Day 8 / Thursday, May 4


Thursday is my favorite day at Jazz Fest. A lot of local school and church groups attend and a lot of out-of-towners haven't arrived yet, so the grounds aren't as crowded. There's just a much more relaxed vibe to the place. Unfortunately, Mother Nature was going to have a say on this particular Thursday and did her best to make the vibe a bit less relaxed. Was she successful? Not really, I'm happy to say.

When we got going this morning, we thought the rain was over. Although it had rained a lot overnight, bringing the total added to yesterday's storms to around 3 inches, there hadn't been any precipitation since around 5 a.m. So, based on that and the forecast, our 2017 drill (get up ... get ready ... put on sunblock ... get Brass Passes, shuttle tickets, camera, hats, and phones) included jackets, but did not include rain gear, which we left behind as we headed 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.

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We were prepared for a cloudy and cool, but dry, day. However, just as we were getting ready to leave the Staybridge, it started to rain again. Not a thunderstorm, but a steady rain. We lingered around the lobby for a while, checking the radar and trying to figure out if this was a quick shower or something long term. Finally, Laurie went back up to the suite to get the rain gear. As we walked over to the shuttles at the Sheraton, umbrella up, the rain picked up in intensity, and we ducked into the Sheraton's loading zone to wait that out. This was around 10:30. We were already later than we wanted to be, and the delay necessitated a post-coffee bio break, so into the Sheraton we went. By the time we boarded the shuttle bus, the rain had stopped, but it was almost 11, time for the music to start.

A lot of people apparently delayed their trips to Jazz Fest as well, because our bus was only about a third full when it left. That was a plus, because when we arrived at Jazz Fest, we zipped through all of the security and scanning stations. The Fair Grounds were pretty damp given yesterday's precipitation and this morning's unexpected addition. But after last year's debacle on the second Saturday, a lot of work had been done on the drainage at the Fair Grounds, and that work paid huge dividends today.

The rest of the day was dry, meaning that the rain gear was stashed, but definitely not the jackets. The high temperature this afternoon was only 66 degrees. The humidity got lower as the day progressed, but was still in the mid-60 percent range. The wind once again was the story, though, between 15 and 25 mph all afternoon with gusts of 30 to 40 mph. That made it feel more like 56 degrees. The sky stayed mostly cloudy, but some peeks of sun became more frequent as the afternoon wore on. We were prepared, and we stayed warm and dry all day. Here is a video somebody took with a tour around the Fair Grounds on this chilly day. It's a walk from Food Area I and by the Jazz and Heritage Stage (that's a Cuban band, Papo y Son Mandao, playing) across the race track to the Heritage Square craft vendors and the Blues Tent (Eddie Cotton and the Mississippi Cotton Club are playing there).

So there we were there, standing on the squishy race track after entering from the shuttle bus zone, trying to decide where to go. Check out today's cubes here. While we were deciding, Gal Holiday and her Honky Tonk Revue were on the Gentilly stage, singing Rainy Nights, Sunny Days: "Blue skies are bound to come again ... Yeah, those blues skies will come and turn around these rainy gray days ... Brother, tell your sister and your lover these rainy nights turn into sunny days." The irony in that was pretty funny. Here's that scene.

We've never encountered Gal Holiday and the band before. They are very cool, and the way they play western swing is infectious. They were in the vanguard of NOLA's now-thriving country scene when they formed over a decade ago, and they've remained in a league of their own ever since, combining great songwriting and musicianship with a twinge of punk sensibility.

"The Gal" is Vanessa Niemann, an Appalachian-born singer who has lent her powerful voice and magnetic stage presence to various projects in New Orleans and around the country. Armed with versatility and an ever-growing body of original material, the Honky Tonk Revue is a show that never gets old and delights rowdy dancers and sit-down listeners alike. New Orleans may be most closely associated with jazz and brass, but this band proves that the city celebrates its musical diversity with enthusiasm!

Unfortunately, we didn't linger because we were behind schedule and really needed to eat. Fortunately, we didn't get too far into Food Area I before we found a couple of old favorites right next to each other. Here's a quick look around the that area of Jazz Fest.

I had the Cajun duck and shrimp pasta served by Crescent Catering out of Slidell, Louisiana. I had this on Day 9 in 2015 and Day 8 last year, and I also enjoyed their Cajun duck po' boy on Day 3 in 2013. The pasta (radiatori, I believe) has a brownish sauce, not creamy, almost like an étouffée, and the duck and shrimp are plentiful. Don't forget the hot sauce!

Laurie had the vegetarian red beans and rice from Burks and Douglas. She has had this dish three times before, on Day 8 last year, Day 9 in 2015, and Day 8 in 2014, where you can read about Judy Burks and Morris Douglas, who have been perfecting it for more than 40 years at Jazz Fest. Laurie has also had their blackberry cobbler, on Day 2 in 2013.

As seems to be the usual practice this year, we went over to the Jazz and Heritage stage after getting our food. After all the rain yesterday, overnight, and this morning, it was still pretty wet. Although I will say that now that the rain was over, and with the wind blowing like it was, the Fair Grounds were drying out rather quickly. The key at Jazz and Heritage is to know where the high ground is!

