Day 3 / Saturday, April 29

Onward to Day 2 of the 2017 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 ... 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. We were completely successful once again. 

Like yesterday, no rain gear was required. A bit more sun than clouds when compared to yesterday, but overall you'd have to call it overcast to cloudy once again. It was already 80 degrees when we left for the Sheraton and the shuttles, but it didn't get a whole lot warmer, topping out at 84 degrees. It was fairly humid, with the heat index topping out around 90 degrees later this afternoon. However, the wind, again off the Gulf of Mexico, was stronger than yesterday, persistently around 20 miles per hour, gusting to 30. Just the kind of weather we like down here!

The shuttles were again plentiful and efficient today, and we got on a bus with one of our favorite hosts, a real character who apparently lives life to its fullest down here! Before we knew it we were at the Fair Grounds and quickly through the line and on the grounds, ready for brunch.

Laurie went straight to the Congo Square food area, while I veered off at the last minute to the end of Food Area II, where Creole's stuffed breads and Crawfish Monica are located. I opted for the stuffed bread, an absolutely perfect food. Plus it's served up by just about the nicest lady you can imagine, Mrs. Merline Herbert of the Creole Lunch House in Lafayette. She always has a friendly greeting waiting for you, and always tells you how to get the hot sauce into the delicious roll stuffed with beef, sausage, cheese, peppers, and lots of seasonings. (You poke a hole into the bread and squeeze in the hot sauce.) You can read all about Ms. Merline and stuffed bread on Day 8 in 2015. I also had it on Day 8 and Day 11 last year. Honestly, if there wasn't another food at Jazz Fest, I wouldn't be disappointed (well, not really).

Laurie got grilled tofu with veggies, couscous, and spicy peanut sauce from the Gambian Foods booth. Our experience with these folks began on Day 3 all the way back in 2012, when we had their pitas (steak for me, veggie for Laurie). Laurie had the veggie again on Day 10 in 2013. There, you can read the fascinating story of Tejan Jallow and Charlie Mendy of Gambian Foods. She had her first bowl of tofu grilled with hot pepper flakes and yellow squash served over couscous and warm cabbage and topped with orange peanut sauce on Day 3 in 2014 and continued to enjoy it on Day 8 and Day 11 in 2015 and Day 9 last year. The mild heat on the tofu and in the peanut sauce is just enough to give the dish great flavor on a hot day. 

By the way, here are today's cubes so you can follow us around the Fair Grounds. 

Like yesterday, we ate our brunch at the Jazz and Heritage stage as we began to make our way back to the other end of the Fair Grounds. On stage were the Comanche Hunters tribe of Mardi Gras Indians. Led by Big Chief Keith "Ke-Ke" Gibson (on the right), this group is from the Ninth Ward of New Orleans, and had some of the most elaborate and colorful suits I’ve ever seen. That's a couple of them in the picture at the top of today's report. Starting out the day with traditional sounds is always good at Jazz Fest, in my opinion. Whether it's Mardi Gras Indians, brass bands, Cajun, or zydeco, it's a good way to get going and to remind yourself of how everything that follows got its start. Here's a few minutes of the Comanche Hunters performance at Jazz Fest in 2014.

We continued on to the Fais Do Do stage, where still more traditional sounds could be heard from Ray Abshire and his Cajun band. Abshire is one of Cajun music's purest accordionists and vocalists and a living link to its very roots. He grew up in what is now referred to as the "Dance Hall Era" in southern Louisiana and was surrounded by the pioneers of Cajun music. He performed with most of the old masters whose recordings are presented as history to students today. From the late 1960's through the mid-1970's, Abshire played accordion for the legendary Balfa Brothers Band (listen here) and with them helped to establish Cajun music nationally.

"I've been very fortunate," he says. "I've been able to swim the same river twice." His 50-year music career is divided into two distinct phases, separated by an 18-year hiatus. The first chapter was with such standard bearers as his cousin Nathan Abshire, who wrote and recorded the classic Pine Grove Blues, and the Balfa Brothers. His re-emergence includes like-minded practitioners in fiddlers Courtney Granger (see Pine Leaf Boys yesterday), Kevin Wimmer (here with Granger) (see later today), and the Michot Brothers.

In the 1960's in Vermilion Parish, southwest of Lafayette, where Abshire lived and acquired his first accordion, Cajun music was a much different game. "Before, you had to be in a loop, born into a musical family," he says. There were no Cajun restaurants that featured nightly music and dance, nor instructional camps where yearlings could learn their craft. Only a few radio stations in the area even broadcast Cajun music. Luckily, his family had musical roots, most notably with Nathan, who lived close by.

Though he never studied formally with his legendary cousin, Abshire did learn by watching and listening. "He said a couple of things that took me many years to realize how wise it was. 'You know, Tee Ray, you just have to remember where the sound comes from.' What he was telling me was that you get to a point where you know that if your fingers are in this position and if you are pulling, it's going to be this sound. It's going to be a D or an A or an E," he says, explaining about the process of learning by ear.

One summer in the mid-1960's, Ray lived with Nathan in Basille, occasionally sitting in at gigs. At the end of the summer, Nathan gave Ray his Monarch accordion, the very squeezebox he used when recording Pine Grove Blues. "He said, 'Well, it looks like you're going to make it,'" Ray recalled.

