Day 11 / Saturday, May 5

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It's the next-to-last day of Jazz Fest, sadly, and that means big-crowd day! Aerosmith! Cage the Elephant! Anita Baker! I don't think they will draw the massive crowds that we seen on some second Saturdays, but there will be a lot of people without a doubt. Regardless, the Jazz Fest 2018 routine needed to be done. Get up ... get ready ... slather on sunblock ... get Brass Passes, shuttle tickets, camera, hats, and phones ... and head down to the lobby to grab some coffee and maybe a bit of food, but only enough to tide us over to get to Jazz Fest, where real good food awaited. We were completely successful once again. 

Unfortunately, we needed to prepare for the r@#n showers that were in the weather forecast, so the umbrella, plastic bags for phones, and those poncho things (basically plastic bags with holes for arms and head) also had to be packed.

However, when we headed out it was just overcast, although quite humid. The temperature was 76. This day had two distinct weather parts: before and after the weather system. After the rain passed through, and the rain really was just a brief annoyance, nothing difficult, the skies cleared and the temperature went up to 83 with a refreshing breeze and low humidity. This evening was a warm but pleasant 79.

The Gray Line people were prepared for the large Saturday crowd. The line of buses stretched up a couple of blocks from the Sheraton, so despite the longer line we were at the Fair Grounds more or less on time. At times they were loading three buses at once.

Part of the fun on the trip to Jazz Fest on the second Saturday is seeing all of the bright yellow lemonade stands set up throughout the Mid-City neighborhoods for Lemonade Day, a youth program that teaches kids entrepreneurial skills, including budgeting, purchasing, marketing, and customer relations. 

The national Lemonade Day organization was founded in Houston in 2007 by Michael Holthouse, best known in the business world as the founder and President of Paranet, a computer network services company. As an Inc. Magazine Entrepreneur of the Year and twice on Inc.'s list of fastest growing companies, Holthouse grew Paranet in 6 years to 27 offices, 1,600 employees and revenues in excess of $100 million. He sold the company to Sprint in 1997 and since then has focused on philanthropy, investments, and a variety of business interests. Community involvement is an enormous part of his life, and he has served on a variety of children’s and civic boards. 

The Holthouse Foundation for Kids focuses proactively on at-risk youth. His philanthropic venture, Prepared 4 Life (P4L), of which Lemonade Day is part, prepares middle school youth for life through fun, proactive, and experiential after-school programs infused with life skills, character education and entrepreneurship. It's very cool.

Once we arrived at the Fair Grounds, we headed back to the Congo Square food area where there are three vendors who seem to provide the majority of Laurie's veggie brunches. Today it was Palmer's Jamaican steamed veggies over rice. 

She's had this before, of course, on Day 11 in 2013, Day 8 in 2015 (read more about Cecil Palmer there), and Day 9 last year, and I had it on Day 3 in 2014. However, all of these were with the fish accompaniment. Today it was just the vegetables: steamed cabbage, carrots, and squash on top of a bed of rice. Hot sauce added, of course.

I don't know exactly when on her travels, but she had the same dish again today, only this time with the fish. Hot sauce added, of course. Sometimes on a crowded day such as today you go with a food vendor with a short line. Or maybe she just liked it this morning and wanted more. Can't say.

I couldn't really decide what I wanted, but as I waited for Laurie I was again drawn to Marie's Sugar Dumplings, where I saw that they were offering a bacon pecan square. My comment on that was, "Wow!"

It's a home-style pastry, somewhere between a pie and a brownie, built of a thick, buttery crust with fine bits of bacon interspersed with the glazed pecans. When you approach Marie's booth it always smells like a bakery, because it is. Now it has a subtle savory scent of breakfast-table bacon too.

So now I have had Yolanda Casby's awesome sweet potato pie (yesterday), sweet potato turnover (in years past), and bacon pecan square. The only thing I have not tried is her apple turnover.

A resident of Marrero, on the West Bank, Casby has been a Jazz Fest vendor for more than 20 years. When asked to the secret of her pastry, she says "Butter and lard together. And sugar. That's how I make it. And milk. I was taught by a friend of mine a long time ago when she used to make pie crust from Crisco. She said, 'Look, feel this. Now remember that feeling.' When I learned how to make the pie crust, it's that feeling. I feel it in my hand now, how it does."

Her favorite is the sweet potato pie. "One of my youngest grand daughters, every time I'm making it she's coming over to the house. She wants the apron on like me. I put her on a chair and let her stand by the mixer on the counter. Then she'll say, 'Give me some, give me some!' Then she'll say, 'Good, Meme, good!' I say 'You're going to be the next one to take over.' She's two years old."

Where did the name Marie's Sugar Dumplings come from? Yolanda says, "The name? My husband would call me Marie and I would call him Sugar Dumpling."

Of course that was not quite enough food to get a Jazz Fest day started, so I grabbed myself some crawfish beignets from Patton’s Caterers in Food Area I. Located in Slidell, Patton's also makes the famous platter with, in addition to the beignets, a crawfish sack and an oyster pattie. I had that whole thing on Day 11 2014.

What could possibly be wrong with crawfish beignets? Dollops of batter filled with crawfish, fried to a crisp and covered in a lemon tartar sauce. Outstanding.