On that stage was a local group called Bamboula 2000 who combine syncopated African rhythms and dance with the sounds of American R&B, rock, funk, and jazz, blurring the lines and showing the connections between the musical styles.

The ensemble, led by percussionist and founder Luther Gray, highlights New Orleans' musical heritage through dance and music. Since its formation in 1994, Bamboula 2000 has given audiences a chance to hear world music and see its ties to New Orleans. For centuries, people of African and Caribbean descent gathered in the city's Congo Square to socialize and engage in music and dance rituals. Bamboula 2000 takes its name from one of these rituals, a drum-driven African love dance. These musical gatherings influenced the development of American genres like jazz. 

Gray has long been involved in the community, working to educate listeners about music history and preserving that history through the Congo Square Preservation Society. Gray led efforts to get the site on the National Register of Historic Places in the early 1990's and has encouraged musical activities to continue there. In addition, Bamboula 2000 reaches thousands of children annually through their Imagination Tour dance and drum workshops.

Other members of the group, probably not all of them, are Cameron Woods, Cheryl Woods, Drena Clay, Eric Hornsby, Jeremy Thomas, Clark Richardson, James Hatchett, Jamilah Peters-Muhammad, Kai Knight, and Torrence Taylor.

Today, we heard percussion-heavy songs that featured reggae beats, rock guitar riffs, funky bass grooves, African conga rhythms, jazzy trumpet solos, and the sound of organs and steel drums. The ensemble's dancers add to the show, their high-energy choreography proving contagious. The Bamboula Queens and King leaped and spun with dynamic motions, arms swinging. The group was joined today by Cuban singer, musician, poet, and multimedia artist David D'Omni who added some distinctive hip-hop style vocals.

Here is my video of Bamboula 2000, and here are another one from this year, one from Jazz Fest in 2015 (the guy with no shirt is a fixture at the Jazz and Heritage Stage), and one from the French Quarter Festival in 2015. This was a great way to get the day started. It was hard not to move to Bamboula 2000's beat, even harder not to get swept up the group's enthusiasm. This was a big help on a chilly day!

After this show ended we split for a bit -– that would be the theme of the day.  

Laurie headed off to the Congo Square stage to see a group called E.L.S., while I went in the opposite direction to the Blues Tent and Economy Hall.

E.L.S. is a band fronted by three women (Erica, Lisa and Elaine, called "Smiley") that have been referred to as a New Orleans version of the Pointer Sisters for their show-stopping style that has just one intent, and that's to make their audiences dance. Their repertoire includes R&B, jazz, rock, classic Motown, and even a bit of country. The ladies of E.L.S. are known for their high energy, tight harmonies, and upbeat style, and combine their singing with choreographed dance and lavish costumes. Check them out here.

I was at the Blues Tent to finally see pianist Henry Gray. Henry's 92 years old, but he can play the piano and belt out the blues like someone half his age. Much of his early career in the 1950's and 1960's was spent in Chicago, where he played and recorded with the likes of Howlin' Wolf, Big Maceo Merriweather, Muddy Waters, Little Walter Jacobs, Elmore James, and Buddy Guy. So it's no surprise that he played a central role in the development of the urban blues style associated with Chicago and wrote some enduring blues songs.

An only child, Gray was born on January 19, 1925, in Kenner, Louisiana. He grew up on a farm in Alsen, near Baton Rouge, where at age 8 he learned to play piano from Miss White, an elderly neighbor who recognized his interest in music.

By the age of 12, when he wasn't in the cotton fields, he was visiting nearby churches and juke joints and attempting to imitate the piano styles he heard inside. While blues playing was not allowed in his parents' home, Henry was encouraged to play blues at Miss White's house. By the time he was 16, he was asked to play at a club near the family home. After he told his father, his father insisted on going with him, and once he saw that Henry made decent money playing blues, he had no ethical or moral problems with his son playing blues piano.

In 1946, after serving in World War II, he joined the rural migration north to Chicago, where he had relatives. He began hanging out in the bustling postwar club scene there, checking out the city's best piano players. One day while he was sitting in at a club, he caught the attention of Big Maceo Merriweather, then a big fish in a small pond of Chicago piano players. Merriweather kindly took Gray under his wing and showed him around the city's blues clubs, and he got to know stars of the scene, including Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf. In 1956 Wolf asked Henry to join his band. 

Gray quickly accepted the offer and stayed on as Wolf's primary piano player until 1968. Gray's style was, and still is, instantly recognizable. Rather than play chords like most of his contemporaries, Gray instead plays a busy cluster of notes on his right hand, overtop of the solid blues or boogie bass that he plays with his left hand. His style shone brightest on Wolf's early 1960's recordings.

