Day 3 / Saturday, April 23


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Rested, I again executed the solo 2016 drill: get up ... get ready ... slather on sunblock ... gather the Brass Pass, the shuttle ticket, the camera, and the phone ... and head down to the lobby to grab a coffee and maybe a bit of food, if there was any left, but just enough to tide me over to get to Jazz Fest, where real good food awaited. I was successful once again. 

This morning the sky was clearer and the humidity was lower than yesterday. Although the temperature was about the same as yesterday, it felt a bit warmer because the sun was more direct. Nonetheless, the breeze coming from the north over the lake provided a bit of cooling and all in all most of the day was tolerable.

As usual the shuttle buses were much more efficient on the second day. Even though the line downtown was longer, once again I arrived at the Fair Grounds a few minutes before the gates opened. And I must repeat that entry is just way too easy with the Brass Pass. 

Today I did have time for food before music, and it's a good thing because I was very hungry, given just the light and early dinner at Jazz Fest and the Pinkberry later yesterday and the lack of food at the Staybridge (can't criticize the Staybridge here because the breakfast officially closes before we've been getting there most days).

I found the perfect brunch at the far end of Food Area I, right before the right turn that leads to Food Area II. It was Ms. Linda Green's Ya-Ka-Mein. You can read about this tasty dish and its creator, a former champion from the Food Network TV show Chopped, on Day 11 in 2014 and Day 4 last year

The dish is basically a very hearty soup. It has spaghetti noodles, chuck roast, a quarter of a hard-boiled egg, green onions, a dash of soy and hot sauce, and Ms. Linda's special, secret sauce, which takes it from just a soup to ya-ka-mein. 

I've only had Ya Ka Mein in the morning, so I can't say what it's like later in the day, but when you get one of the first portions served, it is so rich and flavorful that it is hard to imagine it getting better. It's pretty close to perfection. And it's always cool to get it served by Ms. Linda herself.

After I finished my Ya-Ka-Mein, today's cubes (here they are) got me headed over to (where else?) the Fais Do Do stage for the first music of the day. There, Terry Huval and the Jambalaya Cajun Band were being introduced. In addition to Terry Huval, in his distictive red hat, tie, and suspenders, on fiddle, the band is made up drummer Tony Huval, accordionist Reggie Matte, Ken David on bass, and Bobby Dumaitrait on guitar. I've seen these guys a couple of times before, on Day 4 in 2014 and Day 9 last year, and they also served as the backup band for D.L. Menard as the Musical Aces on Day 11 in 2013. They are an excellent Cajun band, and Terry Huval is one of the better fiddlers in an area where, believe me, there are a lot of really good ones. Here's an article that also describes Terry Huval's "day job," where he is Director of the Utility System for the city of Lafayette.

          

One of the first couple of tunes the band performed today was Merle Haggard's I'm a Lonesome Fugitive, only it was done in Cajun French with a button accordion playing the guitar lick. Let us not forget that Prince was not the only great musician to pass away recently.

Speaking of D.L. Menard, he was once again a special guest of the band today. Ever since I first heard him in 2013 I always have looked forward to his country-like take on Cajun tunes (he is known as the Cajun Hank Williams) and his personality and wit. He's now 84 years old, and after he was introduced the audience collectively gasped when he was brought out in a wheelchair. "Don't worry. I've had 100 operations," he cracked, "But they haven't bothered my throat none." (Apparently he has been experiencing some problems with his feet and legs and was still in the hospital less than two weeks ago.) He was true to his word. He didn't look all that great, but he could still belt out his hits with his distinctive Cajun drawl.

When Menard performs these days, his grandaughter Nelda Menard plays guitar with him, making it a type of family affair. The show became even more so when Terry Huval brought out two of his sons, Luke and Phillip, along with their friend Zach Fuselier to play with the band and do a tune of their own. The trio have their own band, called the Huval-Fuselier Cajun Band, and Zach also plays with Joe Hall and the Louisiaina Cane Cutters, one of my favorites.

          

Menard and Nelda returned to the stage to end this really cool show doing a version of the Cajun national anthem, Menard's La Porte d'en Arriere (The Back Door), which was the first Cajun tune to chart nationally and helped to put this wonderful music on the map. It's not a complicated song, but I gotta admit, when I hear Menard perform it I get chills. Today even more so because of all of the generations on the stage, which lets you know that this music is in good hands and a younger generation understands the importance of keeping it alive.

Every time Menard leaves the stage he says, with gusto, "I'll see you next year." He did so again today, preceded by an emphatic "Hot diggity dog," and as I always say here, let us hope we do. Menard is truly one of a kind. 

Here's my video of today's performance by Menard et al., and here's one more from Jazz Fest that I could find, of the group doing Hank's Your Cheatin' Heart. At the end of this he tells us that his big toe was amputated. He wanted to keep it to use as bait for fishing, but they threw it away, much to his disappointment. Here's one more from the Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival a couple of weeks after Jazz Fest.

Next up was the Blues Tent, but on my way over there I was drawn to a parade of the Washitaw Nation and Wild Mohicans Mardi Gras Indians. The parades that pass through the infield every couple hours are completely unique to Jazz Fest. Often, like today, you can't help following them around, enjoying the chants and the beat, totally immersing yourself in the New Orleans experience. You just don't get that anyplace else. Here's my pretty rough video that shows some of this parade.

When I made it to the Blues Tent, it was to hear ... and finally see ... a complete performance by the Joe Krown Trio with Walter "Wolfman" Washington and Russell Batiste Jr. In this awesome group, Krown plays the B-3 organ, Washington plays guitar and sings the blues, and Batiste plays the drums. Today they were augmented by the percussion of Michael Skinkus

     

I listened to almost the entire performance by these guys last year on Day 3, but I saw none of it because I got caught in a very intense thunderstorm on my way to the Blues Tent. While I made it to the Blues Tent, there was no getting inside, so I listened to the music sheltered between an ATM machine and a beer concession's trailer. Even in those conditions the music was very good. Really, it was pretty cool; you can check out my video of that experience here.

We also saw them under better conditions on Day 10 in 2014, but we were way in the back of the tent, so the view wasn't optimal. However, that's where you'll find the background and videos for these three incredibly talented musicians. We also saw the Wolfman at Marc Stone's Blues Throwdown last year on Day 2.

Today I got into the Blues Tent and was able to enjoy the entire performance with great sound and great sight lines. Here's my video of this show, and here's a full two hours plus from The Acoustic club in Bridgeport, Connecticut. There's not much more that one can say about this trio. It's just great soul blues.

As long as I was in the neighborhood, I headed over to the Jazz Tent next, to catch some of the band of local musicians known as Blodie's Jazz Jam. I must say, with the direct sun today, tents were welcome in the middle of the day.

Blodie is trumpeter Gregory Davis of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. He organizes this jazz and funk free-for-all every year. The players include many of the Dirty Dozen musicians and always any number of other fine New Orleans artists who rarely play together.

