Day 11 / Sunday, May 7


Well, here we go, the grand finale, the last day of the Jazz Fest 2017 morning drill: get up ... get ready ... slather on sunblock ... get Brass Passes, shuttle tickets, camera, hats, and phones ... decide if rain gear is going to be needed (heck no!) ... and head down to the lobby to grab some coffee and maybe a bit of food, but only enough to tide us over to get to Jazz Fest, where real good food awaited. Success!

The sky was crystal clear this morning and no rain was in sight. It's days like this that erase the memory of those rainy days and keep you coming back! Officially, the high temperature today was 82. It was 75 when we left the Staybridge for the shuttles at the Sheraton. There was a very light breeze off the Gulf today, and the humidity was again in the mid 40's, so the sun, which shone brightly all day, was very direct and very ... hot. It was a good day to stay hydrated for sure.

As is always the case on the last day, the shuttle bus host left us pretty much alone. I guess they figure we know the drill and would rather just let the fact that it's the last day soak in. It's not easy, believe me. That said, once you get to Jazz Fest and start your day, you tend to forget about it until it's over. Only then does it hit you.

We arrived with plenty of time available before the first music for a leisurely walk around the grounds to get some food. For some reason Jazz Fest wasn't really all that crowded today, despite the weather and a really good lineup. Laurie opted for a Cuban brunch, with black beans and rice with lime and cilantro. Laurie really liked the food served by Congreso Cubano this year. She's going to miss it next year for sure at Jazz Fest, but we will definitely keep an eye out for their pop up around town.

I opted for a Tunisian brunch of lamb tagine, a leg-of-lamb stew flavored with marinated garlic and lemon and other spices, served over basmati rice with a hint of saffron. It's cooked up by Jamila's Tunisian and Mediterranean Bistro of New Orleans. I've had this before, on Day 8 last year, and I had their merguez (Moroccan lamb sausage) sandwich on Day 2 in 2015, where you can read all about Jamila and Moncef Sbaa and their café. This is a place we need to get on the streetcar and visit during the Daze Between one of these years.

Now it was time for music. For the record, here are today's cubes. Laurie went off to the Acura stage to see the Stooges Brass Band. The Stooges fall into the brass band category that combines elements of hip-hop and R&B into the traditional New Orleans music. But these guys do that in a style that is all their own, especially when it comes to percussion. 

We saw the Stooges on Day 2 in 2012 when they were on the Congo Square stage, and we ended our Jazz Fest with them at the Jazz and Heritage stage on Day 11 in 2015 (that's where you can get the background on them, and the story of how I got to spend a couple minutes with them at the Wolf Trap Swamp Romp in 2014). I will never forgive Wolf Trap for discontinuing the Swamp Romp.

I can't find any video of the Stooges Brass Band from today, so you can see what Laurie was seeing, but just before Jazz Fest they appeared at the Kennedy Center’s Millenium Stage, and here's that entire performance. For something a little closer to home (for them), here's a half hour from last year's French Quarter Festival. And because we like them so much, here's another half hour from the Louisiana Music Factory last year. 

As for me, it was off to the Fais Do Do stage once again to start the day with Terry Huval, Reggie Matte, and the rest of the Jambalaya Cajun Band. And of course, no Jambalaya show at Jazz Fest would be complete without the legendary D.L. Menard.

It is not likely that any band other than this one can say it has the same musicians as it had for its first performance at Jazz Fest 25 years ago. And since 1989, it has been rare for them not to be here. With Terry Huval (fiddle and vocals), Reggie Matte (accordion and vocals), Bobby Dumatrait (guitar), Ken David (bass), and Tom David (drums), Jambalaya has distinguished itself as a talented and creative mainstay in Cajun music. Their repertoire encompasses the strictly traditional, modern arrangements of those old songs, and the new themes and melodies of their own recordings.

One of the reasons for their longevity is that they all see their music as an outlet, not a job. As such, it is not often that they travel far away from home, although over their 27 years as a band they have traveled to different parts of the country and once in a great while Canada or Europe. They are content to stay home and play at local festivals and restaurants such as Randol's in Lafayette, where they have been performing on Friday nights since 1987. Plus, they have day jobs. For example, Terry Huval, an engineer by trade, is also Director of Utilities for the city of Lafayette.

As much as the Jambalaya Cajun Band has helped to advance Cajun music, they have a strong connection with the past, as seen in their association with Menard. This goes back to when D.L. and Terry Huval worked together on Menard's recording "Cajun Memories" at Terry's home studio in 1995. Then in 2010, Terry produced Menard's Grammy-nominated "Happy Go Lucky" recording, which was backed by the Jambalaya band along with other South Louisiana artists.

Menard and the Jambalaya band collaborate seamlessly, and it has been a good association for all of the musicians. Lately, when Menard performs, he is joined by his granddaughter, Nelda Menard. In addition, Terry Huval's son Luke and his friend Zach Fusilier (see Goldman Thibodeaux yesterday), join in for a great cross-generational performance, ending as always with a rousing rendition of Menard's Cajun classic, La Porte d'en Arrière (The Back Door).