Gray also became a session player for other recordings made by Chess Records, and over the years he has recorded with many icons of the blues, including Robert Lockwood Jr. (listen here), Billy Boy Arnold (listen here), Johnny Shines (listen here), Hubert Sumlin (listen here), Lazy Lester (listen here), Otis Rush (listen here), James Cotton (listen here), Little Milton Campbell (listen here), Jimmy Rogers (listen here), Jimmy Reed (listen here), and Koko Taylor (listen here), among others. Wow!

Gray left Wolf's band in 1968, following the death of his father, and returned to Alsen to assist his mother with the family fish market business. Gray worked with the East Baton Rouge Parish Schools as a roofer for the next 15 years.

Although popular groups such as the Rolling Stones were drawing attention to the urban blues styles of Chicago, Gray by this time had chosen to emulate the swamp blues style of his native region and was playing with Slim Harpo (listen here). He has recorded a number of well-received solo albums and has played at almost every Jazz Fest.

Scholar Dave Kunian says, "If you've listened to blues music in the last half-century, you've heard pianist Henry Gray. He recorded and played for everybody and helped create the blueprint for Chicago blues piano and all that it would be."

Gray says, "I started playing with Little Walter, from Marksville, and when he died, I started up with Howlin' Wolf for 14 years. "He died. I went with Muddy Waters. He died. And I was playing with Elmore James when he died. I'm the only one left. I got a chance to play with all the big boys. There were a lot of things I didn't know, but then I learned to play with all of them."

When you hear Henry Gray, you are hearing 12-bar blues at its finest, sung and played by a man whose life story is contained within the emotion of every great note. His band, the Cats, are tight, and the music is irresistibly good. It's a sound that can't be beat. It's the blues, a sound that is perfectly at home anywhere, but especially Jazz Fest. It was really cool. Here's my video, and here's a nice take on Sweet Home Chicago and one more from the same venue, the Lionel Hampton Jazz Club in Paris in 2003.

Over at Economy Hall, I caught the last few minutes of the set by the old-school Paulin Brothers Brass Band. The Paulin name is synonymous with traditional jazz in New Orleans, and the band today is made up of the sons of the late Ernest "Doc" Paulin, who was one of the last surviving pioneers of the traditional New Orleans sound. Doc Paulin was actually there to witness the development of jazz from its beginning.

Doc Paulin grew up in Wallace, Louisiana, in a Creole-French speaking family, most of whom were musicians. Doc's father was an accordionist, but Paulin was introduced to jazz music by his uncle, trombonist Edgar Peters, who gave him his first coronet and brought him to gigs in New Orleans. Paulin moved to New Orleans in 1928 and organized his own band, the Doc Paulin Dixieland Jazz Band. 

Paulin's band was a beloved fixture in the city for seven decades, playing Preservation Hall, regular gigs at the Corner Club, and leading joyful parades throughout the city's wards. For some 70 years, Doc performed New Orleans jazz with vibrant energy, style, and musicianship.

The Paulin brothers saw their father's uncompromising zeal for the traditional way of doing things. When getting ready for a gig, Doc would look you over from head to toe, making sure your shoes were black with a high shine, your pants and solid white shirt were clean and pressed, and to complete the inspection, you had to have a solid black tie with a clean band cap. His values about being a musician obviously included professionalism at all times and proficiency on your instrument, but most importantly, to maintain the integrity of the music -- just as the "old-timers" had taught him. When you saw Doc Paulin perform, you saw those values on display whether he was playing in the heart of the ghetto or playing for the President of the United States.

Traditional New Orleans jazz embodies the Creole culture of the city, combining African, European, and Caribbean musical aesthetics into a distinctly American sound. Traditional New Orleans jazz had two birthplaces: one was the club setting, whether that meant an upscale jazz hall, neighborhood joint, or raucous house party; the other was the street parade, whether a second line at a funeral procession or a Social Aid and Pleasure Club outing. Whatever the setting, Paulin and his band came correct in the suits, ties, and white caps of the traditional parade band, approaching the music with a discipline and verve that made them a touchstone of New Orleans jazz.

Doc Paulin was also noted for his mentorship of younger musicians, including greats like Dr. Michael White. "His band was like a school, in a sense, for traditional New Orleans jazz," White recalls, "He embodied the spirit of the New Orleans jazz tradition in his manners and his trumpet playing and leadership." Among those whom he taught were his own sons, who carry on his memory and musical legacy as the Paulin Brothers Brass Band.

To Doc Paulin, being a musician was something to be proud of, and in order to be successful you had to realize that you were not only representing yourself, but the music too. He'd say, "Play that horn, look and behave like a man, and you'll be all right."

Doc Paulin's final appearance at Jazz Fest was in 2004 at age 97. He passed away three years later. His six sons have inherited not just the band, but the tradition as well. When you see them, you see the traditional uniforms and hear the fusion of melody and counter-melody and background riffs, which include two and three-part harmonies. It all flows together with an authentic New Orleans beat, just like it did when Doc got started in the 1920's. They do all the traditional tunes uncommonly well because their musical heritage is deeply rooted in the tradition handed down by one of the best. "I made history because I had so many sons in my band -- especially playing this kind of music," Doc Paulin once said. "That's a wonderful thing."