People I could identify on the stage today were Julian Addison on the drum kit, Alexei Marti on the congas, Kyle Roussel on the piano, Takeshi Shimura on guitar, Marlon Jordan on trumpet, Roger Lewis on baritone sax, and Kirk Joseph, one of two tuba or sousaphone players, the other one of whom I can't identify. 

There were others as well. But with this band the individuals aren't as important as the jam, and they were really cooking this afternoon.

When I arrived, they were finishing up Nut Ballers, and then they played Lou ModeGet Up, and Deorc Scadeau. This was great time with nothing more than a bunch of great New Orleans musicians having a great time. Here's my video, and here's one and two more, with other players, from Jazz Fest in 2013. You'll get the idea.

Next I headed over to pay another mid-afternoon visit to the Acura stage, where today the awesome guitarist Anders Osborne was taking the stage. We have seen Anders playing with other bands a couple of times (Day 5 in 2013 with Galactic at Tipitina's annual Instruments-a-Comin' benefit and Day 3 that same year and Day 9 last year with the Voice of the Wetlands All Stars. I wanted to make some progress around the track so I could get over to the Gentilly stage after a bit of this show, so I decided to head back to the new bleachers as opposed to hanging out in front of the stage. With Pearl Jam the headlining act today, it was getting a bit too crowded down there anyway. 

The view from the bleachers was spectacular, the crowd in front of the stage, the huge stage itself, the white tents behind it, and the tall buildings and the Superdome downtown in the distance. The sky was blue with just a few puffy white clouds, and the breeze was making the flags in the crowd move as if with the music.

Anders Osborne is among the most original and visionary musicians performing in New Orleans, or maybe anywhere. He's different in New Orleans because he's a rocker. That said, he is a wildy imaginative rocker, and he does ballads really well, too. Many of his songs deal with healing and redemption, spirituality and acceptance, and rebuilding what has been destroyed, not only a ravaged city, but also a hollow man. Paste Magazine says, "Osborne has an impossibly great, soulful voice and the songs to match." Living Blues adds, "Osborne is a songwriter of enormous depth and an incredibly passionate musician."

Most of his songs have unforgettable melodies and are performed with the power of soul. His guitar work is simply spectacular, and his vocals soar. His wildly energetic, physical live performances find him ripping notes out of his guitar, forcing out riveting steel-on-steel slide solos, and pouring what's left into his vocals. His ability to ignite an audience is legendary. 

Since Anders began recording in 1989, he has written virtually all of his own material and contributed memorable songs to artists as diverse as Keb' Mo' and Tim McGrawBut it is not just his live performances and songwriting that make Osborne such a success. He is also revered for his jaw-dropping guitar playing. His piercing slide-work and fluid finger picking (oftentimes happening simultaneously) are simply unmatched. His use of Open D tuning (a rare choice for a guitar virtuoso) gives his fretwork a signature sound and feel. "I first heard Open D on Blue by Joni Mitchell," he says, "and my fingers just fit the tuning." 

Osborne was born in Uddevalla, Sweden, in 1966. His father was a professional touring jazz drummer who played all over Europe and was exposed to a lot of popular American styles of music. He brought home reel-to-reel recordings of jazz, R&B, and early rock 'n' roll from artists as diverse as Little Richard, Fats Domino, Bill Haley, Art Pepper, Miles Davisand John Coltrane. As a teen, Anders started playing guitar and listening to Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Jackson Browne, and Joni Mitchell records. He fell in love with the vocal styles of Ray Charles, Van MorrisonRy Cooder, and Lowell George. Then he heard the blues of Robert Johnson and recordings of African drumming, and, suddenly, everything clicked. 

"Blues connected everything together for me," Osborne recalls. "The early rock, the R&B, the jazz, the singer-songwriters. Blues was like a thread running through everything."

With a serious case of wanderlust, Anders began traveling on his own at 16. For the next four years he hitch hiked across Europe, North Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East, earning money by doing odd jobs and performing on the street or in bars at every opportunity. He worked assembly lines in Israel and dug ditches in Greece. He picked fruits and vegetables in many locales, following the harvest seasons across Europe. He wrote constantly, soaking up the life experience and honing his craft.

In 1985, he landed in New Orleans, a place his grandfather, a sailor, had often told him vivid stories about. When he arrived, he instantly felt right at home. "My grandfather had a lot to do with me settling here," he recalled. "He would send me postcards and photographs of him in New Orleans. I just felt connected to his memories. Once I got here, everything I heard in my head -- the music, the way people treated each other -- was happening. I knew I was home." He effortlessly incorporated the sounds of New Orleans into his own music, and the city quickly became a large part of his soul.

Anders spent his first few years in New Orleans writing and developing his sound and style, all the while continuing to soak up the music of the city. He cut his first two albums in 1989 and 1993. The excitement surrounding those releases led to a major label deal with Okeh Records in 1995. Since then, he has released 10 more recordings, all to wide critical and popular acclaim.

Blues Music magazine describes Osborne's music as "an articulate and spellbinding tapestry of sorrow and joy." The New Orleans Times-Picayune says Osborne's music is "genuine, focused and uplifting ... guitar fireworks and a well-traveled voice." The Newark Star-Ledger simply says, "This guy is in his own universe. Comparisons are meaningless." 

In the band today were guitarist Eric McFadden, drummer Brady Blade, and Carl Dufrene on bass. Dufrene and Osborne are two of those musicians who are so in sync with each other it's almost scary. Papa John Gros was there on keyboards, too.

It was hot in the sun on the bleachers, but it was the perfect setting for this music. Here's my video from 'way back, mostly an epic rendition of Wind, and here's one from AXS-TV where you can actually see the musicians. Here also is a full performance from this year's Bayou Boogaloo on the Norfolk waterfront. The great Stanton Moore from Galactic is on the drums for this show.

I reluctantly left Anders a bit early and headed toward the Gentilly stage. On the way, I encountered a parade, led by the Mahogany Brass Band, heading to the dedication of the memorial to the great Allen Toussaint in the Ancestors area near Congo Square. Toussaint passed away last November while on tour in Europe. He had a heart attack, and it stunned everybody in New Orleans. He was in his 70's but always appeared to healthy and enegetic. You would not only see him on stages at Jazz Fest, sitting in with anyone at any time, you would also see him strolling around the grounds, talking to and posing for pictures with anyone who would recognize him. He was always dressed impeccably; as someone once said, even his ever-present white socks and sandals looked like they belonged on him.

I followed the parade to the Ancestors area. It's a memorial field of sorts, and not just for musicians. You'll see beautifully painted wooden cutouts of Jazz Fest legends like Danny Barker, Uncle Lionel Batiste, Al Hirt, Larry McKinley, Big Chief Bo Dollis, and now Toussaint, who sits at a grand piano keyboard.

