Day 1 / Thursday, April 27

wl5V5GtxSpOUycy4Zt4v8A thumb 8a78

This is the report on trip number six, and number five of doing all seven days of Jazz Fest plus the three Daze Between. No Passover this year, Laurie and I were together for the entire trip. No flu, either! And while there was an election coming up in June, preparations were well under way so as not to cause any stress on that score. Plus, the fact that we have made this trip so many times now means that preparing and packing is a snap. It's turned into the perfect vacation. 

You can check out the complete photo record of this trip on the New Orleans 2017 page of this website, including separate pages with the embedded videos that I took (with the usual caveat that they are not professional grade and as much for listening as watching). As I have said in the past, enjoy it all, or as much as you can stand. So, with the preliminaries out of the way, off we go ...


On Day 1, Thursday, April 27, our ride to Dulles Airport was courtesy of our daughter, bless her heart. But she was on her way to work at an elementary school anyway, so it wasn't that much earlier than it would have been for her. 

We bypassed the shoes-and-stuff type airport security, because we had previously obtained permanent TSA Pre-Clearance status. That really takes a whole lot of the stress off of the airport experience. Once at the gate, we got some breakfast and coffee to have on the plane at a Starbucks that was right across from the gate (for the record, it was the turkey-bacon-gouda sandwich for me and a spinach and egg wrap for Laurie). 

As usual, we checked our carry-on bags at the gate, and also as usual, the 8:30 nonstop to New Orleans on United Airlines took off without delay. It was a bit foggy at Dulles, and there were some impressive thunderstorms along the way, but the pilot manuevered atround them deftly and we landed at the Louis Armstrong International Airport ahead of schedule. That's quite the feat considering that it's only a two and a half hour flight. Flying on an Airbus A320 instead of the usual Canadair 700 Regional Jet helped, I'm sure.

We took a slightly different approach to New Orleans this morning, bypassing the city and flying in from the north over Lake Ponchartrain and crossing the Mississippi River a couple of times before landing. Landmarks I could pick out were the LaBranche Wetlands, the International-Matex Tank Terminal, the Davis Pond Diversion Project, and the Cornerstone Chemical plant. Once on the ground, as we taxied toward the terminal, we passed the construction site of the new terminal complex for the airport, now well under way.  

At the airport, somehow or another we got separated during our restroom visits. Laurie continued on to the baggage claim area (our gate-checked luggage wassn't delivered to us at the gate) while I, ever the creature of habit, got the now-traditional post-flight snack at the Smoothie King in the United concourse. Once again I had a Mangofest smoothie, featuring pineapple, mango, and orange juices with vanilla yogurt. 

We zipped onto the Airport Shuttle and headed downtown to the hotel. We were dropped off at the Staybridge Suites at the corner of, everyone now, Poydras and Tchoupitoulas, pretty quickly, sparing us the shuttle tour of Central Business District hotels (not that there is anything wrong with that). 

From start to finish, the trip to our home away from home simply could not have been easier. As I've said the last couple of years, the fact that we have a lot of experience with it definitely helps reduce the travel stress.  

The people at the front desk at the Staybridge actually recognized us and welcomed us back with big smiles. They were very accommodating and got us into our room even though we were four hours early.  

Our room was on the 17th floor, with a spectacular view of the Mississippi River, the Crescent City Connection bridges, the cruise ship terminals, and the Warehouse District

For the record, the weather today was sunny and warm with a few passing clouds and a high of 83, relatively low humidity, and a slight breeze. Simply perfect.

We took a few minutes to settle into the room, then got ready to head out for some lunch and the important errands that we had to take care of. Just before we left the room, I discovered that I had left my hat at home, a horrible mistake when one is about to be dealing with the direct sun down South. So, that became the first order of business, finding this dumbass a new hat. 