Tim Patton recalls, "The first year we got involved with Jazz Fest was the first year they cancelled a day of the festival due to rain. The next day, they opened up the grounds and we saw all these people going to their favorite booths, and we were just sitting there with nothing because we were the new guy. But then a local writer named us Best of the Fest that first weekend, so the second weekend we started getting more traffic. And from the following year to today, we've been wailing ever since."

Food vending at Jazz Fest is hardly an insignificant undertaking, especially if the crowds love what you have for them. The preparation alone is nearly unbelievable in its complexity and thoughtfulness.

Tim Patton, along with his sister, company Vice President Pat Patton and brother/executive chef Terry Patton, hire upwards of 150 people to prep, cook, and sell their company's signature dishes for Jazz Fest. They work in shifts at Patton's home base in a historical plantation house in Slidell to ensure that they'll have enough fresh product for the hungry masses.

Time for music! At the Fais Do Do stage, of course! Here are today's cubes. And did you know that Jazz Fest publishes a program? I've seen the booths selling them, but have never looked at one. Check it out here. It is full of interesting stuff.

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Legendary Cajun musician Walter Mouton and the Scott Playboys were getting things started at the Fais Do Do stage. Open most books on Cajun music and you'll see little or no information on Walter Mouton. Yet, Cajun superstars like Wayne Toups and Steve Riley and local favorites like Jackie Caillier and Kevin Naquin, have all studied Mouton's fluid accordion style note for note. His reputation rests almost solely on his live performances at Cajun dances.

In the late 1960's, Mouton, now 80 years old, recorded a rousing instrumental, Scott Playboys Special, which stood as his lone record for decades. That two-step tune is now recognized as a Cajun music standard. Considered a musician's musician, and definitely a southwestern Louisiana legend, Mouton has led the Scott Playboys for 65 years, and he has played La Poussiere Cajun Dancehall in Breaux Bridge for 45 years, 30 straight years on Saturday nights. He prefers his band's live sound over a studio-produced one; thus, the lack of other recordings. 

When Mouton retired in 2008, he had had enough. But he was pleased with the generations he made dance and smile. "I never was one for the fame," he says. "That's why I never pushed to record. I was satisfied going out there, playing my music and watching the people enjoy it. I was glad to be part of their evening. That's the way I looked at it through most of my career. It was never work for me.

"I never cared to play in a restaurant. You couldn't tell if they were coming to see you or coming to eat. In a dancehall, when they come and pay at the door, you know they were coming to see you."

Mouton put together the first version of the Scott Playboys in 1952 when he was 13 with Johnnie Allan, Rodney Miller, and Leeman Prejean. According to the biography compiled by the Cajun French Music Association, which named him to their Hall of Fame, the Scott Playboys performed at such dance halls like the Colonial Club in Estherwood, the Reno Club in Kaplan, T-Maurice in Bosco, the China Ball Club in Church Point, the Triangle Club in Scott, Jolly Roger's in St. Martinville, and the Happy Landing in Arnaudville.

More than 45 musicians have been Scott Playboys, including renowned accordion builder Clarence "Junior" Martin. Mouton kept band rules simple: show up on time and show up sober. "I always told them, if you have a couple of problems and you feel like you want to hit the bottle, wait until 10:30 or 11, then you can hit it," he said. "But I'm not going to let you drive home. I'll go take you home myself."

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Through the years, Mouton maintained day jobs as a tank builder at an oil field and a truck driver. He raised three boys and one girl. He says a total of 57 years on the bandstand caused him to miss family events and other activities. Now that he's retired, he goes six months or longer without touching an accordion. But he looks back on his career with no regrets.

"If you're going to do it, you have to be dedicated to it. You can't go one weekend and say I'm going to take off next weekend. We buried my grandma on a Saturday afternoon and I wanted to take off. My daddy said 'No, go. They're expecting you. You're not going out there to have fun. You're going to do a job. Grandma would want you to go.' So I went. It's been good for me. I never made a bunch of money, but I never expected I'd get rich. 

The band kept going by changing with the times, adding country and western as well as rock and roll songs to their repertoire to try to meet dance hall requests. But with the revival of Cajun music, the band was able to play only the music that they love: Cajun songs with a beat designed for dancing. Mouton says, "I consider myself a dance band as (opposed) to an authentic Cajun band." 

Mouton and his band, Jason Frey on fiddle, John Dale Hebert on bass, Danny Cormier on the pedal steel, and Ronald Prejean on the drums, play a fluid dancehall style, with motoring drums, walking bass, and ringing steel. Mouton's razor-sharp precision, impeccable timing, and efficient accordion playing are prominent throughout.

Here is my video from today, and here they are doing the Scott Playboys Special in Lafayette in 2012, and here is another one from 2012 with Joel Savoy sitting in on fiddle. This web page has a recorded interview with Walter Mouton, a true Cajun legend.

