Day 9 / Friday, May 5


VQCgBAdbSMSJZxWM%dhHlw thumb 9002

Today got off to a much better start than yesterday; there was not a cloud in the sky as we executed 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 (today is was a big fat no!) ... and head down to the lobby to grab some coffee and maybe a bit of food, but only enough to tide us over to get to Jazz Fest, where real good food awaited. Success!

Rain gear was not needed, but a jacket definitely was, for the temperature was still unseasonably cool and yesterday's northwest wind showed no sign of calming until much later in the evening. It was persistently between 13 and 20 miles per hour and gusts of 25 to 30 mph. The temperature was 67 degrees when we headed out, and it never got any higher than 73 degrees. At least the humidity has been low, in the area of 35 percent. That made the sunshine very direct and warm at least.

Everything was fine at the Sheraton shuttle bus stop this morning. The line was certainly longer than yesterday, but boarding was quick and efficient. Gray Line has really stepped up their game this year, at least so far. Plus we are early enough that we can deal with a bit of a wait, both in the line for the bus and at the entrance to Jazz Fest itself. We always arrive just as the gates are opening, so we are through the friendly security screeners and ticket scanners with hardly any delay at all.

We cruised through the infield walkways, all the way to the back of Food Area II and the Congo Square food area for our brunch. Each of us had a repeat dish from many times previously. For Laurie it was the couscous with yogurt sauce from Gambian Foods of New Orleans (see Day 3 in 2012 and Day 11 in 2015). She also gets the couscous with tofu and peanut sauce from these guys a lot.

For me it was Crawfish Monica from Kajun Kettle Foods. I've had this in 2013 (Day 4), 2014 (Days 2 and 9), and 2015 (Day 4). It's nothing complicated, just rotini, crawfish tail meat, onion, garlic, Creole seasonings, cream, wine, salt, pepper, and butter, but does it ever taste good. I'm not sure how I missed it last year. It could be that Creole's stuffed bread is right next door and lures me in whenever I'm thinking of Crawfish Monica.

Where did we go to eat our brunch? The Jazz and Heritage stage, of course. There was a brass band playing there this morning, the 12-strong High Steppers Brass Band to be exact.

One of the best things about the younger generation of New Orleans brass bands is their ability to unleash fresh energy, and inject fresh repertoire, while simultaneously respecting a musical tradition that is more than a century old.

The High Steppers Brass Band lets you know where they're from with Sixth Ward Jam, a medley that celebrates that funky Crescent City brass band sound and the Sixth Ward.

There's not much info on this band, nor even the names of the players, but I'm here to at least get their name out there because of what they do, and that's keeping the great New Orleans brass band and second-line traditions alive. Here's the video that I took today, and here are the Wolfing Blues.

We were now well fed and ready to get into the day. Here are today's cubes so you can follow us, if that's even possible given the way we zip around the Fair Grounds. At this point we were off on our separate ways for two performances each. Laurie was going to see Naughty Professor and the Ron Holloway Band, while I was going to catch Cedric Watson and Bijou Creole and Alvin "Youngblood" Hart.

Naughty Professor was at the Acura stage, where today's headliners were going to be Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds, sure to draw a huge crowd.

The self-described iconoclastic New Orleans-based jazz-funk sextet's adventurous recordings and horn-charged, high-energy live performances have earned them an enthusiastic fan base, critical acclaim, and widespread attention from their musical peers. With a frontline horn section and a jazz-inspired, funk-formulating rhythm section, anything is possible with these guys.

Diligent roadwork has established Naughty Professor as a popular live act. Weaving together complex, inventive compositions and loose, organic improvisation, the band honors their hometown's jazz, R&B, and brass-band traditions while looking to the future.

The members of Naughty Professor are Ian Bowman on tenor saxophone, John Culbreth on trumpet, Bill Daniel on guitar, Nick Ellman on alto and baritone saxophones, Sam Shahin on drums, and Noah Young on bass. Though all six of them hail from far-flung parts of the country, each came to New Orleans with an appreciation for its rich musical history and a desire to learn from it. With that respect for the city's music scene came a yearning to carve their own place in it, as well as an understanding of the hard work that was needed to do that.

"It was Charlie Parker who said 'If you don't live it, it won't come out of your horn,'" explains Ellman. "I think that's kind of why we started the band, so we could become a part of everything since we were all so excited by what the city had to offer. We called it Naughty Professor because we were in school studying music, but we wanted to live it."

That school was Loyola, where Ellman, Daniel, Culbreth, Bowman, and Young met during their freshman year in 2010 (Shahin, who had studied under New Orleans icon Johnny Vidacovich, joined the band later after the original drummer departed). By the end of their first semester, the band had already played a handful of gigs, though it took a little longer for the project to find some direction. They even experimented with a singer before settling on the instrumental sound that would define their first two studio albums and the bulk of their live output.

"The early days were about half covers and half originals," says Ellman. "Eventually we realized we were most excited about writing songs, so we started focusing on that."