Menard appeared on stage last year in a wheelchair following a surgery in the weeks before Jazz Fest, but he looked well enough and was his usual jovial self. This year, at 85, he didn't look so good. He was still pretty sharp, but it was apparent that he was not well. You could almost see in the eyes of his friends on stage that they knew it, too.

When the performance ended, Menard thanked the crowd, and quipped, "If the hog don't eat me up, I might be back next year." Here's my video from today's performance at the Fais Do Do stage. To read more about Menard and the Jambalaya Cajun Band and see lots more video, check out Day 11 in 2013, Day 4 in 2014, Day 9 in 2015, and Day 3 last year.

Menard made one more appearance in New Orleans at the Cajun-Zydeco Festival in June. On July 2, his home town of Erath honored him as well as the 55th anniversary of The Back Door. The tribute featured Menard performing with the Jambalaya Cajun Band and for the first time all of the Menard family together: three of his children, Larry and Dick Menard and Rebecca Menard Moreland, and six of his grandchildren: Nelda Menard Pontiff and Brandon, Joshua, Jeremy, Josiah, and Nathan Menard. In addition to the music, D.L. Menard received several special presentations.

As part of the celebration, the Acadian Museum in Erath unveiled a new, expanded exhibit on Menard. Entitled "Revisiting the Life of D.L. Menard -- The Cajun Hank Williams," the exhibit includes many photos and mementos from Menard's career.

In 1962, Menard was working at a gas station one block away from the grounds where the celebration was held. He kept a notebook in his pocket and would write a few lines to The Back Door in between pumping gas and fixing flat tires. Menard and the Louisiana Aces recorded the song in July 1962. It became an instant hit and its popularity has endured. The song is the most played and most recorded Cajun music song of all time, according to Cajun folklorist Dr. Barry Ancelet.

The proclamation read in Erath that day said, "D.L. Menard has spent the past half-century touring the world and sharing his Cajun music and humor. He has become an ambassador of Cajun music and culture. Along the way, he has received many, many awards. Busloads of people drive up to his home to see him, sit in his rocking chairs under an oak tree, and listen to music that has delighted the world."

A little more than three weeks later he was gone. True to form, the one thing that he asked for upon his passing was that nobody sing The Back Door at his funeral. Menard was a man of faith and while he firmly believed that he would be walking into Heaven through the front door, he didn't want to take any chances. Another true Cajun American original, Menard will be greatly missed. I know there will be an empty spot in my Jazz Fest. The place just won't be the same without D.L. Menard's annual appearance.

After these opening affairs, Laurie and I met back at the Jazz and Heritage stage to see a fantastic Mardi Gras Indian funk extravaganza provided by Big Chief Juan Pardo and his band, Jockimo's Groove.

Big Chief Juan, leader of the Golden Comanches, is one of the younger chiefs and, like Bo Dollis Jr. (see yesterday), puts on a wild show full of costumes, great guitar, brass from a couple of trombones, and relentless percussion driving all of it. Large inflatable skulls and shots of steam popping up here and there added to the experience.

We've seen Big Chief Juan here and there over the years, especially with the 101 Runners on Day 9 last year and Day 8 this year. (Isaac Kinchen, who helps with vocals in this band does the same with the 101 Runners.) We've also seen Big Chief Juan with Galactic in 2012, with Glen David Andrews at the Concert in Armstrong Park on Day 1 in 2013, and with Dumpstaphunk on Day 11 last year. Back in 2014 we caught a few minutes of Jockimo's Groove on Day 11, and you can see video of that and some older videos linked from that page. Here's mine of the wild, wild scene at the Jazz and Heritage stage today. This was a whole lot of fun; Big Chief Juan has definitely got it going on!

Now I was off to the Jazz Tent once again. Laurie, who cannot dance in the Jazz Tent, decided to go to the WWOZ Tent for some iced coffee and a break. After that her goal was Congo Square, but she stopped back at the Jazz and Heritage stage to listen to some of the TBC (To Be Continued) Brass Band. This band was formed in 2002 by a group of friends who grew up in the 7th and 9th Wards and wanted to avoid the drugs and violence that befell many of their friends and classmates.

The band started at Carver Senior High School (this links to a good story about the school's most famous graduate, football star Marshall Faulk, returning to see what was left of the school after the Federal flood). Their eventual leader and sousaphone player, Jason Slack, borrowed instruments from Carver's band director. Some of the instruments were taped together. For example, the sousaphone was patched with duct tape to cover a hole in the horn. The band received permission from Carver's principal to play a set on the school grounds. The overwhelmingly positive reaction to that set sent TBC Brass Band on its way.

TBC started with no manager and no guaranteed gigs, so they played on the streets of New Orleans, establishing a presence on the legendary corner of Bourbon and Canal Streets (this gives a great feel for brass on the street) in the French Quarter next to the Foot Locker store. The band quickly became very popular, and crowds of fans would surround them every night, dancing and singing along. We could see and hear this from our hotel on our first night in New Orleans back in 2012. It's a powerful brass band that you can hear from 30 stories below and a block away! We experienced them at street level later in the trip.