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This was really cool to see. Unfortunately, we had to leave a few minutes early so we could see the Lost Bayou Ramblers over at the Acura stage. They are a band we really enjoy. Their mix of Cajun melodies with modern rock touches (call it Cajun music plus) is nothing short of brilliant, although they probably wouldn't call it that. The band was formed by brothers Louis Michot (fiddle and vocals) and Andre Michot (Cajun accordion and lap steel guitar) and now includes Bryan Webre (bass), Johnny Campos (electric guitar), Eric Heigle (electronics and acoustic guitar), and Kirkland Middleton (drums). 

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We make it a point to see this band every year, and we have, so far: Day 3 in 2013, Day 9 in 2014Day 3 in 2015Day 8 in 2016, and Day 3 last year. We have watched them grow from the Fais Do Do stage to the Gentilly stage to their appearance on the massive Acura stage today. They appeared to be having a lot of fun while adjusting to the new surroundings.

If you know Cajun music, you are probably familiar with the Lost Bayou Ramblers. These days they are hard to miss, playing all over Louisiana and beyond. But even with 10 albums, work on two major motion picture scores, a new documentary film in the works, and this year a Grammy, they still remain a group of down-to-earth, very approachable guys.

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The band has been around for 20 years now, originally started by the Michot brothers back in 1999. But, typically, those two have been playing Cajun music for much longer than that, since they were 10 years old, making music with their father and uncles. "It's all a part of our make-up, Cajun music," Louis says. "It's what we love and it's what we do.

"I think being in a Cajun band is more about being from the area and understanding it," he continues. "Me and Andre are way into Cajun music. We know all about it. And the rest of them ... they know it in their heart. They know it in their minds and in their upbringing; they don’t have to know specifics about it."

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That said, Louis and the other members of the band are quick to point out that they don't really fit into the typical Cajun mold. There is much more to their sound than that. Their music is far more dynamic. While they are "definitely influenced by very old-school, traditional Cajun music," they also admit to counting artists like Led Zeppelin, B.B. King, and Jimi Hendrix among their influences as well. Louis says, "We're not your typical Cajun band that does waltz, two-step, waltz, two-step. We're out of the box, we can fit into any club or any festival." Check out My Generation in Cajun French. The Who could never have imagined it.

This ability to fit in anywhere has helped contribute to their success. "We love Cajun music and we love music in general," Louis says. So while the Lost Bayou Ramblers are Cajun at their core, they go far beyond that, combining elements of other types of music, adding other bits of energy and rhythms and samples into it to create a unique brand of Cajun music specific only to them.

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"The musicians in our band bring their own influence into what we're doing," Louis says. "And as long as we're playing fiddle and accordion and singing French vocals, it's Cajun music. And whatever else we add to it, it's still Cajun music."

Their Cajun music, sung almost entirely in French, that has earned the band quite a diverse following, plenty of recognition, and now the Grammy, as this year, their album "Kalenda" was named Best Regional Roots Album.

The album was recorded at Dockside Studio, a recording facility hidden along the Vermilion River in Maurice that is responsidble now for a dozen Grammy-winning recordings. Here's a video about Dockside and "Kalenda." 

Louis says that his favorite part of winning the Grammy is the ability to shut up any doubters or nay-sayers and to be taken more seriously. "The best thing about it is that you can basically tell anyone who's going to judge you for being a musician, 'Well, I won a Grammy,' and they'll just stop judging you. It's like, 'Oh, you're a musician?' (pause) 'No, I'm a Grammy-winning musician!'"

            

The Lost Bayou Ramblers have been playing Jazz Fest for the past 13 years in a row. Surprisingly, they almost never practice together. Middleton says, "We find a lot of comfort in the unknown, and improvising when we can. It's really the idea and spirit of just keeping it kind of free. When we play live, we really have to listen to one another, and kind of dance with one another. Improv is definitely the thing that makes it interesting."

"It's a lot of hard work, but it's fun," Louis says, "especially if you enjoy the people you’re with."

Here is my video from today at the Acura stage, and here are 1, 2, 3 more from today and 1 and 2 from Lafayette Square earlier this year. If the Lost Bayou Ramblers are back next year, we'll be there, I am sure.

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While we were watching the Lost Bayou Ramblers, a few r@#ndrops began to fall, but nobody seemed to be bothered. 

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We were next heading back to the Fais Do Do stage, but on the way stopped at the Jazz Tent to see some of this year's edition of Blodie's Jazz Jam. This show puts on display all that is good about the music in a nutshell. Led by Gregory "Blodie" Davis, a leader of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, you can count on seven or eight horn players out front and a rotating cast of keyboardists and percussionists, jazz elders and young lions alike. The jam consists of lengthy improvisations on just three or four wildly swinging tunes over the span of its rowdy hour or so.

    

We've caughtsome of Blodie's jam before, on Day 3 2016 and Day 3 last year, and it's always a good idea to catch some of it if you pass by, just to see how many fabulous musicians New Orleans has and continues to produce. Here's my video of today's Blodie Jam today.

In the picture below you'll see, from left, Jessie McBride (keys), T.J. Norris (trombone), Gregory Davis (trumpet), Kirk Joseph (sousaphone), Roger Lewis (baritone sax), Roderick Paulin (tenor sax), Marlon Jordan (trumpet), Khari Allen Lee (alto sax), Julian Addison (drums, mostly hidden), and Takeshi Shimmura (guitar). That is one very impressive lineup.