It was during these days that the band developed a democratic approach to songwriting, with each member contributing tunes or ideas that would then be fleshed out by the rest of the group. While certain people took the lead on certain songs, no one person was ever in charge of the whole thing. What bound the disparate ideas together was a commitment to technical proficiency, and a shared belief that their music should be both intellectually engaging and capable of putting people on the dance floor.

"We don't really approach music from a stylistic standpoint. We approach it from a certain kind of mentality," Bowman says. "And one of the big things is freedom. Even if somebody writes a tune, they give everyone else the freedom to interpret the parts that they've written in a way that makes sense. When we're doing it live, we give people the freedom to play what they want, when they want. At the same time, within that freedom, there's also fair amount of structure. A lot of time is spent hashing out those details."

"No matter who writes the song," Ellman adds, "It doesn’t become a Naughty song until everyone puts their spin on it in a different way."

Here's an entire concert with this really interesting band, recorded earlier this year in Asheville, North Carolina.

In the Jazz Tent, the Ron Holloway Band is a local D.C.-area favorite who we see here and there, most recently for a great set at Smokehouse Live in January. Laurie became acquainted with the band through our friend Sandi and she was as excited to see them at Jazz Fest as they were to be playing here.

Ron Holloway is one of the busiest tenor saxophonists on today's music scene in any genre. In addition to having his own band, he is onstage frequently with Gov't Mule, the Tedeschi Trucks Band, Little Feat, and the Allman Brothers Band. Over the years, he has been a member of the Warren Haynes Band, the Susan Tedeschi Band, the Dizzy Gillespie Quintet, and the backing bands of Gil Scott-Heron and Root Boy Slim and His Sex-Change Band.

Holloway is a bear-down hard-bopper who can blow authentic R&B and croon a ballad with warm, blue feeling. But this only begins to touch upon his versatility. He combines passion and a broad dynamic range to generate an exciting and distinctive sound. Sonny Rollins is a mentor and friend who got him a jazz recording deal. Like Rollins, Holloway strives to push the tenor sax beyond the limits of its dynamic range. He notes that the instrument was originally designed to play a range of two and a half octaves. By using special fingering techniques, though, he can hit registers spanning almost five octaves. And he does this while maintaining precise control over a melody.

The Ron Holloway Band has been around since 2014. It's a high-energy funk machine, and is great fun to listen to. It combines sax-driven jams along with soaring female vocals, intensely emotive guitar, and hard hitting grooves to deliver a full-on funk rock show. Pulling from influences such as Sly and the Family Stone, Parliament-Funkadelic, and other funk masters, they provide a blend of rock, funk, soul, and R&B grooves.

Holloway tours with this band because it represents the styles that most people recognize from him these days. As he says, "The people who have been listening to me since my association with Little Feat and the Allman Brothers enjoy music that's blues-based or has R&B elements to it."

If you have never heard the Ron Holloway Band, you should, especially live. If you live in the D.C. area that's easy to do. In a world of mediocre spoon-fed bands and arrogant musicians, these people have authentic talent. Not only that, they are among the friendliest and most sincere people you will ever meet. We speak from experience on this. From funk, to R&B, to insatiable jazz, this band rocks.

In addition to Holloway on sax, the band is Joe Poppen (guitar), Jenny Langer and Rachel Ann Morgan (vocals), Christopher Brown (bass), Brian Simms (keys), and Rodney Dunton (drums). Here are Baby I Love YouThankful, Thoughtful, Compared to What, Three Miles Down, and Kissing My Love from the Jazz Tent today.

Meanwhile, over at the Fais Do Do stage, something odd was happening. When I arrived to see one of my favorite Louisiana bands, Cedric Watson and Bijou Creole, the band was on stage and playing but Cedric Watson was nowhere to be found. A couple of minutes after I arrived, he ran out onto the stage, plugged in, and away we went. He said something about Jazz Fest should know not to book the younger acts early in the day, so it sounds like maybe he had a late night and got up late.

The band plays a modern electric version of Creole la la music, and they do it very well. Watson and the band are very entertaining, more so every year, and they have been a highlight of Jazz Fest for me since I first saw them on Day 3 in 2013. Since then I've seen them on Day 4 in 2014, Day 8 in 2015, and Day 10 last year. You can read a lot more about Cedric and the band in the 2013 and 2014 reports.

Here's my video of Watson and Bijou Creole (Desiree Champagne on scrubboard, Kyle Gambino on sax, Ian Guidroz on bass, and Aaron Boudreaux on drums). And here's an entire show recorded last year at the Blue Moon Saloon in Lafayette (in this video Chris Stafford of another great young band, Feufollet, is playing bass). If you like this kind of music, this band is one of the best.

After this show ended, I hit the Blues Tent for another repeat, the great Alvin "Youngblood" Hart and his Muscle Theory band. My first experience with these guys was last year on Day 2, and guess what? You can read all about them there. 

Hart and the Muscle Theory band play very grungy Hill Country blues, and it's right in my wheelhouse as far as music is concerned. Plus they are a power trio, also my favorite. With 

With Bill Blok on bass and Rickey Shelton on drums, the trio is a literal explosion of music that creates a blurred line of blues, roots, country, and rock. They bend the strings, drop the groove, and provide an excellent, very eclectic music experience.  