Through Nathan, Ray got to know the Balfa Brothers -- Dewey, Rodney, and Will -- and through Dewey, met fiddler Lionel LeLeux (listen here), who offered him a one-night gig that lasted three-and-a-half years.

In 1969, Ray got a call from Dewey Balfa. "'Man, your cousin is having a hard time here,'" Ray recalls Dewey telling him about Nathan's deteriorating health. "'Would you like to join the band?' I said 'Well, I'm playing, but I'm not at your level of playing.' Then, in his typical Dewey fashion, he replied, 'Don't worry about it. We'll teach you.'"

Thus, a fortuitous seven-year partnership began. "Most of my learning was on the bandstand. I would learn by ear and some nights he would introduce me to two or three tunes," Ray said. During his Balfa Brothers tenure, Abshire played at the first Festivals Acadiens et Creoles, held at Blackham Coliseum in 1974. Abshire notes that out of that class, only a few remain, such as accordionist Marc Savoy and fiddler Merlin Fontenot. He played with the Balfas for another year before making the painful decision to leave the group to better balance family life and a grueling job in the oil patch.

Eighteen years later, Abshire was in a good place with work and family but never reconsidered playing on stage until another cousin, fiddler Leo Abshire (on the right) of the Old Tymers Cajun Band, called. "'Ray, can you come help me?'" Abshire recalls him asking. "I ended up playing three-and-a-half years every Thursday night with him, and it was supposed to be that one night." When the news got out, other groups called, one of which was Les Frères Michot, a family band that included future Lost Bayou Ramblers Andre and Louis Michot (see later today).

Looking back, Louis Michot is still astounded at the thought of first hearing Ray. "It's like he knew a whole other repertoire that had been lost," Louis said. "He wasn't out there chasing his style and being influenced by others. It was like a style that had been well preserved in an old house somewhere and someone went and dusted off this old book."

Despite his accomplishments and rapid re-entry into Cajun music, Ray never pushed music on his sons Brett and Travis. One day Brett finally expressed interest in keeping the torch going. "Man, you don't know how long I've waited for one of you to say this," Ray exclaimed. After a few accordion lessons, Brett inquired about joining his dad's band. Instead of prematurely surrendering the accordion chair, Ray gave him a live tape of Rodney Balfa playing his signature guitar rhythms. "When you can play like this man or come close, you got a job." Six months later, Brett proved he was ready, which ultimately led to Travis learning the acoustic bass.

     

The terrain has changed drastically since the time Ray began playing back in the 1960's. While the historic dance halls are gone, more and more outsiders are attracted to the culture than ever before. Some love it so much that they eventually relocate to Acadiana. Ray feels that it's an honor that so many want to drink from the same well, a testament to how rich and powerful the culture is, something he refers to as "absorb and conquer."

     

"I've traveled a lot. When it comes to the music, the culture and the food, I just haven't found anything yet that I would want to give this up for," Ray says.

Today, Ray, Travis, and Brent were joined by Courtney Granger on fiddle, and Jimmy Breaux, formerly of BeauSoleil and an outstanding accordion player himself (see Day 2 in 2014) on drums. It was a stirring performance like you would have seen in Acadiana decades ago, with all the musicians seated and not a word of English spoken, only Cajun French, both in and between the tunes. Here's the scene at the Fais Do Do stage this morning.

We reluctantly left this wonderful music a few minutes early so that we could catch the last portion of the set by the aforementioned Louis and Andre Michot and their great Cajun rock band the Lost Bayou Ramblers. We have seen this band a number of times, on Day 3 in 2013 (some background there), Day 9 in 2014, and Day 3 in 2015. On Day 8 last year, in the rain, they were joined by their friend Rickie Lee Jones

A performance by this band is always outstanding in the way they take the old Cajun tunes and modernize them -- with an edge no less. Joining Louis (fiddle) and Andre (accordion) Michot are Jonny Campos on guitar, Korey Richey on bass, and Eric Heigle on drums. Here's my video from today, and for some more time in the Lost Bayou, here's a half hour or so from KEXP, a great radio station in Seattle. We'd love to catch these guys in a longer set or two in a club one of these days.

      

Now we headed back toward the other side of the Fair Grounds, our goal being the giant Acura stage, where today's headliners were going to be Maroon 5. On the way we stopped at the WWOZ hospitality tent, which is located in front of the Grandstand near the Gospel Tent. We grabbed some fresh fruit and downed a refreshing café au lait before continuing on.

As we passed the Jazz Tent, we found Dirty Dozen Brass Band trumpet player Gregory Davis, aka Blodie, was doing the annual Blodie's Jazz Jam. 

I caught Blodie's jam last year on Day 3 (more info and video there), and it's always one of the highlights of any Jazz Fest, so we stopped at the back of the tent to listen for awhile before continuing. 

It always seems to be a different lineup with Blodie, but today I could identify Roger Lewis on baritone sax, Julian Addison on the drum kit, Takeshi Shimura on guitar, and Alexey Marti (see yesterday) on percussion. Here'a a brief look at today's performance.

When we arrived at the Acura stage, Marc Broussard was already on. But that's the way we've figured out to maximize the music. Arrive a little late, leave a little early, and just like that you've fit more into a day than you can believe. This was our fifth artist of the day and we're only in the second cube of the day!