The Paulin brothers nearly fill out the band's roster, with Philip on trumpet, Dwayne on trombone, Roderick on tenor sax, Rickey on clarinet, and Aaron on bass drum. That's no accident; as Doc Paulin once said, "It's called simple economics -- the way I look at it, you don't want a house full of trumpet players."



Here's the scene in Economy Hall today, and here are recordings of Cheerie-Beerie-Bee, I Found a New Baby, Call Me Shine, Save Your SorrowsMarie, and When You're Smiling.

Laurie and I were going to meet back at the Jazz and Heritage stage. I got there a few minutes before her and enjoyed some Mardi Gras Indian chants from Big Chief Bird and the Young Hunters. Big Chief Bird formed the Young Hunters in 1995 and hail from Uptown Carrollton, the 17th Ward. And that's all there is to know about this group. They rely exclusively on chants and rhythm instruments, so they aren't a funk band by any stretch. Very traditional, yet these aren't old guys by any stretch of the imagination. Check them out here in my video (the wind in the feathers of the suits is really something to see) and for some more, here is their video page on Facebook.

Once we met, we walked over to the Acura stage to join the crowd waiting for today's headliner, the jam band Widespread Panic. While we would each check them out later, at this time we were there to see the great bass player George Porter Jr. and his band the Runnin' Pardners, which is made up of some of NOLA's most seasoned and talented musicians: Brint Anderson (guitar), Michael Lemmler (keyboards), Khris Royal (saxophone), and Terrence Houston (drums).  


We've seen this band locally at the Hamilton in DC in October 2013, and at Jazz Fest on Day 2 in 2013 and Day 11 in 2014. Laurie saw them again on Day 11 in 2015. You can read much more about them there and see lots of music, too. We also have seen all of the members of this band playing with other people here and there around town and at Jazz Fest. 


George Porter Jr. is a New Orleans music giant. He was integral to the funk sound defined by the Meters and his follow-on band the Funky Meters. It is said his DNA can be found in all New Orleans funk. It goes without saying that the Meters have probably had some kind of influence on most modern day funk bands or the bands that inspired them. There are but a few bass players in the New Orleans music scene as accomplished in the genre.

Porter calls the Runnin' Pardners "the ultimate jam band." Together they have become one of New Orleans' most well respected and quintessential bands. They are tight and funky and a treat to watch. As a group, they are so acutely in tune with each other that the audience can't help but be captivated by their stage presence.

It is this personal element of camaraderie that evokes such dedication from his fans. When Porter performs, he makes you feel as though you were invited over to watch him play with his friends. You can't escape the feeling that he loves what he is doing and who he is doing it with, which becomes abundantly clear when he is performing with this band.

Fans of the Meters hear some familiar songs, but played as he and the Pardners feel them today. These guys waste no time laying out the funk and melody with extreme force. Porter is a wizard on the bass, playing with quick fingers and delivering a wide array of smooth sounds. Anderson plays guitar with a slinky, funky groove, and Royal's sax and Lemmler's Hammond B-3 add the perfect twist to Porter's tried but true sound. Drummer Houston's time and feel are wonderful, and he is a hard grooving player.

This music brings out the best in people, and one can't help but move to this ultimate fusion of funk, R&B, and rock. Once you witness Porter's agile, rippling bass it is easy to see why he has reached legendary status.

Today the jam was enhanced by the presence of all three trombones from Bonerama: Mark Mullins, Craig Klein, and Greg Hicks. More brass means more funk, although with this band that's hard to imagine! Here's my video, and here are one, two, and three more that I could found from today's show. Here's a page on the site that has all the Runnin' Pardners you could want ... and you should!

Next up was some food, both repeats. Laurie had the seaweed and cucumber salad from the Ajun Cajun people of New Orleans. Not much to say about this dish. It's marinated thin-sliced cucumbers and seaweed tossed with rice vinegar dressing. Spicy sambal sauce offered among the self-serve condiments is the finale, bringing chile-fired heat. She had this on Day 4 in 2015 and Day 8 last year as well.

I had the soft-shell crab po' boy from Galley Seafood. The question for this would be, when haven't I had it? As I said last year, cross-referencing could take up an entire paragraph.

It's a fantastic bite of food that has maintained a consistent excellence throughout our years at Jazz Fest, and it's one thing that we both have enjoyed a lot. It's not a complicated sandwich, just a perfectly fried soft shell crab and pickles on a tasty roll. Hot sauce kicks it up. I believe I probably will have another.

While we were eating near the picnic tables at Food Area II, which is near the Cuban pavilion, we got swept up in a conga parade featuring the Cuban group Conga Los Hoyos. Their costumes, instruments, and percussion were awesome. This group got its start in the barrios of Santiago in 1915 and has been providing powerful rhythms during carnival season ever since. Here's the video that I took at the spur of the moment.


We went our separate ways once again, Laurie back to the Acura stage and me back to Economy Hall and then the Jazz Tent. She was going to see Tab Benoit's Voice of the Wetlands All-Stars, while I would be seeing Preservation Hall's Charlie Gabriel and then jazz legend Lee Konitz.