Here’s my video from today, and here's a full show from Knuckleheads Saloon in Kansas City earlier this year.

      

Now I met Laurie, outside the Jazz Tent I think, and we went around the corner to the Acura stage to catch the end of the set by another favorite band, the three-trombone juggernaut Bonerama. Although we spent a spectacular evening with them at the Hamilton in D.C. in June of 2013, I have never seen them at Jazz Fest. Laurie did, however, on Day 4 in 2014, and you can read all about them there.

Of course, one sees all of the members of this band -- especially Craig Klein -- here, there, and everywhere at Jazz Fest, including all three trombones yesterday with George Porter Jr. and the Runnin' Pardners, so it feels like I've seen them at Jazz Fest more often than ... never!

In Bonerama, Mark Mullins, Craig Klein, and Greg Hicks play the bones, Bert Cotton plays guitar, Matt Perrine lays down the bottom, either on sousaphone or electric bass, and Walter Lundy does the drums. They're real good at turning popular rock songs into brass band extravaganzas like you’ve never heard before. Among the tunes you can hear them play are Whipping Post, When the Levee Breaks, War Pigs, Helter Skelter, Manic Depression, Crosstown Traffic, Turn on Your Love Light, and Frankenstein.

This is just an awesome band, like no other, another completely unique New Orleans experience. Here’s my video, and here's a full set recorded at Ardmore Hall in Philadelphia earlier this year.

       

After this show ended, we walked to the back of the Acura field and turned the corner for some food. Right around the corner, past a beverage stand is that small part of Food Area II that houses Crawfish Monica and Creole's stuffed bread. 

This time I opted for a stuffed bread. Mostly because I think Merline Herbert is so cool. The stuffed bread is great, but when it's served by such a nice lady it just makes it that much better. Read more about Creole Lunch House, Ms. Merline, and stuffed bread on Day 8 in 2015, Day 8 and Day 11 last year, and even on Day 3 this year. I'm making up for not trying this treat until 2015 in a big way.

Laurie continued on to the Congo Square food area and stopped at the booth of Palmer's Jamaican Cuisine of New Orleans for some Caribbean fish and steamed vegetables. She's had this before, on Day 11 in 2013 and Day 8 in 2015, and I had it once myself, on Day 3 in 2014. Nicely cooked pieces of fish make a great complement to the steamed veggies (cabbage, carrots, and squash), and it's all on top of a bed of rice. Deliciious!

We had some time before we were going to visit the Gentilly stage, so Laurie decided to go to the Congo Square stage to see Cuban musicians Adonis y Osain del Monte. With its explosive mix of rumba and Afro-Cuban rhythms and dances, Adonis y Osain del Monte is currently one of the most exciting Afro-Cuban music projects to come out of Havana. The group offers a modern interpretation of traditional Afro-Cuban folklore, blending it with timba, Havana's Conga parade rhythms, and beats from Cuba's contemporary popular music. Here's a look at this band at Congo Square today.

While she was doing that, I paid yet another visit to the Jazz and Heritage stage to catch another Mardi Gras Indian group, the 79'rs Gang. This group is made up of two tribes. Big Chief Jermaine Bossier brings the 7th Ward Creole Hunters and Big Chief Romeo Bougere brings the 9th Ward Hunters. That's how you get 79'rs. 

Traditionally rivals representing different tribes in different wards of the city, these Big Chiefs united to create the first new, genuinely funky Mardi Gras Indian band in a long time. And any time a new Mardi Gras Indian group appears -- and more so when it is the younger generation of Indians stepping -- is an event to celebrate. 

The gang's call and response lyrics interplay with funky, almost hip-hop music that features a lot of percussion -- bass drum, snare, bottles, cowbell, cymbals, tambourines, and handclaps -- which on the street would be calling on the ancestors and warning contemporaries to stay out of the way.

While the Golden Arrows brought post-Hendrix psychedelic funk to Indian chants when June Yamagishi was in the band and set the template for many Indian bands to follow, the 79'rs Gang updates the effort with sounds shaped by DJ culture.

The Indians arrayed across the front of the stage play bass drum and timbales in addition to tambourine and other percussion, and Big Chief Bossier draws as effectively from hip-hop as he does from decades of Indian vocalizing. It was very exciting to hear. While I love all of the Mardi Gras Indians, this group had a modern sound that was refreshing. Here’s my video and here's 15 minutes or so from the Louisiana Music Factory in 2015. For some more background, here is a print interview with Big Chief Bossier.

After this I hurried over to the Fais Do stage to catch one of my favorite South Louisiana bands, Jeffery Broussard and the Creole Cowboys. I have seen this excellent band, not-quite Creole la la, not quite zydeco (call them Creole zydeco), on Day 4 in 2013, Day 4 in 2015, and Day 9 last year. These guys are about as good as it gets, and you can learn all about them at those previous entries.