The son of acclaimed Boogie Kings guitarist Ted Broussard, singer-songwriter Marc Broussard was destined for a life as a musician. It was no secret going back to when he would belt Johnny B. Goode onstage at age 5 while sitting in with his father's band. He and his father still perform together, and Marc writes songs using his father's 1968 Gibson ES-335.

Marc says, "I've written some of my favorite songs on that guitar. Growing up I dreamed of getting my hands on it. I was totally disallowed to even touch it. So to own it now, to have it in my possession -- it was a gift for my 30th birthday that my dad gave me on stage after he used it to play the opening slot at a show that we did in New Orleans at the House of Blues -- it was totally unexpected that I was going to be getting that guitar. I had no idea. And I definitely cherish it."

Marc's upbringing in Lafayette instilled in him an affinity for R&B alongside the Cajun trappings of southern Louisiana. Drawing vocal and stylistic influence from Otis Redding and Brian McKnight while bearing the preternaturally gruff vocals of John Hiatt and Dr. John, it didn't take long before his unique gift of channeling the spirits of classic R&B, rock, and soul into contemporary terms, not to mention his tremendous voice, became a matter of common knowledge. He was barely 20 when his first recording was released. Since then he has opened for or shared stages with Maroon 5, the Dave Matthews Band, Willie Nelson, O.A.R., and Bonnie Raitt.

Recently, he has detached himself from record labels to release his music independently. He says this gives him the freedom to release the music he wants to release when he wants to release it. "I feel sort of unchained in a lot of ways now to chase down creative ideas that normally would be shunned by a label or would just be different. And labels don't want different. They want the same. They want you to fit into a certain distinct category. I've never really been excited by that creatively. So as far as writing and recording material that I'm truly inspired by, I've never been freer to do so."

Beyond that, Broussard considers philanthropy a big part of his life and says it his duty as an artist to help make a difference. In the summer of 2015, he decided to create a foundation with the goal of using his music to raise money for causes he is passionate about. His album "S.O.S. 2: Save Our Soul: Soul on a Mission" is the first release as part of the project. Half of all its profits will go to the Atlanta-based organization City of Refuge to help those who are struggling with homelessness and poverty with education, training, and job placement.

"It's the kind of thing that I think should be part of every artist's body of work because I think that we in this position find ourselves uniquely positioned to affect change," Broussard said.

His fans have been motivated by the mission. "Especially when it involves a transaction where my fans are getting what they want from me, which is my music, and I can then turn around and use that money that would otherwise go to a record label or somebody else and put it to good use in the community," he continued. He says he plans to do one recording every year and use those sales to help those in poverty.

I had been looking forward to seeing Broussard since I saw him on a live stream from WWOZ in March this year. He's every bit as good as advertised. The music is hard to put a finger on because it combines elements from so many different styles. Bayou Soul, perhaps? Decide for yourself! Here’s my video from today, and here's an entire set from the Festival International de Louisane in Lafayette this year. This was really good music for so early in the day.

Moving on, we continued our lap around the huge Fair Grounds oval, this time stopping at the Congo Square stage to hear the fantastic Corey Henry and his Tremé Funktet. It's hard to believe that we have not seen this band since Day 8 in 2013, where you can read much more about them. But that really isn't our fault because had they been on the Jazz Fest program I'm pretty sure we would have been there. 

We do see Corey Henry a lot, as a member of Galactic and a participant in the brass band conglomeration called the Midnite Disturbers, but this band is funky soul powerhouse, and it was great to be able to see it again.

"We do our own style of New Orleans Tremé funk, that of funk, New Orleans brass band music, a little bit of hip­ hop–inspired music, a little bit of soul and R&B. We try to mix everything and keep it real New Orleans." said Henry. Today, the horns were full and fat, the rhythm section was tight, and the vocals of singer Cole Williams soared. And if that weren't enough, the wailing guitar of the great June Yamagishi added fire. See for yourself in my video. And here are some videos shot from backstage: Tremé LyfeKeep That Dream Alive, Get the Money, and Tell Ya MamaThis band is what modern New Orleans music is all about.

After the Funktet finished, we headed next door to the Fais Do Do stage to catch one of our favorite Cajun bands, Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys. Like Geno Delafose yesterday, this band was at the 2011 Louisiana Swamp Romp at Wolf Trap, the afternoon that started us on our road to six years of Jazz Fest and counting. We are forever in their debt!

Aside from the 2011 Swamp Romp, we've seen Steve and the band at the Swamp Romp in 2013 and at Jazz Fest on Day 4 in 2013Day 8 in 2015, and Day 2 last year, and you can get all the background you need about them on those pages. 

The crowd at the Fais Do Do was large, but we have a couple of go-to spots in such cases (see the Travelin' McCourys yesterday). Today we went to the other one, which is adjacent to the soundboard for the stage. It's up the hill and slightly right of the center of the stage, with a line of sight over most of the crowd. Sometimes there will be a lot of people walking around in front of this spot, but more than likely not, especially when there is a crowd. Today that spot was close to perfect.

The band, with Reilly on accordion and fiddle, Kevin Wimmer on fiddle (when he and Reilly do fiddle duets it is astounding), and Sam Broussard on guitar, put on a great show. The rest of the band are Kevin Dugas on drums, and Brazos Huval on bass guitar. Riley and his band play some great Cajun music, but they shake it up just a bit by adding a zydeco beat. And today, like last year, Eric Adcock from Roddie Romero's band on a B-3 organ and a couple of singers (Melete Terry and Alena Savoy, I think) added a touch of R&B as well.