In addition, TBC continued the time-honored New Orleans tradition of leading second-line parades at funerals of members of their community.

Asked to explain the band members' support and love for another, Slack says, "We sometimes say, 'We're all we got.' Well, we're all we got."

In early 2005, hip-hop group The Roots learned of TBC. They took an interest in and began to support the band for a time, and even invited them to play with them in concerts. That summer, The Roots were planning to help enhance TBC's visibility and try to guide it to success. The Roots' Questlove Thompson said, "TBC's music was extremely impressive, enough to get us thinking about doing a recording that would take The Roots in a whole different musical direction."

That plan was blown away by Hurricane Katrina and the flood caused by the failure of the Federal levees. The band's homes and instruments were destroyed and its members scattered for shelter throughout the country.

Five years later, the members of TBC finally got back together as a band and picked up where they left off before the flood. Their story was told on film in the documentary “From the Mouthpiece on Back,” which traces their struggle to reunite and continue with their music and their friendship. The film ends with the triumphant reunion of the group at Bourbon and Canal, where their music buoys the spirits of a crowd of enthusiastic residents who remain, amid the devastation of the city. The film is also a powerful illustration of how music programs in schools help build good citizens and nurture skills in leadership as well as music itself. See if it works here.

Here are 1, 2, 3 more videos of TBC at the corner of Bourbon and Canal Streets. In addition, here is a video with some of the TBC Brass Band that we saw at Jazz Fest in 2014 as part of a great group John Fogerty assembled for a rousing version of Proud Mary

Once Laurie made it to the Congo Square stage, it was to see the Wolfman, Walter Washington, and his band the Roadmasters. This is another New Orleans stalwart who we have seen all over the place. We've seen him as a member of the Joe Krown Trio on Day 3 last year, Day 3 in 2015 (the day when Laurie got into the Blues Tent to see them but I couldn't squeeze in, so I listened while sheltering between an ATM and a concession booth in a driving rainstorm), and Day 10 in 2014 (this is where you can find a lot more background on the Wolfman).

In addition, I saw him at the B.B. King tribute last year on Day 11, doing a monster version of Sweet 16. He was part of Marc Stone's Blues Throwdown at the Little Gem Saloon on Day 2 in 2015. And, we saw him at Tipitina’s during the Instruments-a-Comin’ benefit concert on Day 5 in 2013 with the Roadmasters and Papa John Gros. We even caught him locally at Smokehouse Live in Leesburg last summer.

We like the Wolfman a lot. His masterful guitar style combines both rhythm and blues, blues, New Orleans funk, and modern jazz into a way of playing that is uniquely his.  His singing is emotional and heartfelt. You feel like he is performing for you regardless of the size of the crowd. 

The Wolfman cut his teeth with New Orleans R&B greats Lee Dorsey and Irma Thomas, saxophonist David Lastie Sr., and crooner Johnny Adams. He worked a steady Saturday night gig with Adams at Dorothy's Medallion Lounge on Orleans Avenue that started at 3 a.m. He also backed Adams on several recordings before setting his own course with the Roadmasters in 1978.

Wolfman and the Roadmasters have released albums and gigged steadily ever since, but their leader has always considered the Roadmasters a work in progress. "After I left Johnny, it took me almost 25 years to really find the right cats that wanted to play with me and wanted to understand my music," he said. "On top of that, when you find cats that want to do this, you have to give them an initiation of understanding, so they understand what they're getting into. If they don't, at least they have a chance to duck out. I have a strict college."

Early enrollees included drummer Wilbert "Junkyard Dog" Arnold. "He was the first person that really dedicated himself to me," Washington said. "He stayed two blocks from me. He promised, 'If you let me play with you, I will be the drummer that you want.'"

Arnold famously draped his drum kit in red plastic chains. He helped define the Roadmasters, and vice versa, until he passed in 2008. Founding bassist Jack Cruz also fully committed early on. "I went by Jack's house one day, and we sat down and played for a couple hours. He told me, 'If you give me one year, I'll be with you for the rest of my life.' He's been with me for 30 years. We have been through at least five different bands before we got the Roadmasters completed together."

Saxophonist Tom Fitzpatrick showed up one night when Washington, Arnold, and Cruz were playing Uptown at the infamous Benny's Blues Bar and asked to sit in. Fitzpatrick was soon anointed a Roadmaster. (If you liked the video, here's Part 2.)

The current roster also includes drummer Wayne Maureau, keyboardist Steve Detroy, and trumpeter Antonio Gambrell.

Washington says, that being a Roadmaster "is a real celebration of understanding. The cats have been through my college of knowledge of music. The way I explain it to them is, 'That instrument becomes a part of your body and your mind, of your understanding of what you're trying to say. You just can't say it with words -- you've got to say the words through your music.'

"That's a beautiful thing, when you're having a conversation on the bandstand. You pick a subject, and you discuss that subject. You explain what these words mean to you. That's the way a conversation works -- being able to have a connection without stepping on anybody's toes or disrespecting what anybody is trying to say.