Toussaint's daughter Alison LeBeaux said the portrait, painted by Stuart Auld, was a stunning likeness, and she was thrilled about the newest honor on her father's behalf. "He loved awards. But this would knock his socks off. And his sandals," she said, in a reference to the footwear favored by her dapper father.

As leader Brice Miller led his Mahogany Brass Band in the parade honoring Toussaint, Miller -- usually a trumpeter -- tapped away on the snare drum, his personal tribute to the musician Miller called "a man of many talents." Miller saw Toussaint's skill as broad but rooted. "He really helped us to understand how to innovate while still staying true to New Orleans music," he said.

Gerald Platenburg, a member of the Nine Times Social Aid and Pleasure Club, also was part of the procession that wound around the festival, joined by three other clubs. Platenburg said he was especially impressed that Toussaint, who could have made his home anywhere, returned after Hurricane Katrina to New Orleans, "the city that he loved and that loved him."

Being honored on the Fair Grounds would especially appeal to her father, Toussaint LeBeaux said. "This was home for him," she said. "He would be humbled."

The Mahogany Brass Band broke into the funeral dirge A Closer Walk With Thee as the procession took its last turn, toward the field of wooden cutouts. Shawan Gracin, a member of the Divine Ladies Social Aid and Pleasure Club, said all that needed to be said: "He was the epitome of jazz in this community."

If you have never heard of Allen Toussaint, and that is entirely possible, spend some time with this incredible musician. You will probably be astonished by his legacy, which I record here as my tribute.

In new Orleans, the city's top piano players are still addressed as professors. Toussaint was a senior member of that titled fraternity. He was a renowned songwriter and producer, but he was also celebrated for his distinctively deft and funky feel on the piano. His career spanned more than 50 years. 

The list of those who benefited in one way or another from his touch over those years is staggering. His studio productions have sold millions. His catalog of songs has generated hits on the pop, R&B, country, and dance charts, and many remain on heavy rotation in various radio formats. He never stayed away from New Orleans for long -- and his music never did. In so many ways, his career serves as an ongoing tribute to the city of his birth.

Allen Toussaint's biography begins humbly. He was born in 1938 in the Gert Town part of New Orleans, a working-class neighborhood that straddles Washington Avenue between Earhart Boulevard and Carrollton Avenue, and was raised by his mother Naomi Neville Toussaint and father Clarence Toussaint. He's the "C. Toussaint" credited as songwriter on some early tunes; she's the "N. Neville" whose name appears more often. Toussaint inherited their love of music, taught himself piano, and caught a couple of breaks as a teenager: joining a local R&B band that also featured guitarist Snooks Eaglin, sitting in for Huey "Piano" Smith with Earl King, and laying down piano parts at a Fats Domino session that the star couldn't make.

Like many musicians of his generation (and those to come) Toussaint drew heavily on the syncopated blues and trill-filled patterns invented in the 1940's by Professor Longhair (Born Henry Roeland Byrd, but most in New Orleans simply refer to him as "Fess"). With musical accuracy and a typically deft turn of a phrase, Toussaint called him "The Bach of Rock." On stage, Toussaint rarely failed to credit his mentor, offering a rendition of Tipitina, the signature Fess tune, and mentioning the debt to him all modern piano professors share.

However, if Fess was indeed the Bach of New Orleans, Toussaint was its Mozart: an instrumentalist of uncanny sure-fingeredness and a prodigious inventor of melodies that have remained as fresh over the years as they were when they were written. The parallel is furthered as he also was a master crystallizer of traditional and innovative styles; those classic New Orleans street-parade rhythms never sounded more modern than they did after he was done updating them.

Toussaint later proved to have a poet's ear for lyrics, too, and a honey-toned singing voice that was unusually smooth and upper-register for one who was essentially a bluesman. Strangely, however, his debut on record was an album of instrumentals for the major record company RCA. In 1958, "The Wild Sound of New Orleans" by "Tousan" included Java, later a huge pop hit for trumpeter Al Hirt, and the boogie Whirlaway, a marvel of top-gear piano precision.

The late 1950's were the wild and fiercely competitive days of R&B and early rock and roll. New record labels were popping up all over. One would make a bundle for a moment, then disappear; others persevered. Toussaint quickly learned about publishing and song copyrights and how to hang on to them. In the early 1960's, he assumed the position of session supervisor for Minit and Instant Records, writing and producing singles for a variety of local artists. Some, like Irma Thomas' It's Raining and Art Neville's All These Things, became local hits. A few, like Ernie K-Doe's Mother-in-Law and Chris Kenner's I Like It Like That, broke big on the national charts.

From the outset, Toussaint gave his songs an ageless quality that successive, melody-savvy generations appreciated. His tune A Certain Girl, a 1961 single by K-Doe, was the B-side of the Yardbirds' debut single in 1964, and in 1980, Warren Zevon -- no slouch himself as a songwriter -- chose to record it, too. Impressively resilient among Toussaint's songs is the single-chord gem Fortune Teller. Initially a Benny Spellman hit in 1962, the Rolling Stones and the Hollies recorded it in their early years, and the Who performed it on their famous "Live at Leeds" album in 1970. As recently as 2007, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss made it a part of their Grammy-winning album "Raising Sand."

With Toussaint, no experience was wasted, not even a two-year stint in the military that began in 1963. In 1964, he took his Army band into the studio and under the name of The Stokes recorded Whipped Cream, a snappy instrumental with a jaunty horn line and a distinctive trumpet lead. Herb Alpert jumped on the melody a year later with the Tijuana Brass, recording it note-for-note, creating a hit single, a memorable album cover, and a theme song for the TV sensation "The Dating Game."

By the height of the 1960's, Toussaint was the record producer in New Orleans. Partnering with record promoter Marshall Sehorn, a veteran of independent R&B companies, he built his own studio, dubbed it Sea-Saint, and established a series of record labels. As popular black music styles evolved from 1950's R&B to more soulful sounds and became powered by ever-funkier rhythms, so Toussaint's productions -- with Lee Dorsey (who served as Toussaint's primary muse and voice), the Meters, Dr. John, and others -- morphed into a progressively heavier sense of syncopation, drawing heavily on the distinctive New Orleans street parade beats.

Toussaint's songwriting as well assumed a broader, more sophisticated perspective. Some tunes focused on daily, workaday realities and urban life: Workin' in the Coal Mine, Sneakin' Sally Through the Alley, Lipstick Traces (On a Cigarette). Others were more reflective, delivering messages of social protest and racial uplift: Yes We Can Can, Freedom for the Stallion, Who's Gonna Help a Brother Get Further?.