          

Riley and the band play essentially the same set from year to year. That's not a problem when it's such good stuff. We heard the upbeat Allons Danser, the fiddle duet Crapaud/Frugé, the fun sing along Bon Reve, the plaintive Au Revoir, the swampy, mysterious Pointe Aux Chênes, and the rocking Chatterbox. Toward the end of the show Riley brought out this bunch of ham-it-up kids called Pelican 212, I know not why. They certainly didn't need promoting, and their music was not Cajun at all. So for us it ended things on a wierd note, but most of the crowd loved it. Despite that, it was another fun afternoon at the Fais Do Do stage! Here's my video and here's another one I found from today (it has some of Pelican 212), and here's 45 minutes from downtown Lafayette later this year.

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW thumb 8c04

It was now time for ... more food! Laurie had a repeat, crowder peas and okra with collard greens from the Praline Connection of New Orleans. Despite the sweet-sounding name, the Praline Connection serves up good old-fashioned Cajun-Creole style soul food, both at its stand at Jazz Fest and its extremely popular restaurant on Frenchmen Street in the Marigny section of town. Oh, they sell pralines, too, but it's the food that stands out. Laurie has had something from them (either the crowder peas or butter beans) on Day 9 in 2014 and Day 2 in 2015, and you can read their story there. As for me, I still need to try their grilled chicken livers with pepper jelly and crispy chicken wings.

I, too, had a repeat, the fried gator po'boy with jalapenos and onions from Guil's Gator, run by Sharon and Guilherme Wegner of Gretna, Louisiana. I've had this great sandwich on Day 10 in 2013 and Day 10 in 2014, and last year on Day 2 I had the gator, jalapenos, and onions without the bread. You can read a bit more about the Wegners there. These people know how to prepare gator, and the added ingredients are in perfect proportions so as not to overwhelm it. An awesome dish either with or without bread.

Allow me to digress a bit. Of all the great food we eat in New Orleans, the one thing that draws the most attention is alligator. So let's get down to cases. It does not taste like chicken. It tastes like pork more than anything, but with a bit of a seafood flavor as well. 

Alligators are the largest reptiles in North America, yet once sat on the brink of extinction due to unregulated hunting seasons and a demand for its hide. Conservation and habitat control have swung the pendulum for the alligator, which today number close to two million in Louisiana alone.

Gator 1

Louisiana has been and is still the leader when it comes to research and management of these wild reptiles. The robust alligator leather trade and meat market have enabled the success of the alligator conservation effort. Fees paid by alligator hunters and farmers provide funding to the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to maintain the population. License fees and hide tag fees amount to more than a half million dollars annually, which goes directly toward the conservation and management of the Louisiana alligator population.

While it was once a novelty, alligator meat can now be found on menus statewide. Its mild flavor and firm texture allows for the meat to be used in recipes across all cuisines. The tail and body meat is white to pink in color, while leg meat is slightly redder. Almost all alligator meat is sold boneless. It is high in protein and very low in calories, fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol.

Gator 2

Louisiana's wild alligator season takes place in September, but most alligator meat is produced by alligator farms, with the addition of some from wild alligators harvested under the state's Nuisance Alligator Control Program.

The best gator for consumption is 3 or 4 years old and only 3 or 4 feet in length. These are much easier to process than the larger specimens. Not surprisingly, most of the meat is in the form of filets from the the tail, because the tail makes up most of the gator. The tail meat is the choicest cut, a mild-flavored white meat. Ribs, nuggets, and wings are darker meat with a stronger taste.

Thinking of starting an alligator farm? It's true that it is not totally unlike raising domestic animals for food and hide, but there are some important differences. First of all, alligators are wild and cannot be domesticated (and they bite hard, unlike cows and chickens). Also, alligators are carnivores, eating meat. It takes considerable food to raise an alligator. Plus, alligators just don't herd well!

After we got our food, we once again walked over to the Jazz and Heritage stage, where the New Breed Brass Band were performing. This is one of the younger brass bands, as opposed to the Tremé Brass Band, who were next on my list. That means they are infusing funk, rock, jazz, and hip-hop into a custom-made enhancement of second-line brass band tradition. But even with all those modern influences, they still live and breathe the culture of New Orleans.

"That's what we came up under," says snare-drummer Jenard Andrews, referring to the more established brass bands like Rebirth, the Dirty Dozen, and the Lil' Rascals. "Now we're trying to take that sound and bring in some new stuff and expand it. We bring outside influences like Earth, Wind and Fire and Brass Construction, trying to interpret a different song for every genre, and make it all our own sound. It's a new breed of music that we’ll be bringing to our culture, and we hope to create a new sound for our city in the process."

In addition to Andrews, the other members of the New Breed band are Caleb Windsay, who plays trombone and is the emcee (son of singer Yolanda Windsay and grandson of gospel and jazz vocalist Topsy Chapman). "He's a lot like my dad from the entertainment perspective," Jenard says.

Also, there's Douane Waples on sax, Marc Francis on trombone, Adolf Sorina on bass drum, Desmond Provost on tuba (nephew of guitar and banjo master Carl LeBlanc), Aurélien Barnes on trumpet (son of accordion player and vocalist Bruce "Sunpie" Barnes), and Gregory Warner and John Perkins on trumpet.

