 2012. Williams formed his own non-profit corporation to continue this work in 2013.

Given the pedigree of these four, you can imagine that the music was nothing short of outstanding. I'd say it's a shame that more people weren't there to hear it, but from a perfectly selfish standpoint, I got to sit way up front for this music, and on a normal final Sunday at Jazz Fest I might not have even been able to squeeze into the tent. Here's my video, and here's a YouTube page with their album "Search for Peace."

After the show ended, I stood at the back of the Jazz Tent to hear Neil Young's epic finale of Powderfinger. I now decided that regardless of the weather, I was going to catch the last act of Jazz Fest outdoors. Laurie was going to the Blues Tent, and she had the umbrella, but the rain was winding down and the sky was brightening a bit. A far, far cry from sunshine, but looking better. 

I figured at this point my poncho would suffice. The only hassle with it was that, as always as stormy weather abates down here, the wind seems to pick up in intensity, and my poncho developed a mind of its own several times. But no worries, this ending of Jazz Fest was worth it.

I sloshed and splashed over to the Gentilly stage to hear B.B. King's backing band play behind a host of my favorite musicians in a tribute to the King of the Blues, who passed away last year, shortly after Jazz Fest. 

There is really not much to say about this set. When you see who was performing, and what they were performing, you can imagine the quality of and the feeling behind the performing. 

First, Jesse Robinson sang Paying the Cost To Be the Boss after the band warmed up the crowd with the instrumental Strung Out.

Walter "Wolfman" Washington led off the guest artists with Sweet 16.

Luther Kent was next. This guy was born to sing Caldonia.

Tab Benoit did an incredible version of Don't Answer the Door.

Tab stayed on stage to accompany Irma Thomas on Please Send Me Someone to Love.

Gregory Porter sang Let the Good Times Roll.

Dr. John strolled out to sing Woke Up This Morning (My Baby's Gone). Then Elvin Bishop played guitar as the Doctor sang The Three O'Clock Blues.


Bonnie Rait displayed some incredible guitar prowess on Never Make Your Move Too Soon.

The legendary Buddy Guy closed out the guest list with a perfect Sweet Little Angel.

My video of this show is in 1, 2, 3, 4 parts. The B.B. King Blues Band is bandleader James "Boogaloo" Bolden on trumpet, Charlie "Charlie Tuna" Dennis on guitar, Herman Jackson on Drums, Russell Jackson on bass, Eric Demmer on sax, Darrell Lavigne on keyboards, Jesse Robinson on guitar and vocals, and Lamar Boulet on Trumpet. Here are videos of their opening numbers before the guest artists started, Strung Out and Paying the Cost To Be the Boss. Also, here is a much higher quality video of Wolfman Washington doing Sweet 16

As the blustery winds gusted, most of the musicians assembled for a finale of The Thrill Is Gone. Here's a video of this song, which brought Jazz Fest 2017 to a close. This last video gives you a real good idea of what the conditions were like as Jazz Fest ended this year. 

When The Thrill Is Gone ended, Jazz Fest producer Quint Davis got on the microphone to sign off on what turned out to be a different kind of Jazz Fest, one that opened a day after Prince’s death and concluded with two of the worst consecutive days of weather the festival has experienced in years.

"Thank you all for sticking with us through hell and high water," Davis said, adding "We can't do anything about that."

But then he gestured toward the musicians and said, "But we can do this."

So true. This Jazz Fest was filled with highlight after highlight after highlight. So much so that after Laurie and I met at the designated spot (the Cajun Cabin outdoor cooking stage if you ever need to find us) and got on the bus to head back downtown and away from the rain and the wind and the muck we still felt quite melancholy. But we knew that the thrill would be gone for only a year. We know we'll be back. 

This picture of Trombone Shorty at the end of his Fest-closing set at the Acura stage says it all. The rain will end and the skies will clear.

After we arrived back at the Staybridge and de-mucked, we were ready for a late dinner in the neighborhood, and in the neighborhood we're in, that means Lucy's Retired Surfers Bar. It was really busy earlier this week, but we had a feeling we'd have no problem getting in tonight, and that was true. 

We've been here every year, thanks to the recommendation of our shuttle driver as we drove in from the airport for the first time back in 2102. It's always been a friendly place and the food is an eclectic mix of California and Cajun. A couple of Abita Big Easy IPA's got us rolling. Laurie had crawfish enchiladas, and I had shrimp and grits.


Walking back to the hotel from the restaurant, there was little sign of the weather that persisted throughout the day. Go figure! 

In spite of it all, and I can honestly say this is the case on most days when it rains, we still had a great time at Jazz Fest. If you are prepared and roll with it, why not? Unfortunately, there will not be much going on tomorrow except packing and leaving, but the usual recap will be in tomorrow's final entry from this year. 


© Jeff Mangold 2012