One song in particular -- Get Out Of My Life, Woman -- was so effective in defining a new, relaxed kind of beat, that for a number of years every touring ensemble and house band seemed to have it in their repertoire. It became and remains a rock and blues staple, favored by the likes of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Iron Butterfly, Mountain, Jerry Garcia, Solomon Burke, Leon Russell, and most recently, the Tedeschi-Trucks Band. In the early 1970's, Toussaint wrote Play Something Sweet (Brickyard Blues) for Scottish pub rocker Frankie Miller; with its equally funky groove and irresistible lyric it inspired versions by Three Dog Night, Maria Muldaur, Rita CoolidgeLevon Helm, and B.J. Thomas.

Through the ensuing decade, Toussaint's schedule book was never empty, as a litany of rock, R&B, and even country stars made their way to Sea-Saint. His ability to write, produce, and conjure radio hits from performers in any popular genre -- or to simply come up with just the right horn line or song structure (as in Life Is a Carnival by The Band) -- made him an in-demand producer, composer, and arranger. He worked with local New Orleans acts as well as such luminaries as Paul McCartney, LaBelle, Albert King, and Little Feat, on whose 1975 tour Toussaint performed as the featured opening act. All of the horn charts on the Band's classic live album "Rock of Ages" were composed by Toussaint. On his way to New York for the performance, the charts were lost by the airline, so he rewrote them in a cabin in Woodstock provided by the group, literally overnight.

During this period, Toussaint also began to get recognition for his own recordings, as he released a series of albums, all considered essential New Orleans classics today. They were filled with tunes that revealed a highly individual, astute worldview, such as What Is Success, On Your Way Down, What Do You Want The Girl To Do?, and Night People.

Soon, many of Toussaint's most personal songs became fodder for the pop and rock world, covered by Boz Scaggs, Lowell George, Bonnie Raitt, and Robert Palmer among others -- not that he was complaining. Even his most autobiographical composition, the atmospheric and wistful Southern Nights (you must listen to this, the way the song was meant to be heard, showing off Toussaint's superb piano work with him telling the story of how the song came to be), was retooled as a bouncy, barroom number by Glen Campbell in 1977. It was a crossover smash, topping both the pop and country charts and earning a Grammy nomination for Country Song of the Year.

In the 1980's and 1990's, Toussaint focused on hometown productions and performances, generating but one album under his own name in 1987. In 1994 he joined in a New Orleans R&B dream team that included old friends Earl Palmer, Red Tyler, Lee Allen, Mac Rebennack (Dr. John to us), and Edward Frank to record "The Ultimate Session" under the moniker Crescent City Gold.

In 1996 he launched NYNO Records, producing acclaimed albums that delivered an overview of the best new talent in New Orleans, including gospel singer Raymond Myles, trumpeter James Andrews, R&B veteran Oliver Morgan, zydeco guitarist Paul "Lil' Buck" Sinegal, and the New Birth Brass Band.

In the last 15 years, Toussaint experienced a growing resurgence of activity and recognition. He recorded seven albums and collaborated with the likes of Elvis Costello and Eric Clapton. At the urging of such longtime fans as Paul Shaffer and Harry Shearer, he appeared on national TV shows (this clip from David Letterman's Late Show with Cyndi Lauper is awesome) and on the HBO series Tremé. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998, and President Obama awarded him the National Medal of Arts in a White House ceremony in 2012.

After the Federal Flood following Hurricane Katrina in 2005 destroyed his home and studio, Toussaint temporarily relocated to New York City. He wryly called the storm his booking agent, crediting it for rebooting his career as a performer, as he began to perform solo concerts, using Joe's Pub on Lafayette Street as a home base. Buoyed by a groundswell of support, he worked at something that years of success in the studio had allowed him to avoid: getting truly comfortable on the stage by himself, laying claim to his own songs.

Modesty had a lot to do with that. He was never the first person one would go to for information on Allen Toussaint. "I am not accustomed to talking about myself," he once explained. "I talk in the studio with musicians. Or through my songs."

Over time, though, he developed his act, resurrecting material he hadn't touched in years, taking chances and improvising on established melodies, and weaving personal anecdotes into his stage patter. He laced his music with memories of street characters and soul sisters, funky clubs, and big-time successes. His show became his story, and his story came together and began to flow.

But, what the world needed to be reminded of about Allen Toussaint, New Orleans had never forgotten. The wild sounds of Toussaint are inextricably interwoven into the city's legacy. He was one of the city's most storied citizens. Whether strolling in the French Quarter or around the grounds at Jazz Fest, dropping into Tipitina's or the House of Blues, he was always recognized and addressed with respect. He carried himself with an understated nobility. Understated, that is, save for his two Rolls Royces (with the license plate "Piano" on one and "Songs" on the other) and the bright, color-coordinated suits and fisherman sandals: a Southern gentleman with Caribbean flair.

Eight years after the flood, as New Orleans continued to recover, Toussaint returned permanently to the city he never truly left. Give him the heat and the humidity, the spice and the rice, the funky sound of a second line and the cool feel of a southern night. "I apologize," Toussaint would sing, with the hint of a wink, "to anyone who can truly say that he has a found a better way."

We miss him ... dearly.


I listened to the speeches and watched the unveiling, then followed the parade as it headed back across the infield for a couple of minutes, reflecting on this wonderful man and all he had given to New Orleans, taken when he still had much left to give. 

Big Chief Bo Dollis last year and Allen Toussaint this year. I hope the grim reaper gives us a year off at the 2017 Jazz Fest.

I continued my journey to the Gentilly stage, but decided to stop along the way for some food. As I passed the stands in Food Area II, I stopped at the stand of the Ninja Japanese Restaurant, which is located in Uptown New Orleans, for a Yakiniku po'boy. This is a Japan-NOLA food meld that's simply spectacular. I've had it three times now. 

A Yakiniku po'boy is thinly sliced and sauteed ribeye and vegetables in a garlic BBQ sauce. 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. Unbelievably good. Ya-Ka-Mein to Yakiniku ... that was not intentional!

Finally I made it to the Gentilly stage. Tab Benoit was already performing, and it was pretty crowded in front, as the next two acts after Tab were to be the sensational Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats followed by Van Morrison. So I decided to stand on the track to listen and watch Tab on the big screen. I saw a good portion of his set at the Blues Tent on Day 9 in 2013, even more on Day 11 last year. Not only that, we have seen snippets of shows of his Voice of the Wetlands All Stars band, on Day 3 in 2013 and Day 9 last year. Oh, we also saw him at the Rock 'n' Bowl in 2014 on Day 4. And we saw him at the State Theater in Falls Church last May, where we actually spent some time talking with him after the show. So today I didn't really feel the need to deal with the crowd.

Tab's shows are simply great. Tab, Cory Duplechin on bass, and Terence Higgins on drums (and that's really all that's needed) create swampy, rockin' southern soul blues like nobody else. The guy doesn't change guitars, use pedals, or stop to change tuning. Jam follows jam and that's followed by another jam. It just doesn't quit. Plus, Tab wears cool shirts. Would love to see his closet! 