The Creole Cowboys include noted musician, composer, writer, teacher, and scholar D'Jalma Garnier III on guitar. Garnier is an ethnomusicologist of Louisiana Francophone cultures and has published a method book with a collection of 14 songs by the masters of Louisiana Creole fiddle music along with an instructional DVD with supplemental performances. With Broussard's band, he usually plays bass or guitar, but today, for the first time that I have seen, he picked up a fiddle and did an extended solo with the band. I must say it was one of the best I have ever heard. A lot of it is on my video linked below.

The other members of the band are Paul Lavan on drums, Jim Scott on guitar and Bernard Johnson on bass, and Jeffery's son Jeffery Jr. (aka "Big Truck") on the scrubboard. From today, here is my video, and here is a complete performance from this year's Festival International de Louisiane in Lafayette.

This is always a great show at the Fais Do Do stage, and it even got kicked up a notch or two this year. Laurie joined in for the last portions of this set.

            

After it ended, we slipped out to the track and continued our journey to the Gentilly stage, where the incredible songwriter and guitarist Anders Osborne, one of the few true rock guitarists in New Orleans, was playing. We are starting to put a priority on Osborne. He's one of the best; the jams with his band of Eric McFadden on guitar, Brady Blade on drums, and Carl Dufrene on bass are astounding. Dufrene and Osborne together are so in sync with each other it's scary.

We have seen Anders playing with other bands a couple of times (Day 5 in 2013 with Galactic at Tipitina's annual Instruments-a-Comin' benefit and Day 3 that same year and Day 9 last year with the Voice of the Wetlands All Stars. I caught his show with this same band on Day 3 last year (which is where you can read all of the background info on him). It provided one of the best moments from that year's Jazz Fest, as I sat on the bleachers with the warm sun and a gentle breeze, listening to him do an epic run on his song Wind

I also saw him last summer at the State Theater in Falls Church, playing with the North Mississippi All Stars in a great show.

Today on stage with the band were a couple of members of Lake Street Dive to add some backing vocals and percussion, which was a nice touch. We didn't really get a look at the actual stage because it was pretty crowded up there; Osborne has a huge following and the headliner on the Gentilly stage, up next, was going to be Wilco. Instead we stood close to the stage on the track, with a great view of the video board, close enough to the edge of the track so as not to have too much distraction but with great sound. This actually works well.

One of the great things about Osborne is that he has become a tried and true New Orleans musician but is by no means defined by the city. However, when he wants to be funky, he can do it. Jam-band fans like him, but he rises above jam-band status because he can match his guitar playing with well-written songs and a great singing voice. Osborne and his band demonstrate a serious musical chemistry that creates a fabulous groove. There is some soloing but nobody – even Osborne -- dominates. Osborne's presence onstage is refreshing because he is not an ego guy, but instead just a bandleader. The songs are definitely the stars of an Anders Osborne performance.

So here is my video of the video board from this great show, and here are some of the actual stage: Tomorrow Is Another Day, Fool's Gold, Coming Down, Louisiana Gold, Flower Box, Love Is Taking Its Toll, and A Different Drum

We continued around the track, past the Grandstand. I was headed to the Jazz Tent, Laurie had her sights on Congo Square, but not for awhile, so she detoured into the WWOZ hospitality tent (see a video here) for a break and probably some fruit and an iced coffee. This year, the fruit buffet, which was already astonishing, added a tomato and avocado salad on a couple of afternoons. They are really getting to the point where they are spoiling us!

On her way over to Congo Square, she got waylaid at the Jazz and Heritage stage. So what else is new? For either of us I might add. There, she continued today's Cuban experience for her with a group called Changüí de Guantánamo.

The changüí sound emerged in Oriente in the eastern Cuban region of Guantánamo during the second half of the 1800's. It was the first contemporary music to merge the Spanish guitar sound with African rhythms and pre-dates son music, to which it is closely musically related.

As with other rural music forms, it started out as party music. Changüiseros say that the parties could last for days if not weeks with many musicians taking turns playing the instruments and singing, replacing one another as they got tired. The format of the bands was simple: tres, maracas, guayo (often just a food grater from the kitchen of the house where the party was held), marimbula or jug for the bass, and bongo del monte. The percussive tres guitar interacts with a fragmented percussion and voices to develop themes in four-line verses.

In 1945, the musicologist Rafael Inciarte Brioso convinced the Latamblet brothers, Reyes ("Chito") and Arturo, to form a permanent group and Changüí de Guantánamo was born.

Dancing is integral to changüí and since its inception the band has also included a dance couple.  The first couple was Luis Céspedes Fournier and Josefa Moya Latamblet. The dancers' slides, hip movements, and small steps follow closely the line of the tres and bongos.

Although no original members remain, Changüí de Guantánamo continues in the tradition of the band, maintaining the original style rather than trying to adapt to new musical trends. The objective is to give the audience an authentic muiscal experience of traditions that date back more than 100 years but are just as appealing to dancers today.

Here are a couple of looks at Changüí de Guantánamo: this one was recorded in 2008 in Santiago, and this one in 2009 on a TV show on the Cubavisión newtwork.