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We made our quick stop at the WWOZ tent for a fruit and iced coffee refresher, then headed to the Fais Do Do stage. The r@#n continued to be spotty, more of an annoyance than anything. Honestly I think this was the first time that it was just r@#n showers and not a storm or hard rain. However, we geared up just in case. Luckily it was all over in an hour or so and that was the end of the r@#n at Jazz Fest 2018.

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At the Fais Do Do stage we were going to see another one of our favorite young Cajun bands, Feufollet. We saw them way back in 2012, on Day 3, and fell in love with their sound and style. We also caught them on Day 11 in 2015 and Day 9 in 2016. The current lineup is Chris Stafford on accordion and guitar, Kelli Jones on fiddle, Andrew Toups on keyboards, Jim Kolacek on drums, and Philippe Billeaudeaux on bass. Every time we see them there is a different lead guitarist. Today it was Christian Mader.

Feufollet started when Stafford was very young, and back then they played traditional Cajun folk music. Recently they have been exploring a wider sonic range. Tired of Your Tears has outlaw country attitude fused into an Americana tune. And while Questions Sans Reponses features French lyrics, it sounds more like it could be a laid-back tune from a 1990's alternative rock band. 

Another example of their ability to stretch beyond traditional Cajun while staying true to its roots is the band's cover of Baby's on Fire, a dark arthouse tune that by Brian Eno that features a ripping guitar solo more suited to 1980's glam rock. It may seem odd, but Feufollet found a way to rein it all in while still doing the song justice by bringing the accordion to the forefront. 

But true to form, when they released the tune on a single, the B-side is one of the oldest Cajun tunes around, Clair de la Lune

We've heard Feufollet do Baby's on Fire several times at Jazz Fest, and we agree with this guy when he says he will never, EVER, get tired of seeing people Cajun dancing to Brian Eno! Here's my video as well.

      

At this point Laurie was off again to the Acura stage to see Dumpstaphunk -- Ivan Neville on keyboards, Tony Hall and Nick Daniels on bass guitars (that’s right, two bass guitars; as Ivan says, "don't try this at home unsupervised"), Ian Neville on guitar, and Alvin Ford Jr. on drums. As usual, they were in great form today, and Laurie had a great time. She doesn’t mind dancing in a huge crowd. Me, not so much. But Dumpstaphunk is always, repeat always, highly recommended.

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So here's the score on seeing Dumspstaphunk: We were enlightened on Day 2 in 2012, so much so that we went to see them at The Hamilton in D.C. in August; In 2013 it was Day 3 at Jazz Fest and Day 5 at the Instruments a Comin' benefit at Tipitina's; then it was Jazz Fest on Day 11 in 2014 and Day 3 in 2015; phunkin' in the rain on Day 11 in 2016; and finally Laurie went it alone on Day 10 last year. They are another band that we just love to see and hear!

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You can usually count on a sit-in of some sort with Dumpstaphunk. In the past it has been horn sections and various senior Nevilles, in particular Art (Ian's father) and Cyril (Ivan and Ian's uncle). Today, however, as a tribute to Ivan and Ian's uncle Charles Neville they featured saxophone legend and Big Chief of the Congo Square tribe of Mardi Gras Indians Donald Harrison Jr. and Skerik, another pretty darn good sax player, while projecting an image Charles on the stage. 

Here are I'm Gonna Make It and If You Ask Me My Name from today's show on the Acura stage. And here's a full set from the Variety Playhouse in Atlanta later this year.

After she was done Phunking, Laurie reported that she grabbed a snack of a key lime tart from Cecelia Husing's Legal Perks of New Orleans. She's had these few silky, sweet-sour spoonfuls of lime (a traditional tart made with egg yolks, condensed milk, and real lime juice) balanced by a crunchy crust on Day 4 in 2014Day 9 in 2015 (where you can read more about Husing and her treats), and Day 3 last year. 

We also have enjoyed Husing's strawberry shortcake on Day 10 in 2014 (Laurie) and Day 11 in 2016 (me). The tart and shortcake are all she sells, but when you do them so well, why not?

Laurie then went over to the Blues Tent to spend a few minutes with Deacon John Moore before meeting me at the Jazz and Heritage stage. 

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Deacon John has entertained three generations of New Orleanians, singing everything from classic R&B and blues to rock and roll, jazz, and gospel music. His career spans more than 50 years. 

Like so many of his peers, he got his vocal training in the church. He began singing with his first band in middle school and continued singing through high school. Realizing he could get more gigs if he also played guitar, he found his first guitar at a pawn shop on Canal Street and also purchased several instruction books. He learned from those instruction books as well as records he bought.

Moore co-founded a group called the Echoes in 1957, while still in high school. Then he played in various pickup bands before joining the Ivories along with Roger Lewis, now in the Dirty Dozen Brass Band (and all over the place as well). He continues to lead that group. Alumni of Deacon John and the Ivories include Charles, Cyril, and Art Neville. Also Smokey Johnson, Zigaboo Modeliste, James Booker, George French, and James Rivers.