You can read more about Tab Benoit and his work to preserve the wetlands of Louisiana through his Voice of the Wetlands project at the links above. To see the scene as I saw it today, here's my video from the track (note the unusual "flag" and dress of the two women who pass by) and here are 20 minutes from just a little bit closer on the AXS-TV broadcast. And here is an entire 90 minutes from the Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise earlier this year.

While Tab was finishing up, I headed back over to the Fais Do Do stage. I have learned over the years at Jazz Fest how to maximize the music: sometimes you have to drop in a little late, or leave a little early, or both. That worked perfectly today.

On the way into the Fais Do Do stage, depending on which way you are arriving, is the stand that sells WWOZ's Mango Freeze. This was a perfect time for this cool (actually cold) and sweet pick me up. It's a fund-raiser for WWOZ, but I must admit that some days (like today) I would have it even if it weren't. 

At the Fais Do Do stage were the Zydeco Boss, Keith Frank, and the Soileau Zydeco Band from Soileau, Louisiana (pronounced so-lie-el), which is really nothing more than an intersection in Cajun COuntry. Laurie and I caught this great band in on Day 4 in 2013 (you can get a bit more background there) as our first Jazz Fest rainstorm abated, and I remember how they kept everybody's spirits up, turning the Fais Do Do crowd into a big party despite the rain. They ended their performance that day by really getting down -- playing on their backs, kicking their feet into the air. 

Today Keith, his sister Jennifer on bass, his brother Brad on drums, Kyndrell Frank on the scrub board, and Chad Fouquier and Lucien Hayes on guitars were joined by Keith's sons, ages six and eight. The six-year-old had a junior accordion and the eight-year-old had a cowbell, and they were on stage for the entire show, with Keith giving each of them a chance to shine.

                     

Had things worked out differently, Keith might not have ever realized his potential for music. For a while, he split his focus between pursuing an Electronics Technology Degree at McNeese State University in Lake Charles, Louisiana, and doing music on the weekends. However, upon attaining his degree, he returned his focus solely to music and formed the Soileau band.

Keith is a multi-talented, self-taught musician. He plays the accordion, drums, bass, guitar, scrubboard, keyboard, piano, and even harmonica. He's a natural showman, and the band's nonstop four-hour shows have become legendary. They are on the road every weekend, whether it be in southwest Louisiana and southeast Texas, across the United States, or even internationally.

Several years ago, after having released CD's under various labels, Keith started his own label, Soulwood Records, and built his own studio. In the short time that it has been open, the studio has been used by many artists, both in zydeco and other forms of music.

This show was another great moment at the Fais Do Do stage, Here's my video so you can get a taste of what I was seeing. Early in the video, look at the younger son's face while Keith is swinging his accordion around. It's like, 'wow, my dad is pretty cool.' For some more of Keith and the band, check out this full two-hour set from the Virginia Key Grassroots Festival in Florida a couple of years ago. It's a zydeco party for sure!

When D.L. Menard sang The Back Door with his granddaughter, and Terry Huval brought out his sons to play earlier today, I had no idea that a theme for the day was developing. Keith Frank had his sons on stage with him, so that certainly added to it. The next performance was going to cement that theme in a big way. 

I walked over to the Jazz Tent and actually got a great seat to see the legendary Jack DeJohnette, one of the best and most influential drummers in the history of jazz. This guy has made a career of helping extend the jazz vocabulary. Today he was leading a trio with Ravi Coltrane, the son of John Coltrane, and Matt Garrison, the son of Jimmy Garrison, who played bass with John Coltrane on more than 20 recordings. Over five years I have have seen a whole lot of performances at Jazz Fest. This one was near the top. It was astonishingly good.

     

The generational symmetry in the makeup of this trio is the result of a legacy that stretches back almost 50 years. When DeJohnette first arrived in New York City from his native Chicago in the mid-1960's, he wasn't even 25 years old, but he quickly made a splash. In addition to a highly visible stint with saxophonist Jackie McLean's group, he made several appearances with John Coltrane, another saxophonist, sometimes alongside regular drummer Rashid Ali. On bass in that group was Jimmy Garrison. Today, DeJohnette is somewhat modest about the experience. "Rashid was the main drummer," DeJohnette said. "I was really just there for backup."

Nonetheless, this trio does make a fathers-and-sons connection to those days. "I've known Ravi and Matthew since they were kids," he said. "It's sort of like a family. When Ravi came to New York, we would see each other. And Matthew even lived with us for a while when his mother was away with a dance company in Italy." The threesome first performed together some 20 years ago at a now-celebrated Coltrane tribute concert that DeJohnette programmed. Then, in 2004, Ravi and DeJohnette teamed with bassist Charlie Haden, among others, on pianist-organist (and Ravi's mother) Alice Coltrane's spiritually minded recording "Translinear Light." The DeJohnette-Coltrane-Garrison trio got back together in 2013.

The relationship between the three may sound like the perfect setup for some kind of tribute band, but that's not DeJohnette's way. He is as energetic and experimental as he was when he first appeared on the scene in Chicago. The trio works through a variety of originals and a familiar tune or two, but they don't play in anybody else's style, including that of famous fathers or collaborators. And it's not always the usual acoustic jazz trio thing. "Matthew is a wizard with electronics and computers, which adds a lot of nice harmonic voicings to the group," DeJohnette said. "Ravi's done a remarkable job establishing his own voice separate from his father's. I play the piano sometimes. Together the three of us have a unique thing. It's a nice surprise, always stimulating and always different, in a good way."

DeJohnette, a pianist until he took up drums at age 18, has always had a taste for the different. His piano training began at age 4 with a classical teacher, whom he remained with for a decade. "Classical was just part of my piano studies," he said. "That was the thing to do. That's where you learned technique and how music goes together. Later I got interested in the great composers and really got into the music. I got called to jazz, but I still have a great appreciation for classical works and classical artists."

Many of his early experiences came through Chicago's Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, a cooperative that favored avant-garde music (though sometimes inspired by early jazz styles). In 1966, he began touring with saxophonist Charles Lloyd (who we saw last year on Day 10) in a quartet that included pianist Keith Jarrett

The Lloyd quartet recorded in Russia and played the Fillmore in San Francisco. It was popular not only with jazz fans but with young crossover-music lovers from rock and soul backgrounds.

While Lloyd's band was where he received international recognition for the first time, it was not the only group DeJohnette played with during his early years in New York. In addition to McLean, he also worked with Abbey Lincoln, Betty Carter, and Bill Evans. DeJohnette left Lloyd's group and joined the Evans trio in 1968, the same year the group headlined the Montreux Jazz Festival and produced the classic album "Bill Evans at the Montreux Jazz Festival." In November 1968, he worked briefly with Stan Getz and his quartet.

In 1969, DeJohnette left the Evans trio and replaced Tony Williams in the Miles Davis band. Davis had seen DeJohnette play many times, once during a stint with Evans at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club in London in 1968, where he also first heard bassist Dave Holland. Davis recognized DeJohnette's ability to combine the driving grooves associated with rock and roll with the improvisational aspects associated with jazz. That led to DeJohnette playing on the landmark album "Bitches Brew." 