While the band was formed in 2013, most of the members have been playing music since they were toddlers and count such New Orleans legends as James Andrews, Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews, Yolanda WindsayTopsy Chapman, Carl Leblanc, and Bruce "Sunpie" Barnes as family members. They honed their childhood experiences playing music with their families and through high school marching bands and concert ensembles.

As far as name recognition and connections in the music world, it doesn't hurt to have an Andrews co-leading the band. Of perhaps greater importance is the music and career guidance provided by the family. Both James and Troy have been influential in Jenard's and the band’s development. Like he did with his brother Troy, James Andrews introduced his son to the music scene. "He took me to a lot of gigs," Jenard said, "So I got exposed to that at an early age."

Troy gave the New Breed access to his studio housed at the Music Shed Studios. One day Troy came to check them out. "We were just like mimicking other bands," Jenard remembers. "Then Troy said, 'You're not really practicing here, you're just jamming in here. You're playing stuff that's not yours. You guys really need to find yourself and push that -- originality is the key.' He gave us some different artists and songs to listen to -- to expand our horizons."

Jenard, who was raised in the very heart of the Tremé neighborhood on St. Philip and North Robertson streets, is the only band member who truly grew up in the second line culture. "They're not your typical second line cats," he says of his bandmates, adding that several studied a variety of genres at the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts (NOCCA) and at Lusher High School. Windsay and others were involved with gospel music and many of the guys also met each other while attending the Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong Summer Jazz Camp.

"All of us are really musically inclined," says Provost, who, like Andrews, studied music while at McDonogh 15 Elementary School, where they were highly influenced by teacher Jerry McGowan. "He started me off playing tuba and I never put it down," Provost says. "It kinda stuck to me."

On the other hand, when Jenard arrived at McDonogh 15, he wanted to play drums. But when he got there McGowan said, 'James is your daddy, Troy is your uncle -- no, you’re going to play horn.' So Jenard started on trombone and while at St. Augustine High School played the mellophone as well as the tenor sax and drums.

"One of the things my uncle Troy told me was to listen to different styles of drummers," says Jenard, who studied African drumming in middle school under the direction of percussionist Luther Gray. "Second line beats are actually like African rhythms so learning those helped me out a lot. I listen to Caribbean drummers, I love Cuban drummers and then there's New Orleans drummers Joe Dyson, James Black, Gerald French, and Herman LeBeaux."

The New Breed also had the enviable opportunity to go on tour to open for Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue for a series of concerts. "Those are always great fun -- most of them are sold-out shows," Jenard says. "It's definitely good to get in front of these different crowds. The energy is amazing and people love New Orleans music."

As always, the brass band experience at the Jazz and Heritage stage is just a lot of fun. Nonstop music, incredible solos, and great interaction between the band and the crowd. Here's my video from this remarkable corner of Jazz Fest, and here are four from the "New Orleans Live" television show: New BeginingsWhatcha Working Fa, Sidewalk Rock, and Mamba Mamba.

Wow, we made it halfway through the day before we split up, interestingly enough, each of us to see another brass band. Laurie headed back over to Congo Square to catch the phenomenal, younger Rebirth Brass Band, while I walked next door to Economy Hall to see the old-school Tremé Brass Band.

We've seen the Rebirth Brass Band a couple of times at Jazz Fest. We saw a full performance on Day 5 in 2012 (read more about them at that report) and a short time with them on Day 4 in 2015. However, we also spent a long, wild evening with them at The Hamilton in DC in December 2012. As much as we like brass bands, it's a bit strange that we haven't seen them more than that at Jazz Fest. It could be that they are always on a big stage leading up to a headliner and the crowd is overwhelming, at least for me. That was certain to be the case today, when Usher with the Roots were to follow Rebirth. However, Laurie didn’t care, so off she went.

Rebirth is revered for being a catalyst in incorporating new sounds into the brass band culture in New Orleans. While the Dirty Dozen brought R&B to brass bands, Rebirth kicked it up a notch when they brought funk and hip-hop into the musical conversation. Considering the band originated in hip-hop's infancy and the genre was still working through its fad phase, the move was as subversive and progressive as classic rock giants dabbling in EDM in today's terms.

But for Phil Frazier, who formed the band along with his brother Keith and Kermit Ruffins, it seems the decision was as simple as just using the music around the band and putting their own spin on it. "We try to incorporate all kinds of genres into our music. When we started, we just played whatever music was available. Since that was what we grew up on, we adapted our music to that," he said.

Rebirth is in its fourth decade and shows no sign of slowing down. Bringing the music to the people is what they do best, and as long as hips need shaking, they will be marching along. "In terms of keeping the tradition alive, Rebirth has just tried to continue what other bands did before us, just simply perform and spread the music. The thing that excites me is the pure joy people get from attending a Rebirth show. We love to see people have a good time and just dance," Frazier said. 

I'm sure Laurie was. To see what Rebirth is all about, here's an entire show from later this year at the Springfield Jazz and Roots Festival in Massachusetts.

We caught some of the Tremé Brass Band in 2014 on Day 3 (read their history there), and today's longer session was definitely in order. As I arrived at Economy Hall, I was happily surprised to see Shamarr Allen wearing the band's uniform and playing his pocket trumpet. Shamarr has more or less joined the band permanently to handle the vocals and emcee duties, and that's a great addition. 