After hearing Moore play guitar and sing at the Dew Drop Inn, the pianist, producer, and bandleader Allen Toussaint asked him to play on some recording sessions, and Moore began filling in for studio guitarists when they were on the road. Later in the 1950's and 1960's he worked with Dave Bartholomew, Wardell Quezergue, Harold Batiste, and Red Tyler in the recording studio, recording mostly at the J&M Recording Studio, run by Cosimo Matassa. Moore's guitar playing can be heard many R&B hits, including Irma Thomas' Ruler of My Heart, Lee Dorsey's Working in the Coal Mine and Ride Your Pony, Aaron Neville's Tell It Like It Is, Robert Parker's Barefootin', Ernie K-Doe's Mother-in-Law, Benny Spellman's Fortune Teller and Lipstick Traces, and Chris Kenner's Land of a Thousand Dances and Something You've Got. Wow! He figures he was on the majority of the Minit Records releases in the early 1960's, many of which were written and produced by Allen Toussaint.

"Allen Toussaint made me a part of New Orleans music history," Moore said. "I can't thank him enough for that. He came along and recognized that I had a talent, and put me in the studio. And now I've got something that they can't take away from me. I'm a part of the New Orleans history and music culture that came from that period. I can't believe all the stuff that I played on as a guitar player."

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Moore still makes his living in and around New Orleans playing private functions as opposed to the club scene. He also teaches in schools throughout Louisiana. And, he has performed at every Jazz Fest, which started in 1970. Most of his gigs, thousands of them, have been in or near New Orleans. He's never performed in a foreign country. For him, it's enough -- he's never worked a day job. He's always made a living as a musician. Though he contributed guitar to scores of classic recordings from the golden age of New Orleans rhythm and blues, he never had a hit of his own. Except for the 2003 release "Deacon John's Jump Blues," he's released few records under his own name.

No matter. He remains one of the most consistently popular entertainers in New Orleans. Looking back on the occasion of his 75th birthday, he said, "I happened to be in the right place at the right time. I got the first call on a lot of recording sessions. I had talent, I could play the part. But number 2, I was available because I didn't travel. I could make a decent living staying home and playing gigs around town." 

His system works. His phone -- he's had the same number for as long as he can remember -- has never stopped ringing. Here and here are videos of Deacon John with Allen Toussaint. Here is a continuation of the first video (Let the Good Times Roll) and here is Jumping in the Morning with Henry Butler on piano).

While Laurie was seeing Dumpstaphunk and Deacon John (and eating a key lime tart), I was at the Jazz Tent with Astral Project, who were making thier 41st consecutive appearance at Jazz Fest. However, it was only the second time seeing them for me, after Day 2 last year. 

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The band is made up of saxophonist Tony Dagradi, bassist James Singleton, guitarist Steve Masakowski, and drummer John Vidacovich. They are known for thier cutting-edge improvisation and near telepathic interplay over deep New Orleans grooves. 

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Singleton is a conduit of pure energy. His solid rhythmic concept and harmonic sense are the foundation of this innovative group’s improvisational strength. Masakowski has long been regarded as one of the most awe-inspiring guitarists and composers in contemporary music. His technique on the unique seven-string instrument he designed has influenced a generation of guitarists. 

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Performing on tenor and soprano saxophones, Tony Dagradi brings an emotional urgency to each solo. His huge tone and soaring lines speak of the entire tradition of jazz and constantly push the energy of the band forward. Together they produce true modern jazz. Born and raised in New Orleans, Vidacovich has the city's unique, syncopated backbeat running in his veins.

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Astral Project shakes something loose at the very core of your being. Each song transports you to a place many musicians aim to pull their listeners into, but many never quite get there. In this case, that place is another plane of existence entirely -- an astral one at that -- where time and space and sound seem to stand still yet commingle as notes and beats bounce off the Jazz Tent rafters above. Individually, any one of these four musicians is a true master of his instrument. But bring the foursome together, and the riffs that unfold blast listeners into orbit, leaving them breathless and refreshed in their wake.

Here is my video of the phenomenal Astral Project today, and here is the complete Steve Masakowski composition Mancuso from today. You can hear excerpts of all of the songs from today's show at the Munck Music site.

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I was feeling the need for some late lunch, and since I was right next to the Heritage Square food area, and noticed that the line was not especially long, I grabbed a plate of Lil' Dizzy's Trout Baquet. 

Trout Baquet is a meaty trout filet topped with lump crabmeat and lemon-butter garlic sauce, the dish is named after its creator, Dizzy Baquet, Sr., whose father established Lil' Dizzy's restaurant.

Laurie had Trout Baquet on Day 3 in 2012, and we both had it on Day 4 in 2014. I had it on Day 3 in 2016. And each of us has had Dizzy's excellent crawfish bisque a number of times. Both are definitely a go-to Jazz Fest dishes.

On my way to the Jazz and Heritage stage for our late afternoon meeting, I stopped at the Blues Tent, where I shoehorned my way into the standing area in the back to hear and sort of see the Dixie Cups. Yes, those Dixie Cups. They perform every year at Jazz Fest in a show that also includes Clarence "Frogman" Henry, Wanda Rouzan, and Al "Carnival Time" Johnson, backed by a band called the Poppa Stoppas, led by Bobby Cure.