We have seen bits of performances by the Wetlands project on Day 9 in 2015 and Day 3 in 2013. Tab Benoit is passionate about the systematic environmental destruction of his beloved Louisiana wetlands. He has taken on the preservation of these wetlands because to him the land is a special place that is being destroyed by big oil and developers. He knows first-hand. He grew up in the South Louisiana oil patch, got his pilot's license at age 17, and saw the changes taking place as he flew pipeline patrols for oil companies while playing his music in the joints around Houma at night.  

Since 2004, the mission of Voice of the Wetlands has been to make the world aware of the importance of South Louisiana wetlands. The Voice of the Wetlands All-Stars help to create that awareness by touring the country acting as wetlands ambassadors.


The primary members of the All-Stars are Tab Benoit, Cyril Neville, Corey Duplechin, Johnny Vidacovich, Big Chief Monk Boudreaux, Johnny Sansone, and Waylon Thibodeaux. However, you never really know who is going to be in the group at any given time. Dr. John, Anders Osborne, Michael Doucet, and George Porter Jr., among others, appear with them off and on. Osborne and Porter were there today, Cyril Neville was not.

If you have an interest in environmental issues, check out this great cause. It's rewarding to support something like this that comes from the grass roots, a result of one person's passion. Here is an entire YouTube page full of Voice of the Wetlands tunes from this year's show at Jazz Fest.


I've enjoyed Charlie Gabriel as a member of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band every time we have seen them at Jazz Fest or at Preservation Hall itself, going back to 2012. One of the goals of Preservation Hall is just as its name says: preserving the music. At 84, Charlie has done that all his life, and he's still going strong. With the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, he is front and center on clarinet or sax.

Charlie's musical heritage can be traced back as far back as the 1850's. He is the great-grandson of New Orleans bass player Narcesse Gabriel, grandson of New Orleans cornet player Martin Joseph, and son of New Orleans drummer and clarinetist Martin Manuel Gabriel. The extensive list of musicians with whom he's played includes well-known Preservation Hall alumni Kid Howard, Kid Sheik, Jim Robinson, and George Lewis.

Charlie grew up on the outskirts of Tremé and began playing music professionally at age 11 with the Eureka Brass Band. His father brought him along to WPA band rehearsals and between his ability to read music well and the dearth of musicians available during World War II, he regularly subbed in on calls for gigs his father couldn't cover.

Charlie remembers, "It was during the war. A lot of the musicians were in the service. I was able to read music. My dad had taught me. There's a line of musicians in my family. My great grandfather Narcesse Gabriel moved to New Orleans; he was a bass player. My grandfather Martin Joseph had the National Jazz Band. Freddie Keppard was a member of that band. When the musicians were in the war, they called my father and said, 'Man, we have a job for you.' And he said, 'I can't take it, but you can take the kid.' I was able to play with all those musicians -- Kid Rena, Kid Clayton, Willie Humphrey and Percy (that's the outrageous Sweet Emma Barrett on vocals), Kid Sheik and all those guys -- when I was 11.

His family moved to Michigan when Charlie was a teenager, and he found that the bebop popular in that part of the country was often based on hymns and other foundations of music he'd already been playing for years in New Orleans.

"When I got to Detroit, I used to put my head against the radio and listen to the chord changes of the song -- not the melody -- and then I'd say, 'Oh, that's Georgia Brown, but that is called Dig," he says with a laugh, referring to the Miles Davis tune. "By being from New Orleans and knowing all the hymns and old songs, I was able to really understand modern jazz.

"That was in 1948, when I was 14. I used to come back every year with my dad. Back then Bourbon Street used to be full of jazz. Now, up and down Bourbon Street, you don't hear jazz anymore. All music is good, but what you hear is different."

Charlie spent much of his adult life traveling back and forth between Detroit -- where he worked with Lionel Hampton, Donald Byrd, Aretha Franklin, and Motown artists -- and New Orleans, where he maintained relationships with the traditional brass band community. That flexibility may have helped forge his strong appreciation for connections between different styles of music.

The Detroit years away were fun and allowed Charlie to play with lots of great musicians, but New Orleans was strong in his heart after the storm. "I came back to New Orleans because of Katrina. Katrina just knocked me off my feet, and I couldn't stand it. I knew New Orleans was hurting. I saw my whole city just floating away in front of my eyes. I can't express how I really feel because it hurts when I think about it," he says.

"The city itself is really growing. I used to live on Conti and Galvez. I went to St. Katherine's school on Tulane Avenue, across from Charity. Now New Orleans is growing at such a rapid pace. But everything I have seen is for the better. When I was here, there was segregation. Now that's changed. And then they built I-10. It's a different perspective than when I was here then. Now that area's going to be a medical center.

"I have traveled in a lot of different bands. I tell everyone that they have to go to New Orleans at least one time in their life. It's such a beautiful place, and the music and the food. It all goes in the gumbo, there's no place like New Orleans.