We decided to try the Riverwalk Outlet Collection a short walk down Poydras Street, thinking that there was bound to be something there. Fortunately there was, and on just our second stop, a small kiosk-type store called Roots and Culture. From the mall it looked like advertised: African Fashion, but for some reason Laurie looked in and found exactly what we were looking for, an exact replica of the forgotten hat, except in black. At first there was a bit of a scare because the store's credit card scanner didn't work and the clerk was unsure about how to deal with cash (!) but it all worked out in the end because we worked out a price equivalent to the cash we had on hand. Bottom line: my forgetfulness didn't hold us up for very long. 

It is traditional for us to go to the Royal House Oyster Bar at the corner of Royal and St. Louis Streets in the French Quarter for our first lunch in New Orleans. We did not mess with that tradition today, because we were too hungry and this way we didn't have to think. It's a nice restaurant, leaning a bit to the tourist side but given its location that could be expected. The food has always been very good, the oysters fresh and tasty, and the service efficient and friendly. 

We each started out with a traditional 'Welcome to New Orleans' Cajun Bloody MaryThe vodka they use is infused with olives, peppers, pickles, garlic, and onions (You can see the jar on the bar in the photo above). It's quite spicy and loaded with garnishes. 

Then it was on to another first-day tradition, char-grilled Gulf oystersGulf oysters are not the most flavorful you will eat, which is why you'll see so many different preparations of them down here. What they lack in flavor, though, they make up in being rather plump, perfect for grilling. Royal House tops them with Parmesan cheese and butter (of course) and serves them at their sizzling best. 

For lunch I kept the oyster thing going with a New Orleans po'boy take on a classic: a BLT-Oyster, which was fried Gulf oysters, Applewood-smoked bacon, tomato slices, and lettuce on the obligatory French bread, dressed with a Chipotle mayonnaise. Laurie had linguine tossed with spinach and mushrooms in a scampi sauce and topped with fried oysters. By the way, the Gulf oysters are perfect for frying, too. After that meal there would be no need for dessert.

After lunch, we headed down Royal Street toward the French Market and the studios of WWOZ, the greatest radio station in the nation. Royal Street is a pedestrian mall during the day, and by now you probably know that musicians can be found on virtually every block, along with poets, artists, magicians, and, er, what-not. Along with the eclectic antique shops and art galleries, it's a great scene. Today that scene provided a special treat, as we encountered the great Doreen Ketchens and her band Doreen's Jazz New Orleans performing in front of Rouse's Market at the corner of Royal and St. Peter Streets. 

Doreen Ketchens is probably the best and best known of the New Orleans street musicians and is further distinguished by being one of the first and still few female bandleaders in New Orleans. Beyond Royal Street, where she performs regularly with Jazz New Orleans, she has performed across the United States and around the world, a cultural ambassador for New Orleans and its traditional music. She also finds time to be a music educator.

Ketchens grew up in the Tremé. She studied clarinet in elementary school, beginning as a fifth-grader at Joseph Craig Elementary. To get out of a pop quiz, she responded to an announcement asking interested students to come and sign up for the band. Her band director, Donald Richardson, stayed on her to keep practicing. That, plus the fact that there was a boy that she was trying to impress, enabled her talent to emerge. She played for John F. Kennedy High School in New Orleans (torn down after the 2005 Federal flood), then auditioned and was accepted to the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts (NOCCA), where she studied clarinet with Stanley Weinstein.

She went on to Delgado Community College, Loyola University of New Orleans, Southern University at New Orleans, and, through scholarships, including one from the New York Philharmonic, the University of Hartford's Hartt School in Connecticut, where she studied under Henry Larsen and interned with the Hartford Symphony. She worked her way through college as a chef, and met her husband, Lawrence Ketchens at Loyola. She found her passion for jazz with Lawrence, who is also arranger and sousaphonist for Doreen's Jazz New Orleans.

Once out of college, she ran a plate-lunch restaurant called "Doreen's Sweets" in New Orleans. But when she and Lawrence would pass the musicians playing in the streets, she would tell him that she believed that they could make money doing that. So, in 1987, the couple became street musicians. She first performed in Jackson Square as part of the Jackson Square All-Stars, the group that still plays in front of the Cabildo there. Doreen's Jazz New Orleans evolved from this band. At first, they struggled with the chauvinism of the traditional jazz community in the city, but eventually they found a winning formula playing and entertaining crowds on the street and at festivals and selling CD's and videos on the Internet.