"Sometimes, I'll do something unorthodox. I try to test them and see how they're paying attention. That's part of being the Wolfman -- you never know what's up my sleeve." Here's a page with nine videos taken today at Congo Square, and here are Wolfman and the Roadmasters doing a full performance at the 2015 North Sea Jazz Festival in Rotterdam, in the Netherlands. 

Meanwhile, over in the Jazz Tent, I was seeing the first of two outstanding sets of modern jazz. This one was by Khari Allen Lee and the New Creative Collective: Khari Allen Lee (alto and soprano sax), Kyle Roussel (keyboards), David Mooney (guitar), David Phulpus (bass guitar), Brian Richburg (drums), and Marcus Akinlana (percussion and live painting).

Lee is one of the most-in-demand artists in New Orleans. He has performed and recorded with such luminaries as Alvin Batiste, Ellis Marsalis, Edward 'Kidd' Jordan, Aaron Neville, Aretha Franklin, Dr. John, Branford Marsalis, Allen Toussaint, DeeDee Bridgewater, Stevie Wonder, Terence Blanchard, the Tremé Brass Band, Herlin Riley, Astral Project, Shannon Powell, Wes 'Warmdaddy' Anderson, Jason Marsalis, Nicholas Payton, Bill Summers, Jeff 'Tain' Watts, Ravi Coltrane, and Kenny Barron. He is lead saxophonist in the Delfeayo Marsalis Uptown Jazz Orchestra and the the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra directed by Adonis Rose.

As leader, Lee, with the New Creative Collective has released three recordings, all to enthusiastic praise. As an educator, he has served on the faculty of Tulane University, as Director of Music at the International School Moshi in Tanzania at the foot of Mt. Kilimanjaro, and as a clinician nationally and internationally. He currently serves on the faculty at the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts (NOCCA), as an adjunct faculty member at Loyola University and the University of New Orleans, and as woodwind specialist and director of the Grown Folks Lab Band with the Musicollaborative, a community-based music education service organization.

Lee earned his Bachelor's degree in Music Education from Auburn University and attended the Berklee College of Music as a scholarship recipient, graduating with an Artist Diploma in Professional Music. He earned his Master's Degree in Music from the University of New Orleans just a few months before Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005.

The New Creative Collective describes its jazz as post-modern. Their philosophy is to synthesize music, visual art, and spoken word. Their intention is to heal, uplift, and unite by tuning their instruments to A=432 Hertz, in resonance with the heartbeat of the Earth to great soothing, soul-stirring effect.

The A=432 Hertz tuning is said to be an ancient system mathematically consistent with the rhythms, cycles, and ratios of nature, the Earth, and the universe. It is believed that ancient instruments (Egyptian, Greek, Tibetan, and beyond) were tuned to this frequency and that the number is the basis for mathematics used in the construction of a plethora of ancient master works, temples, and sacred places (such as the pyramids at Giza and Teotihuacan).

Lee approaches everything -- life, music, art -- with an understanding of the importance of its spiritual essence. "There have been forces that have pushed music into the realm of commodity to be bought and sold," he says. "Music is a part of living on earth and when we get disconnected from that we lose a source of energy.

"I like to say that I'm as old as this universe and as new as this moment," he says, a philosophical statement that sounds like one his "kindreds," the great jazz musician Sun Ra, might give. 

"I've been around in this body for 36 years now. My initial 'landing' was down in the Black Belt as they call it in Alabama -- in Tuskegee," Lee says of his birthplace, continuing in the philosophical jargon. After his education, he decided, when considering his next place to "land," decided on New Orleans, a place where he enjoyed family roots as his mother's father was from the Crescent City. "It struck me that this was the perfect place," Lee remembers. "Here we can really work with the art of the music." 

The group plays intricate pieces based less around solos than collaborative playing off of one another. There are reflective moments and funky moments, but it all works to provide a cohesive hour of simply outstanding music. Here is my video of this truly great performance. For something more in depth, here is their YouTube video page.


Laurie and I met at the Blues Tent so that she could be indoctrinated into the juke-joint blues harmonica world of one Deak Harp from Clarksdale, Mississippi. I first experienced this guy last year on Day 4, where you can read all about him.

This is just incredible music. Deak plays an electric guitar or a Diddley bow (a one-string cigar-box guitar) with an amplified harmonica, prowling around the stage and returning to a microphone when he sings. He's accompanied only by a drummer, Lee Williams Jr., who is totally in sync with him. It's mind blowing.

If you are ever in Clarksdale, look him up at Deak's Mississippi Saxophones and Blues Emporium. He'll custom make a harmonica (aka Mississippi saxophone) for you!

As the show got under way today, you could tell something was amiss, not that it affected the music one bit. It turns out he cut his thumb while plugging into his amplifier just prior to the show and was dealing with that! He carried on, though, and provided a show every bit as good as last year's. 

Very few if any artists that I've seen over the years at Jazz Fest have received a spontaneous standing ovation in the Blues Tent like Deak got last year. It was well deserved. Check out my video, the only one I could find from this year’s Jazz Fest. But here, because you can't have too much Deak, is a whole YouTube page with eight videos from the Ground Zero Blues Club in Clarksdale.