As Laurie walked to the Congo Square stage from this music, she must have been inspired, for she stopped in the Cuban cultural area for a snack of tostones, that is, fried green (unripe, more starchy than sweet) plantains with a garlic-citrus mojito sauce. The plantains are pounded into plump, flower-shaped disks before frying. They end up crisp and chewy all at once. The sauce is a thick one, with chunky garlic. The food in the Cuban area was provided by local cater and pop-up Congreso Cubano of New Orleans.   

Finally at Congo Square, Laurie was entertained by Earth, Wind and Fire, sounding as she said just like you remember. Any concerns that they have lost a step with age or last year's passing of founder and musical director Maurice White quickly were allayed during the 12-piece band's sizzling, hit-laden set.

As would be expected from a groundbreaking outfit that has been blending jazz, funk, soul, African, and R&B influences into dance-floor classics for nearly 47 years, there was nary a sputter from its high-performance engine.

Original members Philip Bailey, Verdine White, and Ralph Johnson steered the group through a tightly choreographed, 22-song set that appeared to delight fans old and young. A surprisingly high percentage of the crowd was comprised of 20-somethings who eschewed the simultaneous offerings of Dave Matthews and Wilco on the bigger stages to bounce to the funk and disco-era offerings spun decades earlier on their parents' turntables and cassette decks.

EWF displayed tight musicianship, uncomplicated dance moves and a contagious joie de vivre as it barreled through its set. The band launched into September and Boogie WonderlandSing a Song, and the iconic Shining Star within its first six songs, establishing early on that this would be a party the audience would not be easing into slowly.

Verdine White remains a smiling, 65-year-old whirling dervish of energy. Clad in sequined green pants and an open shirt, his stage presence outshone his colleagues' throughout the 92-minute show, including the group's new younger vocalists, B. David Whitworth and Philip Bailey Jr.

But it was Bailey's father, who turns 66 on Monday, who remains most responsible for delivering EWF's signature sound. The elder Philip Bailey gave his voice ample time to warm up, but showed his four-octave range and unmistakable falsetto still is within his command when he fully unleashed it. 

The Congo Square crowd was treated to an improvisational visit from Kendrick Lamar collaborator Kamasi Washington, making a rare appearance with a soprano saxophone (check it out here). Washington was in the midst of a three-night stand at the French Quarter club One Eyed Jacks

The Earth, Wind and Fire Horns -- saxophonist Gary Blas, trumpeter Bobby Burns Jr., and trombonist Reggie Young -- provided brass flair and embellishments, while guitarists Morris O'Connor and Serg Dimitrijevic took turns bouncing funky licks off Verdine White's relentless bass lines. Keyboardist and new musical director Myron McKinley lent a controlling presence, as did John Paris, who has relieved Johnson of the heavy lifting on drums.

Though clearly in the twilight of their remarkable career, Earth, Wind and Fire's core members proved that their ability to deliver an irresistible groove and funky good time have not diminished one bit. Here's a video that I found that shows the scene at Congo Square today.

When Laurie veered off across the track to the Jazz and Heritage stage and then Congo Square, I continued on to the Jazz Tent for Terence Blanchard and the E-Collective. This awsome band is performing a hybrid of serious 1970's funk, contemporary R&B, and hard rock that speaks to the social and political turmoil of our time.

The E-Collective is Charles Altura (guitar), Fabian Almazan (piano, keyboards), David Ginyard Jr. (bass), Oscar Seaton (drums) and Tondrae Kemp (vocals). Soaring above this groove-centric ensemble is Blanchard's custom-designed trumpet, sometimes augmented with harmonized delay to create wild, otherworldly textures, but never at the cost of his rich, expressive tone.

Blanchard is certainly a skilled master of classic jazz, as his work last week with Abdullah Ibrahim and Eyaka (see Day 3) showed vividly. The E-Collective may sound like a departure. But with this band, his performance is perfectly suited to the music's amplified, electric atmosphere. His jaw-dropping technique heightens the emotional content and sometimes political subtext of the music.

Like many jazz musicians who came up in the 1980's, Blanchard has never avoided matching his music with challenging subject matter. But there are moments of relative calm and inner peace to be found in The E-Collective's repertoire as well. You can also hear passages of beautiful ambient music and songs anchored by a steady, four-on-the-floor House beat. Sometimes you get both in the same piece.

Blanchard took to the stage last with a calm swagger and his mic-clipped horn in tow. His side-stanced body bent forward, and with the bell of his horn pointing downward, he freely blew over the thick modal soundscape his band delivered.

A native son of New Orleans, Blanchard is a voice for the voiceless. He is well-known for his work as a performer, composer, and educator who is deeply inspired by current events and concerned for those coping with injustice. The E-Collective is yet another iteration of this valuable work.

His electronically manipulated, reverb-laden trumpet echoed visceral wails and moans. It was an earnest, primal voice for an instrumental program with a timely message. Blanchard sauntered on and off the stage, giving his bandmates ample freedom to respond.

Almazan provided brilliant, reflective solos. He combed the piano keys with a classical style, displaying his technical agility. His use of one of his several digital keyboards was an ethereal complement. Even his grand piano is modified by programming in the Apple computer wired to it. He provided the keyboard solos jazz requires along with an orchestra of sounds, styles, and moods.