I was even more happily surprised to see Freddie Lonzo of the Preservation Hall family playing trombone.  Lonzo is one of the most highly regarded practitioners of the "tailgate" style of traditional jazz trombone, and he's just a real treat to see in person.

Others in the band today were Benny Jones Sr. (bass drum), John Gray (trumpet), Roger Lewis (baritone sax), Cedric Wiley (tenor sax), Terrance Taplin (trombone), Jon Gross (sousaphone), Arun Lambert (snare drum), Vernon Severin (snare drum), Mari Watanabe (piano), and Seva Venet (banjo).

What's great about Economy Hall is that a performance almost inevitably ends with a second line around the tent, with almost everybody up and dancing and a lot following behind. When the second line passes by and you can feel the instruments as well as see and hear them, there's just nothing better at Jazz Fest. This way especially true today, to see some of my New Orleans favorites in Shamarr, Lonzo, and Lewis passing by, holding the traditions like all New Orleans musicians do regardless of fame. Here’s my video that shows the wonderful scene in Economy Hall today. Here'a another one, with them doing Hello, Good Evening today. For some more, here's a half-hour from the dba club on Frenchmen Street late last year.


After the second line ended, I had some time before I headed off to the day's highlight at the Jazz Tent, so I met Laurie back at the Fais Do Do stage to catch the last part of the set by Sunpie and the Louisiana Sunspots

I saw this Creole-zydeco blues band on Day 10 in 2013. There, you can read all about the fascinating Bruce Barnes, who is also a former pro football player, a National Park Ranger at the Jean Lafitte National Historic Park, leader of the North Side Skull and Bones Gang (one of the oldest existing carnival groups in New Orleans), and member of the Black Men of Labor Social Aid and Pleasure Club. Laurie caught them on her travels on Day 2 in 2015.

Their performance was enlivened about halfway through today when Bruce's son showed up to play trumpet, having just finished his set with the New Breed Brass Band at the Jazz and Heritage stage. 

It’s hard to say whether Sunpie and the Sunspots play blues or zydeco, but whatever it is, it sounds really good. Barnes has a great voice, and true to the genre, the music is nonstop, with the band having a great time while playing it. Here's my video from today, and here are three from the "New Orleans Live" show last year: Bunny Bread, Down in the BottomsMo Gain L'amour Pour Toi.

     

We went on our separate ways again, me to the Jazz Tent while Laurie was going to stay at the Fais Do Do stage to hear Johnnyswim and then go to the Gentilly Stage to see Alabama Shakes.

Johnnyswim is husband-and-wife singer-songwriters Amanda Sudano and Abner Ramirez. The duo formed in 2005 in Nashville. For the record, they began to write songs together before they fell in love. "The more songs we wrote together, the more time we spent alone together, which is really all I was interested in. The more songs were good, the more chance of making out we had," Ramirez said, laughing. "I mean, honestly, this all was just a ploy to have this girl in my life, and so now I have to continue the ruse of playing music. I found that even though I had sung with other people, written with other people, there was a connection -- something about it was good. We got to the point of a song more quickly than with other people that I would write with. It just felt right."

Sudano is the daughter of the late disco and R&B singer Donna Summer, and even spent summers as a backing vocalist on her mother's tours. But that's where the comparisons end. "It's my mom's voice, so in my head, it's the first voice you hear," Sudano says. "You know, I did grow inside of her, so I've heard her voice my whole life. I don't remember not knowing her voice, so I'm sure I do things that sound like her. But I think it's just a very different thing than looking physically like somebody else. I'm just so used to her singing her songs -- and she was a belter, you know. I remember hearing a lot of these opera songs, because she could yodel and do all of this awesome stuff that I could never do. It sets it apart in my ear for me."

Ramirez is much more to the point: "It's fully her as much as her fingerprint is unique to her -- her voice is fully Amanda and fully awesome."

"Quite often when we sing live, the biggest problem is making sure that our monitors are separate, because otherwise I can't tell sometimes who's singing what because our voices are so similar," Sudano says. "Singing together for this long, I guess it's less we melded into singing the same and more where we make room for one another. It's more walking in a straight line together; it's more like a dance where we've learned to kind of blend even just in the inflections of things. I think that's what I hear more than anything."

Sudano and Ramirez spend a lot of time on the road, in the studio and at home, but they say it never becomes too much. For them, it's "all one kind of stream of life."

"I think it's almost the opposite of maybe what people expect to think," Sudano says. "Instead of the longer you're out on the road it gets more claustrophobic, the longer you're out on the road it gets nicer to have [Ramirez] there, because he's the closest thing to home I have. Home is where he is. The farther away I get from being at home, the more I cling to being near him, because he gives me that sense of, 'OK, everything's all right,' and he brings me back to home."

"The greatest asset in our marriage," Ramirez adds, "is that we're on a constant adventure together."

Interesting people. Laurie thoroughly enjoyed their music. Here's three from the Fais Do Do stage today: Don't Let It Get You Down, Annie, Home, and Hummingbird/Villians.

We saw Alabama Shakes and their incredible vocalist Brittney Howard a couple of years ago, on Day 9 in 2014, and you can read about them on that page. We also saw them do a dynamite performance at Farm Aid last year closer to home. Here's a bit of the performance Laurie saw from them today. They, too, were thoroughly enjoyable. If you have not experienced these people live before, here's a full hour from the Hangout Festival in Gulf Shores, Alabama, last year. They are fabulous.