DeJohnette and the other musicians saw the Bitches sessions as unstructured and fragmentary, but also innovative: "As the music was being played, as it was developing, Miles would get new ideas. He'd do a take, stop, and then get an idea from what had just gone on before, and elaborate on it. The recording of "Bitches Brew" was a stream of creative musical energy. One thing was flowing into the next, and we were stopping and starting all the time." DeJohnette also played in the concerts that would follow the release of "Bitches Brew," concerts that were recorded at the Fillmores, East in New York and West in San Francisco.

DeJohnette continued to work with Davis for the next three years. This led to a collaboration with Davis band members John McLaughlin, Chick Corea, and Holland. He also drew Keith Jarrett into Davis' band. 

At the same time, DeJohnette was putting together his own bands and recording his own compositions. His first recording, "The DeJohnette Complex," came in 1968. A combination of post-bop, new music, and rock-influenced tunes, it marked the start of the characteristic formula that DeJohnette has followed over the years: putting together variously instrumented, variously configured bands to play compositions that call on a wide range of influences. "I used to listen to all kinds of music even before I started taking piano," he said. "My interests have always been eclectic, so making music like that is just a natural process. All music is world music anyway, no matter what genre -- classical, folk, rock. It's really nothing new, and there's a lot of players out there besides me who think that way. It's really about the individual. Each person has their own personal voice to pursue."

DeJohnette's compositions often reference other musicians. "Writing's been mostly a natural gift. The music comes naturally. I just sit down at the piano and follow what happens. If I'm writing with a person in mind -- I've written tunes about a few of my favorite musicians, Ahmad Jamal, Eric Dolphy, Herbie -- then I start to think about the person, what I know about them, get a title, and then things just start coming up. Basically, I just follow my intuition."

DeJohnette's discography reveals that he's worked with the most promising musicians of the day, no matter what the era. The great saxophonists that played on "Special Edition" in 1979 included David Murray and Arthur Blythe. The pulsing "Audio-Visualscapes" from 1988 included saxophonists Gary Thomas and Greg Osby, who were leading their own musical revolution with the forward-thinking M-Base Collective. His 1990 recording, "Parallel Realities," was a trio effort with guitarist Pat Metheny and keyboardist Hancock (this is awesome, so here's one more by them, Cantaloupe Island.) In 1992, he released "Music for the Fifth World," a project that included Living Colour guitarist Vernon Reid and former Miles Davis guitarist John Scofield. 

Perhaps DeJohnette's most visible position today is as a member of Jarrett's trio, a gig he's held for some 30 years.

In 2012, the year he turned 70, DeJohnette was made a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master, an award that honors living legends who have made exceptional contributions to the advancement of jazz. Over the years, he has refined a drumming style that's immediately recognizable, a rolling, driving propulsion that seems to combine the post-bop style of Philly Joe Jones and Max Roach with the polyrhythms of John Coltrane's drummer Elvin Jones. His rhythms can be both gentle and explosive, smothering or as subtle as a child's touch. DeJohnette's drum kit today is plugged in so that he can, from time to time, elicit electric pings on cymbal strokes.

The current trio offers the exact kind of circumstances in which DeJohnette shines, the chance to push and complement an assured saxophonist like Coltrane while showcasing his own persistent and detailed notion of rhythm, pushed by Garrison on bass. In that, the performance was something like his youthful appearances with Ravi's father.

He and Ravi have not talked much about the drummer's experiences playing behind the elder Coltrane. "We've said some things, not a lot. Ravi is into his own music. That's what we talk about mostly, and the other people we work with. But there's definitely a connection there between us, a kind of understanding, especially when we play."

"Jack's idea was to teach us some music and some history," Garrison adds as he discusses the origins of the group.

Ravi Coltrane's melodic lines, deep and soulful like his father's, are the glue that holds the trio together. Coltrane may be the closest thing to a traditionalist in the trio; he is not, nor does he try to be, the volcanic searcher that his father was.

Born in Long Island, the second son of John and Alice, Ravi was named after Indian sitar legend Ravi Shankar. He was raised in Los Angeles, where his family moved after his father's death in 1967, when Ravi was 2 years old. He is a 1983 graduate of El Camino Real High School in Woodland Hills. While he had a musical upbringing by his mother and began playing fairly early, Ravi did not commence a jazz vocation until he was in his early 20's. 

In 1986, he studied music, focusing on the saxophone, at the California Institute of the Arts. He was able to hone his chops playing with Elvin Jones' group before meeting Steve Coleman and Graham Haynes and joining the M-Base consortium of artists. Coleman produced and guested on Ravi's first recording, "Moving Pictures" in 1998, as did trumpeter Ralph Alessi

Alice was another significant influence on Ravi, and he returned the favor by encouraging her to return to performance and the recording studio after a long absence. Subsequently, Ravi produced and played on the powerful "Translinear Light." 

The critical comparisons were inevitable, but Coltrane seemed to see this coming before he ever recorded a note. His tone on tenor (he plays some soprano, too) is more reminiscent of Joe Henderson's although his father's sound is slightly evident -- and in covering Inner Urge on his debut, he made it impossible to deny. His second album, in 2000, "From the Round Box," was received even more warmly than his debut and featured contributions from Alessi again and pianist Geri Allen (see yesterday). He covered Thelonious Monk, Ornette Coleman, and Wayne Shorter while adding a pair of his own tunes. His father's influence was a bit more evident, but he proved he was working his sound out for himself.

By the time he released "Mad 6" in 2002, Ravi had firmly established himself as an ego-free and forward-thinking jazz musician with a strong musical identity influenced by, but set apart from, his father's legacy. This impression has only been reinforced as his career has progressed.

Matt Garrison, unlike his father, who played acoustic bass, uses a five-string electric that he occasionally plays like a guitar, strumming chords as well as single-note bass lines. He also employs a looping pedal and sampler. 

He was born in 1970 in New York, where he spent, with his mother Roberta Escamilla Garrison and sister Maia Claire, the first seven years of his life immersed in a community of musicians, dancers, writers, visual artists, and poets. After the death of his father, the family relocated to Rome, where he began to study piano and bass guitar. In 1988, he returned to the United States and lived with DeJohnette, his godfather, for 2 years, and he studied intensively with both DeJohnette and bassist Dave Holland. In 1989 he received a full scholarship to attend Berklee College of Music in Boston, where he began his professional career with the likes of Gary Burton, Bob Moses, Betty Carter, Mike Gibbs, and Lyle Mays.

Matt moved to Brooklyn in 1994 and since then has performed, toured, and recorded with an incredible array of jazz artists. In 1998 he founded GarrisonJazz Productions, through which he currently produces, promotes and markets his music. His latest project is the GarrisonJazz Productions Music Center, a website that provides a modern approach to music education, production, and proliferation.