Laurie left Deak's show a bit early because she wanted to get over to the Acura stage and get a good spot to see Galactic. I stayed to the end, and then headed over there myself. Surprisingly, I found her.

Galactic brought the heat early in their show, as they usually do, with the instrumental Karate, leading into Right On, which marked the first appearance of Erica Falls, who is awesome in her own right but may have been born to sing with Galactic. Also on the stage today adding more to the brass of Ben Ellman and Corey Henry was Shamarr Allen. It's always good to see Shamarr on any stage.

Next came Chasing Rainbows, followed by the fiery Hey Na Na, with Falls delivering the soul-stirring chants from the song title, part of Galactic's reinterpretations of Mardi Gras Indian chants. This tune was one of the most memorable of our first Galactic show at Jazz Fest, back in 2012, with Corey Glover of Living Colour doing the vocal (like here).

After the Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers tune Ashley's Roachclip, with incredible solos from all three horns and drummer Stanton Moore, Shamarr took the microphone to flow on Paid in Full, originally by old-school hip-hop duo Eric B and Rahkim. That set off a high-energy set proving Galactic's power to keep fans guessing and bodies moving. Falls wailed on You Don't Know and Bob Dylan's classic Like a Rolling Stone.

The guitars and keyboards of Robert Mercurio, Jeff Raines, and Rich Vogel plus Moore rocked out on a wailing Shibuya, then Falls came back to literally bring down the house on Does It Really Make a Difference (gotta love that Jam in the Van), Dolla Diva, and Heart of Steel.

As always, this was an incredible hour or so of music. These guys, plus Erica Falls and whoever else happens to be playing with them, elevate funk into the stratosphere. Here's the video that I took from the crowd (it ain't easy), and here are 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 more from today's show. And here is a full concert from the Music Box, part of the Fonda Theater in Hollywood, California earlier this year. You can get a whole lot more info on and video of Galactic at Day 5 in 2012, Day 10 in 2013, Day 4 in 2014, and Day 9 in 2015. They were on during the first weekend last year, when Laurie was still at home, opposite Tab Benoit. It was a tough choice, but I opted for Tab. We also saw them at Tipitina's Instruments-a-Comin' benefit on Day 5 in 2013. Anders Osborne sat in on that set, and it was fantastic. 

We made our way out of the Acura crowd for the final time this year, bound for food.

Laurie got the Greek platter from Mona's Café of New Orleans. This plate has it all: falafel, hummus, tabouli, Greek garden salad, and pita bread. She had this on Day 9 in 2015 and Day 11 last year. Since the third time is a charm, it must be a winner. Mona's has been around for more than 20 yearsserving the freshest, most authentic Middle Eastern fare in the area.

I walked around the corner to Food Area I to get some more duck from Crescent Catering out of Slidell. They do the shrimp and duck pasta I had back on Day 8 (and also on Day 9 in 2015 and Day 8 last year), but this time I had the Cajun duck po’ boy, with hot sauce, of course. I've had this before, too, on Day 3 back in 2013. The shredded duck is moist and flavorful, and plentiful I might add, and the sandwich is "dressed" New Orleans-style and packed into real po' boy bread. It's really good.

Now we headed over to the Fais Do Do stage, to see a band that's been growing on us over the years, Roddie Romero and the Hub City All Stars (the Hub City is Lafayette). We returned to that area at the Fais Do Do stage behind the chairs where you can see over the folks standing down the hill in front of the stage, meaning we had a great view.

We've seen these guys on Day 10 in 2015, where you can read a lot more about them, and also saw Roddie on his own a couple of times in 2014, playing with Jimmy Breaux and then Wayne Toups (Day 2) and Zachary Richard (Day 3).

Roddie, who plays guitar and accordion, and the excellent band -- Eric Adcock on keyboards, Chad Viator on guitar, Chris French on bass, Gary Usie on drums, and Derek Huston on baritone sax -- do roots rock with a Cajun-zydeco flavor that's just irresistible, and the large crowd at the Fais Do Do stage was having a great time.

Here is my video from today, and here's a full half hour recorded last year at the annual Threadhead Patry, which takes place during the Daze Between. For some more, here's a YouTube page from New Orleans Live with a bunch of videos and an interview. 

After this set ended, Laurie was off to the WWOZ hospitality tent one more time and then the Blues Tent, while I had my sights on the Jazz Tent. However, I took the long way to the Jazz Tent -- the really long way, as I took the infield walkway through the Gentilly viewing area so that I could hear a few minutes of Buddy Guy

I didn't really spend enough time there to warrant a full review, because I never really stopped. But it was Buddy Guy after all. The man is 80 years old ... and his smile alone would be enough to draw you in if his blues licks didn't. Here are 1, 2, 3, and 4 more videos of Buddy Guy today.