In Doreen's words: "My style developed through playing around lots of brass horns and trying to be heard. I think that's where the volume comes from. The power and emotion is a mixture of appreciation and anger. Thankful to God for the talent, wonderful family, friends, fans, and a venue to express myself musically and earn a decent living. The anger is from the unfair treatment I get from the establishment, people with abilities to help you but who try to hide you instead. New Orleans is full of crabs in a barrel. It's hard enough for a woman who's not a pianist or vocalist to break into jazz. It's even harder to call yourself a band leader and get help or respect. I have gained respect through my playing. After a while, they can't look over you because everyone else is looking at you and asking for you! One thing's for sure... I didn't expect this much and I'm having a ball!"

Here's the scene that we came upon on Royal Street today, and here is Doreen in the same location doing a killer version of House of the Rising Sun. That's Lawrence on the sousaphone and their daughter Dorian playing drums. For one more, here is the obligatory take on The Saints ... done right!

We could have stayed quite a bit longer, I'm sure, but we did have to get to the radio station to pick up our Brass Passes. WWOZ, the local listener-supported radio station that I stream all the time in my car and in the office and a lot at home by way of (and you should, too), sells the Brass Pass as a fundraiser. It gives you admission to all seven days of Jazz Fest, andd the extra money you pay goes to support the radio station as opposed to putting money into TicketMaster's pockets. 

The Brass Pass also gets you into the WWOZ Hospitality Tent at Jazz Fest. The tent features free fresh fruit, iced coffee, and clean portable toilets. Also, should you want to leave the Fest for awhile, the Brass Pass grants you readmission, which a ticket does not. And the Brass Pass enables you to skip a lot of the line at the entrance to Jazz Fest.

Picking up the pass along with a bunch of other people in the cramped second-floor lobby at the studio was as easy as it was last year. As we headed back toward Canal Street, we stopped by a new old favorite, that is, Cafe Envie in its new, second location on Decatur Street, sort of across from the House of Blues, for iced coffees and a snack. 

Once back at Canal Street, it was time for more errands. We stopped at the Sheraton New Orleans to pick up our shuttle bus tickets for the seven days of Jazz Fest. (The Sheraton is a major sponsor of Jazz Fest, and they use an empty storefront in their building at the corner of Canal and Camp Streets to sell Jazz Fest and shuttle tickets.) There may be less expensive options for getting to the Fair Grounds, but as far as we are concerned, none are as convenient and reliable as the Gray Line's Jazz Fest Express

I7uzKkNrQfGqRt4ARlSMpw thumb 8aadImage result for cvs "canal street" "new orleans"

Then we walked a few blocks up Canal Street to the CVS for drug-store type provisions and then back down to the "Everything Shoppe" (check this out to find out if they do) in the Sanlin Building, otherwise known as the watchband building, to procure some food and drink type provisions for the room. Then it was back to said room to rest for an hour or so before heading back out.

Jazz in Park Poster 1

Our evening journey took us back across Canal Street into the French Quarter on a beautiful Gulf Coast evening, our destination was the now-traditional Thursday evening Jazz in the Park concert at Armstrong Park, which is sponsored by People United for Armstrong Park. Their goal is continued revitalization of the park, located just across Rampart Street, which separates the French Quarter from the Tremé neighborhood. Eventually, they hope to restore the Municipal Auditorium  located in the park. This beautiful building was badly damaged in the 2005 Frederal Flood following Hurricane Katrina and has languished ever since. The project appears to be getting more difficult as the years go by. The park is also home to the Mahalia Jackson Theater and several buildings associated with the New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park, including one that was the WWOZ studio in its early days, and the site of Congo Square, where it could be said that this whole thing got its start.

As you must know by now, Jazz in the Park is where we go to get our first on-stage music of the trip. It features two local music acts. Food and craft vendors are there, as well, and if you get there early enough (which today we did not), a brass band leads a second line from the stage at the back of the Municipal Auditorium out to Rampart Street and then around and about the park, ending at the statue of Louis Armstrong. It's all free (although you should throw a few dollars into a barrel on your way in), the crowd is mostly locals and always in a great mood, and it's just a fantastic way to get back into the Jazz Fest groove.