Playing live seems to stoke the fire in Gabriel, who smiles warmly when he says, "Music, it helps you to be human," he says. "It gives you emotion. It gives you sensitivity. It gives you compassion and all of these components together -- that's what we call art."

After more than seven decades of blowing his horns and thousands of miles on the road, Charlie, who's also an accomplished songwriter, is enjoying himself now more than ever. "I'm doing the things I like to do and what I love to do. The people motivate me and keep me motivated and keep me looking for better things in life with my music," he says.

Visitors often talk about the "magic" they sense at Preservation Hall. Charlie has become a key part of that magic since he joined the Preservation Hall Jazz Band in 2009. This year is his debut performance headlining a set under his own name. His band was full of New Orleans favorites, including Ben Jaffe (Preservation Hall) on sousaphone, Kyle Roussel on piano, Craig Klein (Bonerama) on trombone, Kevin Lewis (Preservation Hall) on trumpet, and the great Shannon Powell (the King of Tremé) on drums. They played a lot of traditional New Orleans music, but not straight up. Gabriel believes that the vitality of jazz is its unique ability to reflect the modern experiences of those who interpret it along with the history in which it's rooted.



"The secret in playing this music is knowing where it comes from and how it got to where you are," he says. "This music, when it touches you, it does something to you and then you do something to the music. That's why the music stays fresh and bright."

This was a fun set by a bunch of excellent musicians who really connected with one another and were having a great time doing it. Here's the video I made of today's performance. I can't finad any more from today, so here's Charlie playing with a bunch of guys half his age, that being the awesome Galactic on the Jam Cruise a few years ago.

Alto saxophonist Lee Konitz was playing in the Jazz Tent with Dan Tepfer on piano, Jeremy Stratton on bass, and George Schuller on drums. I didn't get to see the entire set, but that's just the reality of the cubes one has to face now and then. What I did see was great. Any time you get to see someone with the stature of Lee Konitz it's a thrill.

Konitz has enjoyed one of the most creative and prolific careers in modern jazz. He has performed in a wide range of jazz styles, including bebop, cool jazz, and avant-garde jazz. His association with the cool jazz movement of the 1940's and 1950's includes participation in Miles Davis' "Birth of the Cool" sessions (listen here) and his work with pianist Lennie Tristano (listen here). He was notable during this era as one of relatively few alto saxophonists to retain his own distinctive style when Charlie Parker (listen here) exerted a massive influence. He played with an uninflected, vibrato-less tone, in contrast to the dominant Parker style. Over time, his sound became more expressive without sacrificing its essential clarity. Like other students of Tristano, above all else he was a melodic improviser, who originally played long lines with sudden, unexpected accents. He grew steadily to use more varied phrasing.

Konitz was born in 1927 in Chicago to parents of Austrian and Russian descent. At age 11, he received his first instrument: a clarinet. However, he later dropped the instrument in favor of the tenor saxophone. He eventually moved from tenor to alto. His greatest influences at the time were the swing big bands that he and his brother listened to on the radio, especially, Benny Goodman (listen here). Hearing Goodman on the radio is, in fact, what prodded him to ask for a clarinet. Once he made the switch, he recalls improvising on the saxophone before ever learning to play any standards.

Konitz attended Roosevelt University in Chicago and began his professional career in 1945 with the Teddy Powell Band. A month later, the band parted ways. Between 1945 and 1947, he worked off and on with Jerry Wald. In 1946, he first met Tristano, and the two worked together in a small cocktail bar. His next substantial work was done with Claude Thornhill, in 1947, with Gil Evans arranging and Gerry Mulligan as a composer.

He participated with Miles Davis in a group that had a brief booking in September 1948 and another the following year. He recorded with Davis in 1949 and 1950 -- the sides collected on the "Birth of the Cool" album. The presence of Konitz and other white musicians in the group angered some black jazz players, many of whom were unemployed at the time, but Davis rebuffed their criticisms.

Konitz debuted as leader in 1949 with sides later collected on the album "Subconscious-Lee." In the early 1950's, he recorded and toured with Stan Kenton's orchestra, but he continued to record under his own name as well. In 1961, he recorded "Motion" with Elvin Jones on drums and Sonny Dallas on bass (listen here). This spontaneous session, widely regarded as a classic, consisted entirely of standards. The loose trio format aptly featured Konitz's unorthodox phrasing.

In the early 1960's, as opportunities for performances declined, Konitz withdrew from the music business and took on day work. He continued to develop his unique sound, however, occasionally working with such musicians as Paul Bley, Martial Solal, and a trio with Charlie Haden and Brad Mehldau. He also worked as a private teacher, conducting lessons by tape with students worldwide.

In 1967, Konitz recorded "The Lee Konitz Duets," a series of duets with various musicians. The duo configurations were unusual for the period. They drew on very nearly the entire history of jazz, from Louis Armstrong's Struttin' with Some Barbecue with valve trombonist Marshall Brown to two completely free duos: one with a Duke Ellington associate, violinist Ray Nance, and one with guitarist Jim Hall.