The Dixie Cups originally consisted of one cousin (Joan Marie Johnson) and two sisters (Barbara Ann Hawkins and Rosa Lee Hawkins), who first sang together in high school. All three young ladies were from New Orleans, as was producer and singer Joe Jones, who discovered the talented threesome and took them to New York in 1964. 

There, they recorded the classic song Chapel of Love on the Red Bird Records label. It was their biggest success, a million seller and a worldwide hit. A few other hits followed through 1964 and into 1965: You Should Have Seen the Way He Looked at Me, Little Bell, Iko Iko, and People Say. But Red Bird Records soon folded and there were no more hits.

Today Rosa Lee Hawkins and Barbara Ann Hawkins are still in the Dixie Cups. They are joined by Athelgra Neville, a sister of the Neville Brothers.

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Chapel Of Love remains one of the great and most exhilarating songs from an era that produced a lot of both. When people talk about the turmoil and trouble of the 1960's, they sometimes don't remember that the decade also produced countless sunbursts of optimism and joy. Nothing illustrates the sunny side of the 1960's more exuberantly than Chapel of Love. It hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts in June 1964.

That was only a year after a teenage Joan Marie Johnson stopped Barbara Ann Hawkins on her way to the store. While Johnson and Hawkins both lived in the Calliope housing project, they weren't really acquaintances, even though they were also cousins, a fact they would not realize until some time later. That day, Johnson simply asked Hawkins if she would join a vocal group she and her brother had formed to compete in a St. Augustine High School talent show.

Hawkins said sure, and a few rehearsals later Rosa Lee Hawkins joined them. They lost the talent contest, but caught the eye of Joe Jones, a New Orleans music promoter who had a top-five hit in 1960 with You Talk Too Much.

Jones eventually drove the trio to New York, along with seven other New Orleans singers he hoped to promote and manage. Since New York and the Brill Building were the center of the pop music world, that was the smart place to shop them. 

Meanwhile, newlywed New York songwriters Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry were writing a song about their marriage. While it would only last a few years, at this point they were feeling pretty happy about it.

The sun is here,
The sky is blue.
Birds all sing
As if they knew.
Today's the day
We'll say 'I do,'
And we'll never be lonely any more

Top that for pure joy and uncompromised faith in possibility! 

Phil Spector, who had helped write the song, recorded it with Darlene Love and the Blossoms but didn't feel it came out right. He then tried it with the Ronettes but didn't like that version, either. So Greenwich and Barry asked the writers and producers Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, who had a distribution deal with United Artists Records, if they could record it with someone else and sell it there.

Stoller brought Johnson and the Hawkins sisters to Greenwich and Barry. They sang Chapel of Love for them and that was it. It was a time when pop music often bloomed in sheer wonderful randomness. As it happened, Leiber and Stoller had also just decided to start their own label, Red Bird. It was the first record on Red Bird and sold more than a million copies.

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By the way, Iko Iko, which we hear all over the place down here, is a traditional New Orleans song. Barbara Hawkins had heard her grandmother sing the song, first recorded in 1953 as Jock-a-Mo by James "Sugar Boy" Crawford. Barbara Hawkins says, "We were just clowning around with it during a session using drumsticks on ashtrays. We didn't realize that Jerry and Mike had the tapes running". Leiber and Stoller overdubbed a bassline and percussion and released it. It was The Dixie Cups' fifth and last hit.

Here is my very shaky video of the Dixie Cups today. It was very cool to finally see this legendary group, and the big crowd in the Blues Tent gave them all the love they deserve. Here's another video of it, the whole thing, from a bit closer that I was!

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We were almost back together for the rest of the day, but Laurie was in the mood for another sweet snack, so she got a slice of home-made Creole cream cheese cake with fresh strawberries from Minnie Pearl Pies and Pastries of Marrero, Louisiana. It was the first time either of us had tried any of her baked goods, and Laurie reported that slice of cake she got was the size of Louisiana. 

Minnie Pearl Meredith, whose booth is right next to Lil' Dizzy's in the Heritage Square food area (we definitely know where to go to get food on crowded days), also serves lemon meringue pie, coconut pie, sweet potato pie, red velvet cake, and German chocolate cake. 

Meredith says, "I've been cooking since I was eight years old. I was raised in the country in Mississippi and just started cooking, just like that. When I got here I was cooking for the Jefferson Parish school system when the Lord spoke to me and told me to make pies.

"When He spoke to me a chill went over me. The lady standing next to me felt it, too. She said, 'You don't know how to make pies.' I said, 'You don't know what I know. People are gonna always eat.'

"I stepped out on faith and sold them on the street and at different jobs. The Lord has blessed them and blessed me to continue on to do it. It's extremely a lot of work when you've got a good product."

All of her recepies are her own. The secret to her pie crust is Crisco shortening. She says, "You can't use just any kind of shortening to make a crust. You have to have the best." Her secret? "I just did it. I got me some shortening and mixed it up and went on with it. Nobody told me or showed me. Down through the years it just got better and better."

On a crowded day at Jazz Fest, toward the end of the day, we know how to work it. We stay on the fringes, at the smaller stages. We can still get up close to the musicians, mostly local, and see some fantastic performances. No disrespect to Aerosmith or Anita Baker, but the scene at their shows would have been quite a bit different from the places where we spent the last few hours of the day.