In 2012, he opened, alongside his business partner Fortuna Sung, ShapeShifter Lab, which is quickly becoming one of the most important and influential music venues in New York. The Brooklyn-based venue features nightly performances and has been voted by Time Out New York as one the best 10 venues in the city, and by Downbeat as one of the best jazz venues in the world. The space is also a place for audio and video capture, photo shoots, workshops, private events, lessons, and art exhibits.

I can't believe how lucky I was to sit in on the conversation among these three great musicians. You can tell by the length of my video that I was really into it. And here is an entire performance from the Heineken Jazzaldia this year in San Sebastian, Spain.  


At this point I had almost an hour to fill before my planned final show of the day, at, where else, the Fais Do Do stage. So I decided to do some sampling. 

The first sampling was some food from the Heritage Square area, which is adjacent to the Jazz Tent. It was a repeat, the Trout Baquet from Li'l Dizzy's Cafe in New OrleansI had this on Day 4 in 2014, and Laurie had it on Day 3 in 2012. It's definitely worth repeating. A meaty trout filet topped with lump crabmeat and lemon-butter garlic sauce, the dish is named after its creator, Dizzy Baquet, Sr., whose father established the restaurant.

After the food, the first music I came to was in the Gospel Tent, where a group called the Johnson Extension was just bringing the house down. This group, about 25 strong, all dressed in white, is led by Rev. Dr. Lois Dejean and populated by four generations of her family. 

The Jazz Fest shows of the DeJean and the Johnson Extension have reached legendary status. No one has ever walked out of a performance by this group without feeling better than when they walked in. It's true. I saw these folks on Day 10 in 2013 and made it a point to catch at least some of their show today. It is incredible.

The group is named for Rev. DeJean's father, a pastor and singer in a gospel quartet. He taught her brother to sing, and her brother in turn taught her to sing. She then taught her children to sing and her children taught their children to sing. And so it goes. They carry the name of Rev. Johnson to keep his legacy alive.

Rev. DeJean started singing in the church, naturally, at 5 years old. "The music was so inspiring to me," she said. "I saw how people looked for something that would 'keep' them. Blues is fine, but there's just something about gospel."

She says that there is no difference between the Gospel Tent at Jazz Fest and church, except that the people are different. "People come to the Gospel Tent who don't usually get a chance to hear gospel music. It's not in their church; not at that level. So they come because they're able to clap their hands and run around and get up and shake their head -- and they can't do that at their church. But you can do that in the Gospel Tent. That's what we do in our church.

"We don't know who's sitting in the audience. Somebody could be sitting in the tent who just needs The Word through a song. And because music lifts, you get a chance to minister to that person without having to sit down and say a word to them." She definitely feels like they can change lives with their music. "I've seen my life change, my children's lives change. And I have worked with young people all my life
-- thousands of kids in the high schools -- who got their lives back together because of music. It is a discipline; they are told what to do and when to do it, when to sing and when not to sing, when to move this way, when to move that way. You carry those disciplines into the rest of your life."

When asked about gospel music in New Orleans, Rev. DeJean is direct. "Gospel is like the last thing on the totem pole around here. I have tried to impress this in the minds of the mayor and the cultural artists here. They don't really address gospel here in New Orleans. We always talk about jazz, jazz, jazz, and that's fine. But all of those musicians who play in jazz bands came out of the church. Church musicians got the soul and the rhythm. Why not push that music up? New Orleans sits dormant and does not zero in on what this music is all about."

She has a point. The gospel acts at Jazz Fest are always impressive, filled with fabulous musicians, many of them ranging from high school age to very young. It wouldn't be a bad idea for Jazz Fest to bring one or two of these groups onto one of the main stages every once in a while to let the larger crowds experience them.

Other featured members of the Johnson Extension are Jante Thomas and Pastor Jermaine Landrum. Here is my video, which features Thomas, and here is the group at the Rejoicing in the Park Gospel Music Festival last year. And here is one more of this fabulous group, from the Gospel Is Alive concert. Every year, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation puts on a gospel concert in conjunction with Jazz Fest. It is free and open to the public, but primarily for New Orleans senior citizens. It offers a free glimpse at what goes on in the Gospel Tent to those who can't deal with the walking, the cost, the heat, the rain, etc. Here is a short video from the Rejoicing in the Park concert that showcases a whole lot of great gospel groups from the New Orleans area.


Next, as I made my way over to the Fais Do Do stage, I passed by the Economy Hall tent to catch a few minutes of the New Orleans Swamp Donkeys. This is one of the youngest groups playing traditional New Orleans music, and they do it very well, with old-school style.

The New Orleans Swamp Donkeys play "jass"
-- the kind of music that started it all at the end of the 1800's with Buddy Bolden, Freddie Keppard, and eventually King Oliver and Louis Armstrong over the subsequent decades. The band has adapted modern songs and styles to fit this flavor of jazz (for example, the theme song from the TV series "Game of Thrones." Their mix of classic traditionalist approach and hip modern sensibilities results in an entirely captivating performance (not that at this point I would find that surprising). 

The band is led by the trumpet and vocals of James Williams, who has played with the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra and with the great Dee Dee Bridgewater. On the band's latest recording, James teamed with Alia Shawkat to recreate a few old favorite duets originally recorded by Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald. Williams is known for his similarity to Armstrong, and it it is striking. 

                     

Other musicians in the Swamp Donkeys are Sam Friend on banjo, Connor Stewart on clarinet and saxophone, Josh "Jams" Marotta on percussion, Miles Lyons on Tuba, and Nick Garrison on trombone. Everyone in the band is in their 20's but have a real grasp of jazz as it was first heard at the start of the 20th century in the halls and streets of New Orleans. They also perform original music, but in the same style, reflecting the social and economic environment. That said, there is always a touch of humor in their creations. 

Surprisingly, no one in the band is a native of New Orleans. Moratta was born in Brooklyn but grew up in Lafayette. Stewart is from Vancouver, British Columbia. Williams himself is from Tucson, Arizona. They all met in New Orleans thanks to the music. The group has changed and evolved because, according to Williams, there were members who couldn't bear life "on the road," especially at the beginning. Now the band is a little more comfortable financially and life on tour is more comfortable. "But we had to hang on." 

OK, so what is the origin of the name Swamp Donkeys? Williams laughs and explains, "I was with a buddy looking at Urban Dictionary, a site of slang and pictorial expressions. He found 'Swamp Donkey.' She's a very ugly girl who is looking for a man just before the closing of a bar and throws her sights on a guy is too crammed to realize what he's doing. Again, there is a touch of humor. I wanted a name where people say to themselves when they see it on the poster: 'What is that? I have to go see.'" And there you have it.