Konitz joined with Warne Marsh, his fellow sideman from early Tristano sessions, to tour Europe and record in 1975 and 1976; he also founded his own nonet and performed regularly during the 1980's.

Among his latest recordings is a date with Mehldau and Haden with the addition of drummer Paul Motian. He has become more experimental as he has grown older, and has released a number of free and avant-garde jazz albums, playing alongside many far younger musicians, including Grace Kelly. He has always been open and interested in collaborating with younger musicians and participating in new musical projects they lead.

In 2012, he was part of Enfants Terribles, a collaboration with Bill Frisell, Gary Peacock, and Joey Baron (listen here and here). Just days after his 87th birthday in 2014, he played three nights at Cafe Stritch in San Jose with the Jeff Denson Trio, improvising on the old standards he favors (listen here).

This was a mellow performance from Konitz. He gave the members of the band plenty of time to solo, and there was a stripped-down quality to his solos. He played like an artist with nothing to prove, no one to compete with. The solos by Stratton, Schullerhad, and especially Tepfer had few adornments, with no flash-for-flash sake. We were hearing pure Lee Konitz, and it was an honor to be able to do that. Here are a few excerpts of the Konitz group from the Jazz Tent today. Here are Konitz and Tepfer together this year in an extended concert at the Black Diamond in Copenhagen, Denmark, as part of the Copenhagen Jazz Festival.


Laurie and I met at the back of the Gentilly lawn, then we moved up into the crowd to hear some of Wayne Toups and his band. Toups picked up the accordion at age 13 and hasn't put it down since. He mixes Cajun sounds with the rhythms of zydeco, adding elements of soul and rock. He calls the revved-up result "zydecajun," and his electrifying group "a Cajun-zydeco fusion band with a rock and roll attitude."

We've seen Toups before, on Day 3 in 2012 and Day 2 in 2014 and have really enjoyed his performances. This year marks 31 consecutive Jazz Fest appearances for him. 

Toups is not as wild as Dwayne Dopside (see Day 4) on his Cajun button accordion, but his playing is every bit as good. Add his gravelly vocals and his rocking band, and you have a sound as unique as the name Toups has given it. The band is Justin Lewis on guitar, John Jeansome on fiddle, Mike Burch on drums and vocals, and Hayden Talley on bass. 

Here is some of Toups today as we saw it from the Gentilly crowd, and for some more zydecajun, here's almost an hour from Rockin' Willys in Ponchatoula, Louisiana.

After Toups was done, we walked all the way back to the far side of the Fair Grounds, where we split again, Laurie to the Acura stage to jam band with Widespread Panic, me to the Jazz Tent to hear a one-off big band put together by David Torkanowsky, featuring the Great American Songbook and vocals by Kermit Ruffins, Germaine Bazzle, and Clint Johnson. Torkanowsky calls the project the Torkestra. The cubes advertised a special guest. It turned out to be Harry Shearer.

Surprisingly, the Jazz Tent was quite full, so I went to my go-to standing room spots on the side and at the back of the tent. Not only were they somewhat crowded, but they were in the shade and taking the brunt of the wind. So I stood on the side of the tent near the Heritage Square Food Area, out of the wind and in the sun. No view of the stage, but very good sound. Jazz Fest places some speakers outside the Jazz Tent, but no video screens. That would be a plus at both big tents, but it might not be so good from a crowding standpoint. Here's my video showing how I experienced the Torkestra.

Bazzle sang Just a Lucky So and So, Ruffins did World on a String, Johnson sang tunes made famous by Frank Sinatra, and Shearer sang You'll Get Yours. It was high quality stuff. Of course, I have no idea who was playing because I couldn't see the stage and the videos don't really show that much of the band. I did see that Jason Marsalis was playing the drums.

After this ended I had a half hour before the next music I wanted to catch, so I walked around the corner to the Acura stage and caught some of Widespread Panic's set, just to see what that was all about. I have seen them before at Wolf Trap, and I must admit their music, while good, just doesn't reach me. That said, the folks that were there were loving it. 

Since their inception in the late 1980's in Athens, Georgiahome of bands like R.E.M., the B-52's, the Indigo Girls, Neutral Milk Hotel, and the Drive-By TruckersWidespread Panic has risen to legendary status among American jam bands. They are the record holders for the most sold-out performances at both Colorado's Red Rocks Amphitheatre and Atlanta's Philips Arena. They are known for changing their set list every night; thus the fans get a new experience every show and go to see them over and over again.

Widespread Panic's bluesy rock sound is infused with a Southern twang that separates them from the rest of the jam bands. Their music feels like impromptu, go-with-the-flow jamming but is really an onslaught of technical genius from each member. From soaring and twangy vocals; steely guitar riffs; grooving percussion, keyboards, and drums; and a driving bass -- the talent in this band is staggering. Each song is performed with precision and enthusiasm, captivating even the casual fan.