First up on the stage were Kermit Ruffins and the Barbecue Swingers, by now well known to all of us, right? This was the sixth year in a row that we've seen these guys, and that's as many years as we've been coming down here. On Day 5 in 2012, it was at Jazz Fest, on Day 3 in 2013 it was at the Rock 'n' Bowl, on Day 1 in 2014 and 2016 it was at Jazz in the Park, and in 2015 on Day 8 it was at the House of Blues for Kermit's Big Easy Trumpet Battle Royale with a bunch of other great New Orleans trumpet players. 

PXptOC6SSryxOgSXwUnr1g thumb 8ac3N7IgbQJmSVudazGtDi8E7w thumb 8acb

Kermit is approaching the status of a New Orleans institution, and the band (Kevin Morris on bass, Derrick Freeman on drums, and Yoshitaka "Z2" Tsuji on the electric piano) is incredibly good at keeping the vibe going behind him. Trombonist Haruka Kikuchi and vocalist Nayo Jones were there as well. Kermit's show is as much a revue as a concert these days. When he is at center stage, he's a tremendous singer and trumpet player, uniquely New Orleans. When he's not at the center of the stage, you can usually see him standing in the back, bottle of beer in hand, clowning around. 

eUX1r%hVRsarW9SHTyy5jw thumb 8ac7

It seems like Kermit is at the Jazz in the Park Concert a lot the day before Jazz Fest begins, this being the third time in the five concerts we've (or last year I've) been at. But that's fine by us. I have said this before: listening to Kermit Ruffins in Armstrong Park on the first night is just a great way to start the New Orleans and Jazz Fest trip. Here's my video of Kermit and the gang, and from the French Quarter Festival this year here are: When It's Sleepy Time Down SouthOn the Sunny Side of the Street, When My Dreamboat Comes Home, and The Glory of Love. You do remember that getting through this blog is going to take some time, right?


After Kermit, the awesome Glen David Andrews and his band took the stage. We've seen Andrews a couple of times before, too, on Day 1 in 2013 here at Armstrong Park and then in 2014 on Day 11 at Jazz Fest. I'm having a difficult time imagining how we've missed him the last two years. Andrews is a force of nature on stage. His music is a hard-driving blend of funk, rock, gospel, and soul. His show is mostly his original songs from the astounding album "Redemption," which chronicles his journey from the depths of addiction and domestic violence charges to the present, where he can say, "My life is good. I'm sober and I'm happy."


GDA is a cousin to Troy Andrews (Trombone Shorty), James Andrews, and the late Travis  Hill (Trumpet Black), and his great uncle was Jessie Hill (best remembered for the classic song "Ooh Poo Pah Doo"), so it's no surprise that as he grew up in the Tremé he was playing music. He started in second-line parades as a child, at first playing bass drum. At 12, he switched to trombone. Rather than studying formally, he absorbed musical skills from neighbors such as Clarence "Frogman" Henry, Harry Nance, Harold DeJean, and other local heroes -- "the cream of the crop," Andrews says. Soon he was playing for money alongside Tuba Fats in Jackson Square (GDA isn't in this video, but Doreen Ketchens is), and that led to gigs with such brass bands as the Dirty Dozen, Rebirth, and the Lil' Rascals.

"You had a lot of musicians that lived in the neighborhood and we'd see them play," Andrews elaborated. "You had my cousins James and Troy out there and there was always something going on. The who's who of New Orleans musicians lived there. I would run into Ernie K-Doe on the street all the time. We used to see Uncle Lionel (Batiste) parading around with his kazoo band, always clownin' around. James and Troy always had music in their house. We grew up with music." The picture on the right shows Glen David, James, and Try Andrews together in their old neighborhood.