Economy Hall is underrated as a venue at Jazz Fest, I think because the music doesn't have a lot of variety. However, the Swamp Donkeys are changing that with their take on the traditional, and it's good to know this music has a future. The youth theme of the day continues. Here's my video of this show, and if you like this music, her'e their YouTube page with a lot more. 

Now, here you can follow my walk from Economy Hall to make my first visit to the Jazz and Heritage stage, the last major performance venue I had left to drop in on. There, the Pocket Aces Brass Band was closing out the day. It's very cool to hear the Swamp Donkeys fade out and hear the Pocket Aces fade in. That happens a lot a Jazz Fest. 

Like most brass bands, the Pocket Aces are more interested in playing than promoting themselves, but here's what I have learned about them. They consider themselves as not just a group of musicians that perform together, but rather as a family that plays for each other and the city of New Orleans. The idea for the band came from two childhood friends who shared a passion for music in middle and high school, Jimmie Reamey and Geoffrey Guillot. The two reconnected 3 years ago with a couple of former bandmates from school and recruited a couple more musicians that shared their vision of honoring the New Orleans brass band tradition by offering something new to a city known for its music. 

You can't hold the Pocket Aces to one musical genre. They play everything: jazz, hip hop, rap, rock, and R&B -- as they say, pretty much any music that moves your feet and fills your soul. They are basically a local group, playing in New Orleans or around the Gulf Coast at festivals, clubs, second lines, and bars, feeding off of each other's energy as much as that of their audiences. 

The group makes a point of saying that they take the responsibility of representing New Orleans seriously and promise to reflect all the good of the Crescent City's culture and distinctive music that they grew up with, hopefully taking it to the next level and inspiring future musicians to keep playing and striving for more. 

In the band, Reamey plays trumpet and Guillot plays the sousaphone. Other group members are Kyle Scivicque (vocals), David Melancon (trumpet), Justin Pardue (trombone), Miles Lyons (trombone), Daniel Camardelle (snare drum), and Tomidee Guillot (bass drum).

Here's my video of the Pocket Aces, here's another one from Jazz Fest, and here is their YouTube page, with selections from their recording, "In My City." You'll like this, guaranteed.


Now it was time to close out a very busy day. I headed over to the Fais Do Do stage to catch one of my zydeco favorites, Rosie Ledet and the Zydeco Playboys. Except that there was just one problem. The stage was quiet, the crowd restless, and Rosie was nowhere to be found. The stage manager was explaining that they were trying to reach them, but were having no luck. Rosie was a total no show, a real rarity for Jazz Fest. When you consider that today alone, 60 music performances were scheduled (and that number doesn't include the Kids Tent and the interviews and the cooking demonstrations), and this is the fifth year we've been doing Jazz Fest (this was the 27th day of music), that this was the first no show that I am aware of, Jazz Fest has a great track record. 

Based on her status in the zydeco community and some of the comments on her Facebook page, there was genuine concern for this wonderful performer. 

To this day, months after Jazz Fest, there is no information to be found on Rosie's Facebook page, and her website has disappeared. The only thing I have found is this picture on the Facebook page of Rosie's daughter, Kasaundra, posted in early May. 

All we can do is hope that Rosie is OK and that we'll see her again real soon.

Reluctantly, I left the Fais Do Do stage, scouring the cubes for some replacement music.

I decided to skip Pearl Jam at the Acura stage just because I didn't want to deal with a huge crowd. And from what I hear the Gentilly stage, where Van Morrison was playing, was just as crowded. I probably should have gone there; this was a great performance by all accounts. However, I opted for smaller venues, dropping by the Jazz and Heritage stage for a few more minutes of the Pocket Aces before settling on the Blues Tent, where I stood in the back to catch the last part of the set by Boz Scaggs

In all my musical wanderings over 40+ years, I've never encountered Boz Scaggs, I know not why. There may have been a time when I considered him to be a bit too commercial, but now that he's older he pretty much sticks to blues, and that's what I heard at Jazz Fest today. It was really good, and I'm glad I got to hear it. 

Scaggs was born in Canton, Ohio, the son of a traveling salesman. Their family moved to McAlester, Oklahoma, then to Plano, Texas (at that time a farm town), just north of Dallas. He attended St. Mark's School in Dallas, where a schoolmate gave him the nickname "Bosley", later shortened to "Boz."

After learning guitar at the age of 12, Boz met Steve Miller at St. Mark's School. In 1959, he became the vocalist for Miller's band, the Marksmen. The pair later attended the University of Wisconsin–Madison together, playing in blues bands like the Ardells and the Fabulous Knight Trains. However, he left school and briefly joined the burgeoning R&B scene in London, then traveled on to Sweden as a solo performer. In 1965 he recorded his solo debut album, which failed commercially. Scaggs also had a brief stint with a band called the Other Side with Mac MacLeod.

Upon returning to the United States in 1967, Scaggs promptly headed for the booming psychedelic music center of San Francisco. Linking up with Steve Miller again, he appeared on the Steve Miller Band's first two albums. He secured a solo contract with Atlantic Records in 1968, releasing his second album, "Boz Scaggs," in 1969. It featured the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section and session guitarist Duane Allman. Despite good reviews, this release achieved only moderate sales. He then briefly hooked up with Bay Area band Mother Earth in a supporting role on their second album. Scaggs then signed with Columbia Records.

In 1976, using session musicians who would later form the band Toto, Scaggs recorded "Silk Degrees," which reached number 2 on the U.S. Billboard 200 and spawned four hit singles: It's Over, Lowdown, What Can I Say, and Lido Shuffle.

A sellout world tour followed, but follow-up albums in 1977 and 1980 did not sell as well, and Scaggs took a long break from recording. His next LP did not appear until 1988 and he had but one more top 40 single. In 1988, he opened the San Francisco nightclub Slim's, and has remained an owner of the venue ever since. Since then he has continued to release recordings and touring, first as a member of the New York Rock and Soul Revue with Donald Fagen, Phoebe Snow, Michael McDonald, and others from 1989 to 1992. He and his second wife grow grapes organically at the Scaggs Vineyard in Napa County, California, and have produced their own wine.

Here's my view from the back of the Blues Tent for this performance, and here are one and two longer videos from the Greek Theater in Los Angeles this year.

As I walked out of the Blues Tent and headed for the exit, a skywriter (I don't think it was the same one as last year) had managed to draw the glyph representing Prince over the Fair Grounds. It was stunning to see. 

The line for the bus back downtown was really long this evening. Luckily I spent most of the time talking to a couple of women from England. I recall that they didn't realize they were standing on a horse race track.

It was almost dark by the time I started on the walk from the Sheraton back to the Staybridge. It was a beautiful evening, so I went out a bit later and once again had my go-to evening meal/snack at the Pinkberry on Canal Street. I wanted to stroll a bit in the French Quarter but again found myself totally exhausted from all the walking today, so I called it a day. Tomorrow is going to be epic.

© Jeff Mangold 2012