Continuing around the track, I landed at the Gospel Tent, where by some miracle (hey, it was the Gospel Tent after all) I got a prime standing spot to see some of the gospel music set by Irma Thomas. We have tried several times to see Irma in this venue, but the crowd has been simply overwhelming. This time I landed behind some chairs set up along the edge of the tent, very close to the stage. It was nearly perfect, because the people in those chairs were having nothing to do with people standing in front of them!

Without a doubt, Irma believes in the gospel as expredded in music, and she has no problem explaining that. "I'm an avid church person," she says, "and I grew up in the church. As a young black child in the south especially, all children were given things to do on various Sundays -- either you read a little piece or you sang a little song, you did something in the church as an upfront person. All the kids were given an opportunity to do something, so I was accustomed to being in front of an audience. It became a natural thing for me to be in front of people because I've been doing it practically all my life. I learned to read by going to Sunday school -- they gave us these little cards that had little synopses of scriptures on them with a picture explaining what the scriptures were about.

"The gospel music is a part of me and a part of my life since I was a small child. You never know how something that is just a part of you is going to affect you over the years. For me to escalate into being a gospel singer along with being an R&B singer is just natural.

"People don't understand, gospel music is a way of prayer through music. A lot of folks think it's entertainment but it's not, it is a way for people to express themselves who really don't always get on their knees or get in a corner to pray. Singing gospel music, the words are ways to say what's on your mind to be able to pray through music. 

"Gospel music is our way of saying thank you or getting something off your mind or relieving yourself of whatever situation you may be in and getting a bit down or even a bit happy for. That's what gospel music is for and that's what it does. That's why when people hear gospel music they don't quite understand these strange feelings that they get. Well, that's what gospel music is supposed to do to you, it's supposed to bring out some feeling that you probably never experienced before and make you aware that there's a side of you, there's a part of you that's letting you know you're making that spiritual connection with a being that you may not have been introduced to before and his name is Jesus.

"So this is what gospel music is supposed to do and 95 percent of the time it does just that. But those of us who grew up singing gospel we already know what we need to do and how we need to do it to get those things done. So I rely on gospel music in many ways to present what I know and how I feel to others so they can get on that same ship and sail with me because it's a good feeling. It's a combination of happiness and sadness all rolled into one. It depends on where your mind is at the time you're hearing it and it's a wonderful thing. I love it, I revel in it and if I could've made a living at doing just that I would have but that was not the way my footsteps were ordered. So I do it whenever I can, I just don't mix the two.

"I was taught that you give respect to God's music and to God's house. I don't sing blues music in a religious setting. I noticed in the last few years some of the churches are having musicians or bands come in and perform their music in that church. That's something I will not do and I tell them up front if you want me to come sing in your church I will sing gospel music, I will not sing secular music in your church because I was taught to give respect to that house. And to me doing blues and rock and roll in the house of God is not giving respect to the building."

As you can see, Irma Thomas is not just a great singer, but a very interesting person as well. The above was from an interview, where she is speaking honestly and extemporaneously. Beyond the voice, she has a feel for life and her place in the world that very few peple share. Here is the video I made at the Gospel Tent today, and here is the tune Victory that someone else recorded. To finally see Irma do this concert was a great thrill, well worth the wait, and I hope I get many more opportunities to experience her sing these wonderful songs.

While all this was going on, Laurie was, as near as we can figure, having some fresh fruit in the WWOZ tent. On this last day, on our second year of being able to enjoy this oasis for OZillians, we really have to give some props to the volunteers there. From the people who spend the whole freaking day cutting fruit, to the people who keep the iced coffee and water filled, to the to the people who keep the tables and potties clean, they may not know it, but they are really appreciated. Being able to stop in there for a quick refresher, a recharge of the cell phone, and clean facilities (especially late in the day) is awesome. Plus you get to see the radio braodcast. It's awesome!

After her WWOZ break, Laurie went to the Blues Tent to see Tab Benoit. As I made my way to the Jazz Tent from the Gospel Tent, I stopped off for a few minutes of this set as well. She was in the standing (dancing) zone in the back of the tent (if ahe sits for a minute at Jazz Fest I'd be surprised), while I was at that reliable spot on the side, a bit closer to the stage, in front of the video platform.

Joining Tab were his longstanding partners Corey Duplechin on bass and Terance Higgins on drums. They play everything from Cajun swing to pile-driving blues, and it is always outrageously good. Tab's a no-nonsense guitarist. No swapping guitars, no delays for different tuning. Just play. His solos range from slow cookers to the rollicking. He has the uncanny ability to strike each note crisp and full even when those notes are being struck frenetically or bent into a contortion of other notes. 


Added to that great guitar are vocals that, whether cool and sharp or full-throated and powerful, are presented with grit and emotion. 

Here's the video I took in the few minutes I was at the Blues Tent, here's a full concert from the Funky Biscuit in Florida earlier this year, and here's the Tab page on, where you can indulge yourself for quite some time.  

You can read more about Tab and get links to a lot more music at Day 9 in 2013, Day 11 in 2015, and Day 3 last year. Not only that, Laurie saw his Voice of the Wetlands All Stars band last Thursday, and we both saw bits of this group on Day 3 in 2013 and Day 9 last year. 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 in May 2015, where we actually spent some time talking with him after the show. I guess you could say we are fans.