So, aside from being a great musician, GDA "has absorbed a fading tradition," says Ben Jaffe, who runs Preservation Hall, where Andrews has played regularly. "He's a link for his generation to something important. But he also has a rare enthusiasm and energy that makes it all special and exciting for even casual listeners." Though most contemporary brass bands and their musicians have embraced a funkier and more pop-oriented sound, like Rebirth and the Sould Rebels in particular, a shift that began some 30 years ago, Andrews, when not doing his own tunes, sticks mostly to the old hymns, spirituals, and trad-jazz tunes. In fact, he has released a live gospel recording, "Walking Through Heaven's Gate," that goes far beyond what you would expect of gospel music. It is a fabulous listen, and not just because it contains a rollicking rendition of one of my favorite gospel tunes, Jesus on the Main Line.  

JCv9LjxKTIuoyQxwhxwSBg thumb 8aee

Also in a gospel mode, one of the highlights of "Redemption" is a soulful cover of Mahalia Jackson's famous gospel rendition of Didn't It Rain. He samples Jackson before he seemlessly transitions into the cover, and speaks as if he brought her to the studio to record with him.

"I was able to go to Providence Cemetery, pick up an old family friend named Mahalia Jackson," Andrews says. He says the song "is a reflection of anybody's life who's been through hard times when the rain comes down and the storm goes away and the sun is shining again. And that's what 'Redemption' is all about. It's about having that second chance in life."

The best part of the concert tonight was his song Knock Wit' Me, Rock Wit' Me, which went on for a very long time and saw Andrews and some of his band roaming through the crowd. By this point it was almost nightfall and the whole scene was a bit otherworldly. The song has become a local brass band anthem, with its call-and-response refrain "Gimme a dime ... I only got eight." The song describes the events that went down during a day in the life of Tremé. And in a chilling moment, it references Glen’s cousin Darnell Andrews, who was murdered: Who that shot D-Boy, y’all? ... Gotta get him, gotta get him!

"Darnell was a really talented musician," said Andrews, "but it was unfortunately the same story that's repeated every day in the streets of New Orleans. You can do something productive with your life or you can get caught up in the streets and become a victim of it, which is pretty much what happened to him. Several musicians had to die before I wrote it. It's a rallying cry, 'Let's get together and do what we got to do.' But the whole song is a true story. All the new songs are true stories." 

GDA says that you can get a second chance, but you need to use it to make something of yourself. After the debut of "Redemption," people began to want to play and record with him. "More people want to help you than hurt you," he says. "I'm just trying to make it through today and take tomorrow the same way when it comes. If I live another day to tell the story, that's a damn good day. That's the only thing that matters."

I guess I bring that up on this first day of this trip because as much as we enjoy the music and food from an entertainment standpoint, there is also a human aspect to this trip in what is culturally a very complicated city that we have become emotionally attached to as well. It helps to know where these artists come from and what drives their songs and performances. 

S%n2bVkZRJ6ZObjy0u1x4A thumb 8ae5

Other songs that were highlights were You Don't Know (performed here with Galactic) and Bad by Myself. The band had two of GDA's cousins, Rayvon "Peanut" Andrews on the second trombone and Glen Finister Andrews on drums. Also John Notto on guitar, Ron Williams on Bass, and Stefan Moll on keyboards. They kept a great groove going while GDA prowled around the stage, as one writer said, "like an action hero jumping out of the pages of a comic book." Except with a trombone. What a great way to start the 11 days of 2017.

Here is my video of Glen David Andews and here is somebody else's, which shows much more of Knock Wit' Me (although I'm not sure he really knew where GDA was most of the time. To be honest, neither did I. It was getting dark! For a bit more, here are 1, 2, and 3 performances from the dba club on Frenchmen Street

The show ended around 8:30. Some years we have gone to another venue or a late dinner, but we'd been up a long time and been on the go almost all of it, so we headed back to the Staybridge. We did make a stop at the Pinkberry in front of the Doubletree Hotel on Canal Street for a late desert before calling it a night. Alright, 9 p.m. isn't exactly late, especially in this city, but it was actually 10 p.m. from when we got up, and frankly, we were pooped out.

However, Jazz Festing begins tomorrow, and we ... are ... ready!!!

© Jeff Mangold 2012