I was at the Jazz Tent to see the great South African pianist Abdullah Ibrahim and his band Ekayah recreate the work of the Jazz Epistles (listen here), South Africa's first important (albeit short lived) bebop band. A participant in the Jazz Epistles, the legendary South African trumpet player Hugh Masakela, was supposed to be there, too, but shortly before Jazz Fest he fell and injured his shoulder and was unable to perform. Taking his place was one of New Orleans' finest trumpeters, Terence Blanchard.

In addition to Ibrahim and Blanchard, the group included Noah Jackson (bass, cello), Will Terrill (drums), Cleave Guyton Jr. (alto saxophone, flute, clarinet, piccolo), Lance Bryant (tenor saxophone), Andrae Murchison (trombone, trumpet), and Marshall McDonald (baritone saxophone).

There are rare instances when a musical message for the times manages to transcend its place, evolving into a message for all time. Such is the case with the Jazz Epistles, the first black South African band to embrace and advance the sounds of modern jazz.

Back in 1959, a collection of that country's most prominent young musicians -- Ibrahim (then known as Dollar Brand), Masekela, trombonist Jonas Gwangwa, alto saxophonist Kippie Moeketsi, bassist Johnny Gertze, and drummer Makaya Ntshoko -- gathered together under the banner of bebop. They patterned their newly formed group after Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers (listen here), but the music they created was an exciting brew that merged the language and mentality of hard bop with South African folk accents. 

It was a band destined for immortality yet doomed by its own design and time. After recording and releasing one single album, with a small print run of 500 LPs, the group was no more. The winds of racial, social, and political injustice scattered the musicians far and wide, putting a swift end to the Jazz Epistles. But the legend of that band simply could not be squelched. The music managed to live on, developing a devoted following that recognized its significance, both for what they created and for what they represented in historical and political terms. Its rich, innovative music brought together mainstream jazz and South African sounds against a backdrop of the turbulent sociopolitical times, inextricably entwined with the struggles and horrors of apartheid -- music and messages not to be forgotten, more than 50 years later.

Today's set was a tribute to the Jazz Epistles but also a career retrospective for Ibrahim. As it began, Ibrahim walked on stage unaccompanied to begin playing alone. This was followed by a shift toward a chamber jazz aesthetic as he was joined by Guyton Jr. (on flute and clarinet) and Jackson (on cello) for a serene and spare couple of songs (here is a full 90 minutes of this trio). It was a beautifully poignant and understated opening section, the layers of which unfolded gently. 

The program fired up when the rest of the band entered to bring the music of the Jazz Epistles to life. As a full complement of horns jumped into Vary-oo-Vum, the set became an out-and-out blowing session. 

Blanchard was a standout in this section, although Ekaya's brass and reeds delivered some mean moments, too, as the band worked through Carol's Drive, Scullery Department, and Dollar's Moods. At times, Ibrahim served as more of a cosmic witness than a full participant, rarely touching the piano keys but bringing a sense of profundity to his occasional gesture. 

That said, the band more than filled the gaps with some fantastic playing. The pieces moved gently and seamlessly one to the other, which allowed for a rich tapestry to be built up. The continuously mellow tones gave plenty of room for soloing but never really accelerated to the kind of up-tempo music one would perhaps expect of South African jazz. However, it did create a very atmospheric soundscape to get lost in. I felt it was akin to a symphonic piece. They ended with Water from an Ancient Well, during which the the horns departed, leaving Ibrahim with Guyton Jr. and Jackson on cello and flute, and then just he alone on solo piano.

It was interesting that there was no interaction with the audience at all. Still, it was a wonderful concert, with glimpses of Ibrahim's brilliance evident throughout. It was one of the best performances I've seen at Jazz Fest, or anywhere else for that matter.

Abdullah Ibrahim was born Adolph Johannes Brand and formerly known as Dollar Brand. Although he had a mixed-race heritage, he was a colored person according to the government of South Africa. His mother played piano in a church, the musical style of which would remain an influence. He learned to play several genres of music during his youth in Cape Town, including marabi, mbaqanga, and American jazz, and became well known in jazz circles in Cape Town and Johannesburg.

After the Jazz Epistles scattered, Ibrahim moved to Europe in 1962. In February 1963, his wife-to-be, Sathima Bea Benjamin (they married in 1965), convinced Duke Ellington, who was on a European tour, to come to hear Ibrahim perform as the Dollar Brand Trio. After the show, Ellington helped set up a recording session with Reprise Records in Paris, which produced "Duke Ellington Presents the Dollar Brand Trio." 

Ibrahim and Benjamin moved to New York in 1965 and that year he played at the Newport Jazz Festival and toured the United States. In 1967, a Rockefeller Foundation grant enabled him to study at the Juilliard School of Music, and he interacted with many progressive musicians, among them Don Cherry, Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, Pharoah Sanders, Cecil Taylor, and Archie Shepp. As the Black Power movement developed in the 1960's and 1970's, it influenced a number of Ibrahim's friends and collaborators, who began to see their music as a form of cultural nationalism. That's what led Ibrahim to incorporate African elements into his jazz.

Ibrahim briefly returned to South Africa in the mid-1970's, having in 1968 converted to Islam (with the resultant change of name from Dollar Brand to Abdullah Ibrahim). There, he recorded "Underground in Africa," a fusion of jazz, rock music, and South African popular music. Ibrahim collaborated with Oswietie, a local band in which Robbie Jansen and Basil Coetzee played saxophone on this recording, and they played a large role in creating its fusion style. 