After not nearly enough Tab, I left the Blues Tent for the last time, because I really wanted to be at the Jazz Tent to see Nicholas Payton and his Afro-Caribbean Mixtape project. It's some of the most interesting and creative music you'll ever hear, and I highly recommend purchasing or streaming Payton's recording of the same name.

Payton's band for this project is percussion heavy ... and brilliant: Joe Dyson Jr. on drums, Braylon Lacy on bass, and Daniel Sadownick on congas, with DJ Lady Fingaz doing turntables and playbacks. Payton said that last year Lady Fingaz was the first DJ to perform in the Jazz Tent, and we certainly can't doubt that!

I saw Payton in that early version of this project last year on Day 9, and I have also seen him with completely different bands on Day 9 in 2013 and on Day 2 in 2015. You can read and hear a lot more from him at those places. He is incredibly talented and also somewhat outspoken, particularly when it comes to matters of the state of jazz and Black American music. Nothing wrong with that, especially given his mastery of the horn and keyboards, sometimes both at the same time. His music today integrates jazz, social commentary, hip-hop, and R&B with the African dialects of Central America and the Caribbean. I can't say enough about it.

Laid back grooves coalesce with insightful quotes from influential thinkers and musicians such as drummer Max Roach in Jazz Is a Four-Letter Word, which the audience is invited to chant throughout. In the cool Afro-Caribbean Mixtape, a throwback to the 1970's, Payton's electronically augmented horn serenades alongside a funky rhythm. Lady Fingaz adds samples and short snippets of recorded commentary on the African diaspora and the meaning of jazz throughout these songs. Another first may have been the presence of two dancers on stage through the set. 

Afro Caribbean rhythms flowed through La Guajira, in which the band played with traditional claves. Then it turned almost to psychedelia in El Guajiro, lifted by Payton's expressive trumpet, Sadownick's complex percussion, and outstanding traps from Dyson. A funky Herbie Hancock Headhunter vibe filled Kimathi. Here, Lady Fingaz worked her magic on turntables. Junie's Boogie was soul music that swings. Othello had a Thelonious Monk like bebop swing. 

All of the diverse types of "jazz" reflected in this performance are intrinsically linked to the Black American music experience that the Afro-Caribbean Mixtape celebrates. It is music you can enjoy on many levels, regardless of what you label it. Whether or not it's jazz is an argument that's essentially wasted breath in my opinion.

"I think a lot of people misinterpret me," Payton says. "I never set out to even try to change the fact that people would use the word, or had any hopes that it would go anywhere. The whole point isn't if it's called jazz or not. The point has always been to recognize and acknowledge who created the music.

"It doesn't say who can play or listen. It's not drawing a line in the sand. It's just about acknowledging the roots of the music, because that's the most important part."

The Afro-Caribbean Mixtape recognizes these roots and then some. It celebrates the majesty of the Black American musical tradition -- past, present and future. And it is just incredible. Here is my video, and here are Junie's Boogie, Kimathi, and El Guajiro from the Jakarta International Java Jazz Festival in Indonesia this year and Jazz Is a Four Letter Word from the Prime Example club in New Orleans.

I reluctantly left the Jazz Tent for the last time this year. I could have stayed for the next set, which would close out Jazz Fest with the great Cuban pianist Chucho Valdés (listen here), but I wanted to be outside with Laurie, who was going to be at the Gentilly stage for reasons that will be obvious. However, I certainly can say that I was thrilled with all the great music I saw on that stage this year, just like last year.

On my way over to the Gentilly stage, though, I made final stops at two more stages. Plus I got one more bite to eat, a BBQ brisket sandwich with coleslaw from Squeal's Smoke Street Catering of New Orleans. This was a new item on the food list in 2015, and I had one on Day 4 that year and Day 10 last year. I always find it better to have the last food for the year at Jazz Fest on the fly; that way I don't get hung up on trying to decide what to have.

Meanwhile, in another corner of Jazz Fest, Laurie was having her last food, too. Her choice was Azteca gelato from La Divinia Gelateria. She's had this treat before, on Day 9 last year and Day 11 in 2015. It's gelato made from dark chocolate, cinnamon, and cayenne. It's rich and spicy. And it's really good. I don't know whether this was planned or impulse. Laurie doesn't disclose her food strategies.

I ate my BBQ at the back of the crowd at the Fais Do Do stage, watching Dawes, an indie folk-rock band out of California. They were new to me, but I'm not as up to speed on the indie folk-rock scene as I should be these days. They've been around since 2009, with members Wylie Gelber, Taylor Goldsmith, Griffin Goldsmith, and Lee Pardini.

For some more Dawes, here is the live video page from their website, and here's a quick video I took during the last few minutes I spent at the Fais Do Do stage this year with Dawes. I will miss this stage. I always do!