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First up were the Storyville Stompers, a fabulous brass band that we have seen on Day 11 in 2014Day 11 in 2016 (although for just a few minutes because of the relentless rain that day), and Day 3 last year. Members of the band are Craig Klein from Bonerama (and all over the place) on trombone, Bruce Brachtman from New Orleans' Finest on clarinet, Steve Burke on tenor sax, Jimmy Marshall on tuba, Larry Talerico on trumpet, Will Smith on trumpet and vocals, and Woody Penouilh on sousaphone. The absolutely relentless rhythm section is made up of Ray Lambert and Kerry Brown on snare drums and Anthony Davis and Jerome Cordo on bass drums. The grand marshals are Jane Harvey Brown (who also sings) and Wesley Schmidt.

    

The Stompers started in 1981 as a group of friends who had a love of traditional New Orleans music. They have a big sound and plenty of spirit, and they have no intention of updating the repertoire of classic jazz tunes they play. 

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For example, when they play Feel So Good we can feel what New Orleans jazz is all about. It is second-line music at its best. But the Storyville Stompers are not just a retro band. Their sound is huge, almost marching band in intensity, and their arrangements are incredibly complex and played by top-notch musicians. All this while they are having a blast playing it, with Brown and Schmidt strutting around the stage (and even into the crowd). They are a Jazz Fest highlight for us.

Here is my video, which includes the awesome Wesley Schmidt leading us in a second line to This Little Light of Mine.

Storyville for Blog

That was number one at the Jazz and Heritage stage. Number two was Big Chief Bo Dollis Jr. and the Wild Magnolias, always another highlight. 

I've seen this legendary band on Day 11 in 2014, the first Jazz Fest that Big Chief Bo Dollis Sr. couldn't attend due to his failing health, then on Day 11 in 2015, their first performance at Jazz Fest after the Big Chief passed away. I missed them in 2016 to the deluge on Day 10, and then caught them on Day 10 last year. You can read a lot more and see a lot of performances at any of those places. 

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By now you know the story. Beginning in 1964, Big Chief Dollis Sr. helped refashion the nature and practices of Mardi Gras Indian culture and protocol, preserving the traditional songs and costuming but changing the nature of the competition between tribes. Dollis and Big Chief Monk Boudreaux were part of a new breed of Mardi Gras Indians that eschewed violence and sublimated the competition between gangs into a contest of costumes, the prettier and more elaborate the better.

Bo Dollis and the Wild Magnolias are crucial because if it wasn't for their decision to venture out of their insular world and expose Mardi Gras Indians to a larger audience, as Dollis and Boudreaux did, the police and the city would have found ways to harass and marginalize Mardi Gras Indians out of existence. Time, crime, and red tape would have given them the pretext to outlaw the Indians. They attempted this after Hurricane Katrina, when they tried to make it harder to second line, and if there hadn't been a community of concerned citizens and cultural tourists watching, it might have worked. That larger community was aware of Mardi Gras Indians in no small part due to Bo Dollis.

  

Bo Dollis Sr. had a Wilson Pickett-like, flame-thrower voice that might have been recognized as such had he been singing traditional R&B. In 1970, he led a Mardi Gras Indian parade with Boudreaux in conjunction with the first Jazz Fest. The Wild Magnolias have been at Jazz Fest every year since. Bo Dollis Jr. was part of that, too, appearing with his father just as soon as he was old enough. When his father passed, he took the lead in the Wild Magnolias, singing with a strong voice that is so much like his father's that it is scary.

  

Here is my video of this awesome performance. Words cannot describe the emotion that continues to run though their Jazz Fest shows, as Dollis Jr. and his mother perform under the image of Bo Dollis Sr. that's atop the Jazz and Heritage stage. For some more, here are 1, 2, 3, and 4 from Tipitina's later this year.

Another place that is pretty easy on a crowded Saturday afternoon is the Fais Do Do stage. After the Wild Magnolias were done, we went over there to see the Lee Boys, one of the finest African-American sacred-steel ensembles in the country. 

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"Sacred steel" is an inspired form of gospel music with a hard-driving, blues-based beat. It is rooted in gospel but infused with rhythm and blues, jazz, rock, funk, hip-hop, country, and ideas from other nations. Influenced by the Hawaiian steel guitar fad of the 1930's, brothers Willie and Troman Eason brought the electric lap steel guitar into the worship services of the House of God Church in Jacksonville, Florida. The Pentecostal congregation embraced the soulful sound, and over time this totally unique sound became the hallmark of the church. The pedal steel guitar, sometimes more than one) was added to the mix and soon became the central instrument. 

The Lee Boys are part of the fourth generation of musicians playing this music, which was unknown to the world outside the church until the mid 1990's, when folklorist Robert Stone attended House of God services and recorded the music, as well as its history, and naming it "sacred steel" as well. A series of compilations featuring artists such as Aubrey Ghent, Calvin Cooke, and the Campbell Brothers, as well as the late Glenn Lee followed on legendary roots label Arhoolie Records.