Altura played with the lightest of hands, almost dancing on the strings, setting up relaxed harmonic arpeggios at some times and driving fusion cascades at others, tumbling down the guitar neck yet swiftly switching to classic rock power shredding.

Blanchard's high-minded musical ambition would be for naught without the rhythm section of Seaton and Ginyard. They played without distraction through huge waves of divergent music from Blanchard, Altura, and Almazan. Ginyard goes well beyond an anchoring bass throb to provide significant and perfectly tasty chordal tones, and Seaton exhibited tight, muscular precision combined with seasoned finesse. His drumming was was mesmerizing, with perfectly timed fills and unwavering backbeat.

Blanchard fully embraces his responsibility as an artist, bearing witness to the world in which he lives. And the E-Collective is much more than a band; it is a movement. With ferocity, it radiates as a beacon at the intersection of art and social change, with the power to make a difference.

Blanchard says, "This band represents the best of America's ideals. We're five very different personalities with different visions who play together for a common goal: Creating music that hopefully heals hearts and opens minds."

It was incredible jazz fused with a deep funk and R&B groove, all deepened with a blues sensibility and laced with emotional depth. The sound literally seizes mind and body and never stops being exciting. Anchored by Blanchard's astounding tonal range from lyrical to pugilistic on his otherworldly trumpet, which only powerfully lunged masters can play.

Born in 1962 in New Orleans, Blanchard was an only child. He began playing piano by the age of five, switched to trumpet three years later, and played alongside childhood friend Wynton Marsalis in summer band camps. While in high school, he took extracurricular classes at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts with Roger Dickerson and Ellis Marsalis.

From 1980 to 1982, Blanchard studied under Paul Jeffrey and Bill Fielder at Rutgers University in New Jersey while touring with Lionel Hampton's orchestra. In 1982, he replaced Wynton Marsalis (who recommended him) in Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers (on the left), working in that band up to 1986 as lead soloist and musical director. He then co-led a prominent quintet with saxophonist Donald Harrison Jr. (video here), recording seven albums in five years, including a stirring in-concert tribute to the ensemble of Eric Dolphy and Booker Little.

In the 1990's, Blanchard became a leader in his own right. For Spike Lee, he performed on Bill Lee's original score to "Do the Right Thing" and composed and performed with Branford Marsalis on the score to "Mo' Better Blues." In fact, Blanchard has written the score for every Spike Lee film since 1991, including "Malcolm X," "Clockers," "Summer of Sam," "25th Hour," "Inside Man," "When the Levees Broke," a four-hour documentary about New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. He has more than 40 film scores to his credit.

Blanchard also maintains a regular studio presence. A quintessential sideman as well as leader, he has worked with many prominent jazz players. In 2011, he paid tribute to the innovative Afro-Cuban recordings of Dizzy Gillespie and Chano Pozo by teaming up with Latin jazz percussionist Poncho Sanchez for the studio album "Chano y Dizzy!" (listen here). In 2015 he released the electric fusion and R&B-infused "Breathless" with the E-Collective and including contributions from vocalist P.J. Morton.

This summary just scratches the surface of Blanchard's work. He is an incredibly talented musician, and this performance was a highlight of this year's Jazz Fest. 

Here's my video and here are one and two others that I could find from today. Here's a full hour from the 2015 North Sea Jazz Festival, and here's Oscar Groove from the Blue Note in Milan, Italy.

After I left the Jazz Tent I stopped at Lil' Dizzy's booth in the Heritage Square Food Area for a serving of their wonderful crawfish bisque. Laurie had this tasty dish on Day 3 way back in 2012, along with Lil' Dizzy's famous trout Baquet (Baquet is the family name), which we’ve had any number of time since. I had the bisque for the first time on Day 4 last year, where you can read all about it. The stuffed crawfish shell makes it special.

I was heading to the Fais Do Do stage to end the day, but had some time, so I stopped by the Lagniappe stage in the Grandstand to get a small dose of the rollicking King James and the Special Men. I experienced this cool band last year at the Jazz in the Park concert on Day 1, and you can read about them there. Led by Jimmy Horn, they play a raw, garage-band style mix of New Orleans R&B, blues, and first-generation rock and roll. I didn't take any video there, nor could I find any others, but here's a YouTube page with a bunch of their tunes.

On to Fais Do Do for a final performance that I look forward to every year, that of Nathan Williams and the Zydeco Cha Chas. I just love the personality of this band and the R&B-jazz spin they put on their zydeco.

You can tell Nathan Williams Sr. has a great time entertaining people. The music is just nonstop fun as he struts from one side of the stage to the other, spinning and going down to one knee, all while playing his trademark white piano accordion. When he ends a song, he smiles broadly, looks at the crowd, and says, "Was that all right for you?"