The members of the band are John Bell (vocals and guitar), Jimmy Herring (guitar), John "JoJo" Hermann (keyboard and vocals), Domingo Ortiz (percussion and vocals), Dave Schools (bass and vocals), and Duane Trucks (drums). Here's my video, and here's a whole bunch more: Up All Night, Diner, Can't Get High, Pleas and Knockin' Around the Zoo, and this unidentified song. If you can't get enough of this band, they allow taping, and there are tons of concerts at


After my few minutes at the Acura stage (Laurie was still there, somewhere), I went back around the corner to the Heritage Square food are for a snack. I decided on a peach cobbler from Down Home Creole Cookin' of Baton Rouge, the same people who make the BBQ Pork Ribs, Meaty White Beans, and Cole Slaw platter I had on Day 4 last year. I've had the peach cobbler on Day 11 in 2013, Day 4 in 2014, and Day 9 in 2015. It's always consistently good. 

A funny thing happened with the peach cobbler. There is a tent with picnic tables at the Heritage Square food area, right next to the Jazz Tent. It's a great place to eat when there's good music playing there (although today they were in a set change). It's also one of the places where we encountered Allen Toussaint as he roamed around Jazz Fest as he tended to do. Anyway, I had my phone sitting on the table and was texting Laurie about where we would meet when a gust of wind flipped my peach cobbler over, right onto my phone. Fortunately I flipped it back very quickly and there was very little to clean up. That could have been a sticky disaster!

So next I went back to the Jazz and Heritage stage, where Laurie would eventually join me to see the 101 Runners. I caught this Mardi Gras Indian funk extravaganza last year on Day 9, and you can read a lot more about them there. They have been playing their percussion-hevy funk for more than 10 years. 

The chanting for the 101 runners is done by War Chief Juan Pardo of the Golden Comanche Mardi Gras Indian Tribe. He is joined by a relentless rhythm section led by kit drummer Raymond Weber, with Ajay Mallery (former Rebirth Brass Band) on snare drumLionel Batiste Jr. (former Dirty Dozen Brass Band) on bass drum, Boubacaar Cissikko on African drum, and founder Chris Jones at the congas. Jimmy Carpenter plays baritone saxophone, the awesome, awesome June Yamagishi (formerly of Papa Grows Funk and a man we see literally all over the place at Jazz Fest) plays guitar, Cornell Williams is on bass, and Tom Worrell is on the keyboards. Isaac Kinchen helps out with the chanting. Not sure who was playing the sousaphone today. I know it wasn't Kirk Joseph, who was there last year. 


This music is fantastic, everything that you want out of Jazz Fest, especially late in the day. Here's my video so you can enjoy it for yourself. 

When Laurie joined me, she had a bowl of the creamy shrimp macque choux that's served by the United Houma Nation of Golden Meadow, Louisiana, over in the Native American Village in the Louisiana Folklife area near the Fais Do Do stage. 

Louisiana is rich in Native American culture, and the Native American Village focuses on the rich heritage of the state's indigenous peoples. In addition to the United Houma Nation, there are performances and demonstrations from the Jena Band of Choctaw, the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana, and the Tunica-Biloxi Tribe. The macque choux was very good.

After the 101 Runners ended, there was still music going on over at the Fais Do Do stage in the form of C.J. Chenier and the Red Hot Louisiana Band, so we hurried over there to get 20 minutes or so of real good zydeco. C.J. is the son of one of the founding fathers of zydeco, that being Clifton Chenier. When he's on the Fais Do Do stage, C.J. is playing next to a giant painting of his father, which covers the speaker bank. As if that weren't enough, the speakers on the other side are covered by a giant painting of his uncle, Cleveland Chenier, master of the scrubboard.

We've seen C.J. and the band twice before at Jazz Fest, on Day 4 in 2013 (where you can read all about C.J. and the family Chenier) and also on Day 4 in 2014. We also saw him locally, at Smokehouse Live's music room in June 2015.

Here's my video from today and here are It's About Time and She's My Woman from this year and here's a full concert from the Williamson County Fair in Tennessee. Some of the people in the Red Hot Louisiana Band today were Tony "Young Buck" Stewart on scrubboard, Lil' Buck Sinegal (who played with C.J.'s father) on guitar, and Woody Woodward on percussion. This was lots of fun. 


And that ended another great day of incredibly diverse music at Jazz Fest. Just the kind of day that makes this festival so appealing to us. The shuttles got us back downtown very efficiently, not that it mattered because we had no plans for the evening. Around 9:30 we went across the street from the Staybridge to Mother's. It's the perfect go-to spot for good old-fashioned Creole cooking on a stay-in and hang-out evening.

Laurie's dinner was a Creole omelette with a side of green beans. Mine was the world's best baked ham, which Mother's lays claim to. I don't know how these things are judged. Anyway, my sides were potato salad, green beans, and red beans and rice. It doesn't matter what you get, it's all good at Mother's.

Like I said, Mother Nature tried to have an impact on the day, but just couldn't do it, especially now that we are seasoned Jazz Fest veterans. The clouds, which cleared out late this afternoon, apparently will be gone all weekend, so it looks like the next three days are going to be spectacular!


© Jeff Mangold 2012