After the success of "Underground in Africa," Ibrahim asked Coetzee to bring together a supporting band for his next recording. The group Coetzee put together included Jansen and resulted in Mannenberg, a song inspired by the Cape Flats township where many of those forcibly removed from District Six were sent.

The recordings made with Jansen and Coetzee -- sounds that mirrored and spoke of the defiance in the streets and townships of South Africa -- gave impetus to what would be known as "Cape Jazz." Mannenberg came to be considered the unofficial national anthem of South Africa and the theme tune of the anti-apartheid movement. A few months after its release, in June 1976, South African police fired upon protesting children during the Soweto Uprising, leading Ibrahim to publicly express support for the African National Congress, which was still banned at the time.

From 1983 on, Ibrahim has led Ekaya (which translates as "home"), as well as various trios, occasional big bands and other special projects. Since the end of apartheid, he has lived in Cape Town, and now divides his time among a global concert circuit, New York City, and South Africa. In 1999, he founded an academy for South African musicians in Cape Town.

I was absolutely spellbound during this performance. I have long admired Ibrahim's music. My library contains  more than 20 of his recordings, and I count this performance as one of the highlights of my 50 years of live music. I could barely put my camera down, although the resulting video is rough because of distance and the fact that I was paying more attention to the stage than the camera. For some better quality, here is a concert-length video from this year's Heineken Jazzaldia in Spain. 

It's hard to walk out of the Jazz Tent after something like that and get back into a New Orleans party vibe, but I found just the ticket for that at the Jazz and Heritage stage in the form of the Storyville Stompers Brass Band. You can read a bit about this really fun group on Day 11 in 2014. I did spend a few minutes with them in the muck on Day 11 last year as well.

      

There's a lot of talent in this band, including Craig Klein from Bonerama (and all over the place) on trombone and Bruce Brachtman from New Orleans' Finest (see yesterday) on clarinet. Also Steve Burke on tenor sax, Jimmy Marshall on tuba, Larry Talerico on trumpet, Will Smith on trumpet and vocals, and Woody Penouilh on sousaphone. The absolutely unrelenting rhythm section is made up of Ray Lambert and Kerry Brown on snare drums and Anthony Davis and Jerome Cordo on bass drums. 

      

It all adds up to an incredibly good time. The grand marshalls, Jane Harvey Brown (who also sings) and Wesley Schmidt, are a hoot too. At one point Schmidt, resplendent in his blue suit and umbrella, was down dancing with everybody in the crowd. It was awesome. See for yourself: Here's pretty much the whole darn show from Jazz Fest today. What more could you want? For a quicker look (but not much), here's my video, so you can see the show from my perspective.

I took a quick break from the Stompers set to walk around the corner of Food Area I to grab some bread pudding with rum sauce from Linda Green's booth. Chef Linda is also known as the Ya-Ka Mein lady, and a Chopped champion on Food Network, too. I've had Ya-Ka Mein a couple of times, on Day 4 in 2015 (when Laurie also had the vegetarian version) and Day 3 last year, and Laurie's had the bread pudding before, on Day 11 in 2014. You can read about her on those pages. She's a New Orleans original, and she makes great soul food. This bread pudding, rich and with some serious rum flavor, was no exception.

Laurie joined me for the end of the Stompers' set. She had a snack, too, that being a key lime tart from from Legal Perks of New Orleans. You can read a bit about Cecelia Husing and the tart (and strawberry shortcake) she has been serving at Jazz Fest for 30+ years at Day 4 and Day 10 in the 2014 report, Day 9 in the 2015 report, and Day 11 in last year's report.

Then we went over to the Fais Do Do stage to catch the end of the set by Terrance Simien and the Zydeco Experience. This is another band that we've caught a couple of times before, once at Jazz Fest (Day 8 in 2015, where you can read all about them) and then later that same year at one of the summer Saturday evening Concerts on the Town at Reston Town Center. 

Simien and his band do traditional Louisiana tunes and also pop makeovers done zydeco style. They have a great time doing it and really engage the crowd, so it was a perfect way to end the Jazz Fest day. Here's my video, and for a bit more, here's a series of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 from the Sellersville Theater in eastern Pennsylvania in August later this year.

Like yesterday, shuttle buses were plentiful as we left the Fair Grounds, and we were back downtown at the Staybridge relatively quickly. 

We decided to keep it local for dinner tonight, going to our favorite surfer bar in New Orleans, Lucy's, which is just a couple of blocks up Tchoupitoulas Street. We go there a lot. It's a funky, unpretentious place, and the owners did a bit of remodeling since last year so it looks even better than it has in years past. It's always bustling, and we've always found the staff to be really friendly. Our beer tonight was NOLA Brewing Company's 7th Street Wheat Ale, named after the 7th Street Wharf across from the brewery. 

Laurie's dinner was blackened fish tacos, two tacos with blackened local fish with pineapple cabbage slaw and avacado crema, served with rice and black beans, natuarally. I had the catch of the day, amberjack, served over rice and seasonal vegetables. We lingered at Lucy's for awhile, but that was it for the day.  

There is major r#$n in the forecast for tomorrow morning, and it looks like it's inevitable. All we can do is hope that it's over with before Jazz Fest starts.


© Jeff Mangold 2012