The band is a family affair, or nearly all so. Dennis Paul Williams, Nathan's brother, brings his jazz-influenced guitar chops to the band. He's also a well-known painter whose work has been shown throughout the country and has recently published a collection of his work, entitled Soul Exchange

Junius Antoine plays the bass. Nathan's nephew and godson Djuan Francis is the drummer. He has been traveling with the band since he was about 10 years old, starting by playing scrubboard. Clarence Calais, Nathan's brother-in-law, has been with the Chas Chas since the beginning. He started out as road manager, driving the band van, selling CD's at the gigs, and maintaining the band vehicles as he is a master mechanic. He has been playing the scrubboard with Nathan and with great personality and interaction with him for the last three years.

Nathan comes from a remarkable south Louisiana family. He grew up in a Creole-speaking home in St. Martinville, the youngest of seven children. He developed his musical sensibility in his hometown, a place rich in folk tradition, following in the footsteps of his uncle, the Cajun guitarist Harry Hypolite. Nathan eagerly sought out the music of Zydeco originators such as Clifton Chenier. When he was too young to attend a Chenier dance at a St. Martinville club, he hovered by the window-sized fan at the back of the building to hear his idol.

        

Nathan's father passed away when he was only seven years old. Soon after he moved to Lafayette to live with his older brother Sid Williams and his wife, working in Sid's grocery store. Later, while recovering from a serious illness, Nathan decided to dedicate himself to learning the accordion. He began practicing in the bathroom because he did not want anyone to hear him play. His primary mentor was Buckwheat Zydeco, but his biggest influence was Clifton Chenier.

Just five years after graduating from high school, Nathan was recording for his brother's independent record label, called El Sid O's. He also played at Sid's club in Lafayette, El Sid-O’s, which is still operating today. Sid Williams is a Lafayette legend unto himself.

Nathan formed the Zydeco Cha-Chas in 1985, and the rest, as they say, is history. His son Nathan Jr. also has a band, Lil' Nathan and the Zydeco Big-Timers, who we have seen a couple of times at Jazz Fest (Day 3 in 2012 and Day 8 in 2014), although not this year because they were due to play during the lengthy rain delay last Sunday.

You can read a lot more about Nathan Williams and this great band at Day 11 in 2013, Day 2 in 2014, and Day 3 in 2015. The only reason there's no reference to 2016 is that they fell victim to the early closing due to the huge storm on Day 10. Here is my video from today. As always, Nathan and the Cha Chas are a perfect way to end the Jazz Fest day!


I met Laurie at the back of the Fais Do Do viewing area. We have a couple of meeting places, and the WWOZ Mango Freeze booth there is one of them. One of us will just text "I'm at Mango Freeze" and the other knows where to go! The shuttle lines were understandably longer today, but they moved along. Then there's the matter of Friday traffic on Canal Street, which is never easy, but even so we were back at the Staybridge in a reasonable amount of time so that we didn't have to rush to get ready to go out again.

We decided that tonight we would go to the Civic Theater to see a triple header, with two of the acts leaning toward the roots-rock end of the spectrum and one of those a favorite that we have seen a couple of times at Jazz Fest. The show was general admission, so we didn't need to get tickets in advance, and the Civic Theater is located just a few blocks up Poydras Street from the Staybridge, so this was all pretty stress free.

We got to the Civic a bit before the show was to begin at 9, found some seats in the balcony (the floor below was for standing only), and then waited, and waited some more, for the obligatory, legendary, and somewhat comical New Orleans long delay after announced starting time for the show to actually begin. This happens almost everywhere.

First up was the Ron Gallo Band. This is somebody we had never heard of before. His music embraces elements of both art rock and garage punk. He began a solo career in 2014, after fronting various bands including one called Toy Soldiers, and since then has released a recording called "Heavy Meta." His band is bassist Joe Bisirri and drummer Dylan Sevey. It really wasn't our thing. Here’s a short video I took, and here's a page from KUTX Music 98.9 in Austin that has a bunch of Gallo videos.

Next was the wonderful singer, writer, and cellist Leyla McCalla. This gifted artist was born in New York to Haitian parents, studied classical cello at New York University, toured with the Carolina Chocolate Drops, and moved to New Orleans, where she busked on the streets (playing Bach) and soaked up some of America's most Creolized traditions. Tonight she led a trio with her husband Daniel Trembay on banjo and percussion and Free I playing violin.

McCalla is a humble, free spirt. She has incredible talent yet very casual. There's absolutely no arrogance or flashiness to her. She is proud of her Haitian heritage, and it is part of all of her songs. The passion she feels for black folk music and Haitian culture is infectious. She is singing her rich lyrics directly from her heart.

McCalla's music ranges from Creole slave songs to Haitian folk balladry to Parisian style string band jazz, sung in French, English, and Creole. You can tell she is deeply connected to these songs. Her voice is disarmingly natural, yet she is unabashedly intelligent. She speaks on Haitian history and struggles with a boldness that makes you want to listen. 

NPR conducted an interview with McCalla, which you can find here (transcript here) along with a video of her beautiful song A Day for the Hunter, A Day for the Game, which was the first song she performed tonight. To see the scene in the Civic, here is the video I took. Another former member of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Rhiannon Giddens, who performed at Jazz Fest today, was in attendance tonight, and she joined the group for a song. To really get the feel for this artist and her songs, here is an entire concert from the 2016 Worldstock Festival in Paris. Highly recommended.