On my way to the track to walk around to the Gentilly stage, I paid a final visit to the Jazz and Heritage stage, where Dr. Brice Miller and the Mahogany Brass Band were closing out the Jazz Fest proceedings there. We saw this band way back on Day 2 in 2013, and they led the second-line honoring the late Allen Toussaint that I encountered on Day 3 last year.

The Mahogany Brass Band, while comprised of younger musicians, plays traditional jazz in the swinging style of the old masters as opposed to most of their contemporaries who have followed the changing times and embraced contemporary funk and hip-hop. While they can get down and dirty with the best of them, they have chosen to keep the music that made New Orleans the birthplace of jazz alive. They reinterpret these classics through the big-band style arrangements of Miller.

Miller is a graduate of St. Augustine High School, a private Catholic school in New Orleans. He attended Xavier University of Louisiana, where he earned a Bachelor's degree in Music Education and a Master's degree in Educational Administration and Leadership in 2006. In June 2014, he completed his dissertation, "Feet Don't Fail Me Now: Brass Bands in Post-Katrina New Orleans," fulfilling all the requirements needed to complete his interdisciplinary Ph.D. at the University of Alabama. On December 14, 2014, Brice Miller officially became Dr. Brice A. Miller. 

Here's my video from today. I could have finished the day with this fun band, but like I said Laurie was at the Gentilly stage, and so were the Meters. I mean, the Meters, for crying out loud, the band that literally started all things funky. So I left this stage and the rest of Jazz Fest for the year to head over there and end the year's Fess-tivities with Laurie. We met at the usual location in the back and moved toward the crowd in the front, ending up on the track at a spot with great sound, a sort-of view of the stage, and a great view of the video board.

After 51 years, the Meters -- Art Neville, George Porter Jr., Leo Nocentelli, and Joseph "Zigaboo" Modeliste -- still have the groove. At the end of the day at the Gentilly Stage, Modeliste pondered the band's longevity. "It's been 50 years for the Meters?" he said. "Damn."


Opening with Hand Clapping Song, which led into The World Is a Little Bit Under the Weather, the Meters, along with Ivan Neville on keyboards and a horn section that included Jeff Albert on trombone and Clarence Johnson III and Khris Royal on saxophones, were good, but they really hit their stride on the next song, Hey Pocky A-Way. (Here is a video that has that opening sequence; all of the song links in this section are from today's performance.) That was followed by You've Got Change (You've Got to Reform).

From there on out, the Meters and the huge audience were in for a funky ride, one with extended jams on a variety of songs. Some included guest appearances, such as by one band member's granddaughter (around 3 years old), who sauntered on stage to be serenaded during Just Kissed My Baby. Each of the Meters got solos throughout the show, and Porter looked like he was having the time of his life, at one point joining Art Neville on his piano bench, playfully hanging out.

Neville, the Meters' senior member, moves with difficulty these days. His once-smooth voice has grown increasingly craggy. No matter. He's still Poppa Funk.

The half-century of the Meters included extensive interruptions. The original quartet, after laying down the blueprint for slinky New Orleans funk, disbanded in the late 1970s. Periodic reunions and offshoots came and went amid long periods of inactivity. All the while, the list of who the Meters have musically influenced -- and who have sampled their music -- grew and grew ... and crossed boundaries. 

As the members have aged, they've seemed more willing to reunite for special occasions, especially Jazz Fest. We saw one such reunion on Day 11 in 2015. Any time you get an opportunity to see these four playing together is truly special.

The final 45 minutes of their set Sunday after Just Kissed My Baby included a long Ain't No Use, which opened with a prelude of guitarist Leo Nocentelli's understated strumming. 

Other tunes we heard were People SayThey All Ask'd For YouChug Chug Chuga-Lug, and No More Okey Dokey.

During Fire on the Bayou, Modeliste's drumsticks danced atop the cymbals, and his bass drum kicked with the same power as in the old days. The funk felt as deep as ever, then melted into a tenor saxophone solo by Clarence Johnson III.

They finally put out Fire on the Bayou at 6:59 p.m., one minute before the scheduled closing time. But the band, and those of us in the audience, weren't quite ready for Jazz Fest to end. Porter turned to address the stage manager: "We got time for one more? It’ll be quick."

The original recording of Cissy Strut, the instrumental that the Meters first cooked up as the house band at the Ivanhoe bar on Bourbon Street in the late 1960's, clocked in at about 2 minutes and 30 seconds, Porter said. Live, they'd try to bring it in under five minutes. Nocentelli's sneaky guitar lick clicked in, and they were off, turning back the clock as time ran out on the 2017 Jazz Fest.

And that was that. What an incredible seven days of music. Seriously. Diverse. Unique Legendary. Damn good. And the presence of the Cuban music and culture made it all the better.   

A very quiet bus ride back downtown was followed by a quiet evening in the Staybridge. We both ate so much at Jazz Fest today that we didn't feel the need for dinner, so we went over to Canal Street for a late evening dessert at the Pinkberry, which we enjoyed on their little patio on a lovely 70-degree evening. We have a late afternoon flight tomorrow, so we get some bonus time to spend in New Orleans tomorrow. 


© Jeff Mangold 2012