That would have been enough, but now it was time for another wonderful singer and songwriter, Alynda Lee Segarra, and her band Hurray for the Riff Raff. We have seen this group a couple of times at Jazz Fest, on Day 4 in the rain in 2013 (where you can read all about Segarra) and Day 9 in 2014. The band has changed completely since we last saw them, though.

Gone are the personnel and the bluegrass, folk, and blues influences that made them harbingers of a new kind of wide-ranging, inclusive Americana. Gone is the prominent fiddle of Segarra's longtime foil, Yosi Perlstein, although McCalla and Free I appeared for a number of songs to add some strings.

This new Riff Raff are better able to take on Segarra's pugnacious new music, a sound redolent of her roots in urban New York, rather than her adopted New Orleans.

Playing under a large projection that read "We're All in This Together," this was definitely a band with a message to deliver. Segarra and the new Hurray for the Riff Raff -- keyboardist J.B. Flatt, bassist Caitlin Gray, guitarist Jordan Hyde, and drummer Charles Ferguson -- took that message on the road this spring, and this show marked the end of that tour.

Segarra says she just turned 30, and it has affected the way she approaches the meaning of her music. "I'm like, 'I'm inheriting the Earth and the way it is right now, and what do I want to do with what I've learned from my experience to make it better?'" she asks.

"I think something happened to me where, especially on election night, I just had this sinking feeling," she says. "I was like, 'Well, Alynda, you always loved Woody Guthrie, and you always loved Joan Baez, and you always wondered what you'd do in these times of total crisis and moral uncertainty. And now here you are, and you gotta buckle up, and you've gotta do the work.' It's scary every day, but it was just this feeling of, 'You're not a little kid anymore. It's time to really do the work now.'"

Segarra says she believes wholeheartedly that it's the job of the artist to do that work, but she doesn't think there is just one way for an artist to effect change. For her, sharing her heritage and her story became its own radical act, one she hopes reminds people of "the humanity of all of us."

"The only thing I know how to do," Segarra says, "is not to try to change people's minds, but just to stay true to myself and what I believe, and to remember that there is nothing wrong with believing that all people deserve justice, and they deserve equal rights, and they deserve to be seen as human beings -- whether they have paperwork or not, no matter what gender they identify as. I really hope that artists will feel like they need to put those ideas into their work. If we don't, then I think things will get really scary."

Segarra and the band are rallying round a song whose title is a New World Spanish phrase -- Pa'lante! -- which means "keep on going." The phrase is sung repeatedly by Segarra, fist clenched, eyes filled passion, to end the set. "To all who had to hide, I say: pa'lante!" She is addressing not just her Puerto Rican roots, but pretty much anyone else who has ever felt excluded from a dominant narrative.

Hyde is a great presence throughout, but especially right from the start on the beautiful new song Nothing's Gonna Change That Girl ("a song about not giving up," says Segarra). The song starts as a ballad, then takes a left turn into a Latin beat.

The final encore tonight was a cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival's anthem Fortunate Son. The song was originally about privileged kids dodging the Vietnam draft; there are no prizes for guessing which commander-in-chief it is addressed to now.

Here's my video from this really, really good performance. Here are a few more of without the commotion I record: a 30-minute concert for KEXP in Seattle, a 20-minute NPR Tiny Desk Concert, the full 40 minutes from SXSW in Austin this year, and an hour and a quarter from the Meow Wolf in Santa Fe. This band, whether in the current configuration or the previous, is another one highly recommended, and we were thrilled to get to see both Alynda Segarra and Leyla McCalla in one performance.

Not relevant to the concert, but interesting, I read an article in which Segarra talks about her beautiful archtop guitar. She got it at a little guitar shop in Asheville, North Carolina, that doesn't exist anymore. She wasn't really looking for a guitar, but it appealed to her because it looked like one that she saw Mother Maybelle Carter of the Carter Family playing (see it here) and wanted to learn how to do her strumming and picking. In the store they told her it was a Kay from the 1950's. That was 8 years ago, and she admits that she didn't attempt to play it until last year. In fact, she had loaned it to a friend who took it on tour.

She continues, "And then just last year, I was like, 'I want to try this out again with the band,' because I had been playing my Gibson, and we were just having trouble amplifying an acoustic. So I plugged this into an amp and it was kind of like magic. It was just the right moment. It was a real journey, me and that guitar!

"When I got it, I felt like it intimidated me. I wasn't sure how to play it, and I definitely wasn't working with amplifiers. I was kind of a purist, just playing everything acoustic. But I knew there was something to it, and I just knew it was so magical or something. It just looks magical, so it just one day, it just felt like, 'This is the guitar I need to use.'"

The guitar has since been identified as a Harmony Patrician by way of the distinctive tailpiece at the bottom end of the strings. It's possible it is from the 1940's, although they were made into the 1970's with quite a few variations.

Anyway, we had a nice walk back to the Staybridge around midnight, ending yet another great day of music in New Orleans.

Z3qV%HD6S9Cl5AOpGbMbvA thumb 9031
© Jeff Mangold 2012