The Lee Boys are three brothers, Alvin Lee (guitar) and Derrick and Keith Lee (vocals) along with their three nephews, Roosevelt Collier (pedal steel guitar), Alvin Cordy Jr. (7-string bass) and Earl Walker (drums). Born and raised in Miami, each of the Lee Boys grew up listening to sacred steel music in the House of God Church in Perrine, Florida, where their father and grandfather, Rev. Robert Lee, was the pastor and a steel player himself. Each began making music at the age of 7 or 8 and learned a variety of musical instruments, including lap and pedal steel guitars. 

      

Alvin Lee says, "All my parents did was music. My father sang Jubilee songs in the church, played the guitar, piano, and trombone. But what I remember most was him playing the steel guitar. We grew up in a church and the steel guitar was the focal instrument. He played it every time we went to church. It was a traditional style of music that became a part of us."

After the death of his father in 2001, Alvin started the Lee Boys. He and his brother Glenn created the particular style of the group. After Glenn unfortunately passed away, it was difficult for Alvin to play in the church without him. For this reason, he decided to perform and share their traditional style outside of the church setting and established the band with his brothers and nephews.

"The Lee Boys get their name from Lee Boy number one, my father," Alvin said. "My dad used to always say, 'Come on my Lee boys, come on.' My brother who passed early, Robert Jr., was Lee Boy number two, Keith was three, I was four, and so on. Then the nephews came from my sisters. And they started giving themselves numbers. And then the boys had boys. So my sons had a number and so we gave them the rest of the numbers down. It became this tradition that we did. So my father gave us the name and when I started the music, I just said we had to be named the Lee Boys."

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When the Lee Boys bring their joyous spiritual sound to the stage, you know that this is not "sitting and listening" music: dancing, shouting out, and having fun are considered essential parts of their tradition. 

Alvin Lee explains, "The inspiration and feeling that comes along with our music is the reason that people feel good." They play mostly original material, with a few standards and hymns that the group "blueses up a little." 

I've been exposed to sacred steel through Eric Clapton, of all people, as he regularly invited sacred-steel great Robert Randolph to perform at his Crossroads festivals in 2004, 2007, 2010, and 2013, which I'll never get enough of whenever they show up on TV. 

Sacred steel is awesome music. It starts out mellow and then builds to a fever pitch, and this was a great show. Here's what we saw at the Fais Do Do stage, and for some more, check out the Lee Boys at Jam in the Van, and hear excerpts of everything in their set today at Munck Music. For a full show, here's an hour from the Millennium Stage at the Kennedy Center.

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We had time to squeeze in one more bit of music today, as we went back to the Jazz and Heritage stage to see some of the High Steppers Brass Band, who I've seen before as part of a parade on Day 9 in 2015 and on stage on Day 9 last year.

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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 also respecting a musical tradition that is more than a century old. The High Steppers let you know early on where they're coming from. They do wild, funky originals like Sixth Ward Jam but also sample many different eras of New Orleans music, including Just a Closer Walk with Thee, one of the earliest dirges played by New Orleans brass bands, and Ooh-Pop-A-Dah, a bebop tune by Dizzy Gillespie.

Of course they also do the brass band standards, like When My Dreamboat Comes Home and Bourbon Street Parade along with more recent tunes like Professor Longhair's Mardi Gras and Butter Beans, played by most bands in the new generation of brass.

      

I've probably said it before, but it bears repeating. Brass bands are a great sendoff for a day at Jazz Fest. Here is my video of the High Steppers today.

As usual on the second Saturday, the line for the shuttle buses was pretty long after the music ended, but the line moved right along. At no time so far this year has there ever been a time when multiple buses weren't loading and even more were waiting to load. So hats off to the Gray Line people. We were back at the Staybridge with plenty of time to de-Fest and then head out to our annual visit to Emeril Lagasse's reimagined NOLA Restaurant

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We were somewhat apprehensive about this year's visit because both the restaurant and the menu underwent an eight-week renovation in anticipation of the restaurant's 25th anniversary. 

The formerly industrial-looking brick interior has been treated to a light wash to brighten the space. The first floor is now a large bar opposite the kitchen, with a chef's table where the smaller original bar used to be. The kitchen appears to be more open than before as well.

The menu had more small plates, which is definitely a thing these days, and Chef Philip Buccieri and his team have added dishes inspired by the "the diverse flavors that have influenced the development of New Orleans cuisine, including Vietnamese and French." 

Up on the second floor, where we were seated, it was pretty much the same, save for the new paint and furniture. Our server was very personable, and she and her team did a fantastic job. 

Laurie had a Holy Roller IPA from the Urban South Brewery in New Orleans, while I went the wine route with an excellent Pinot Noir from the Vista Hills winery in the Willamette Valley in Oregon.

One change on the menu that I was not happy with was the removal of the pork-cheek boudin ball appetizer. The server wasn't happy with it either, she said. Instead, I had stuffed chicken wings with a peanut sauce, and that proved to be a worthy replacement. Laurie had field greens, red grapefruit, vinaigrette, and a house-baked petit baguette.

My main was the chargrilled Chappapeela Farms pork chop served with caramelized sweet potatoes, apple chutney, and beer-braised onion sauce. Laurie had saffron pappardelle with crawfish tails and mussels in a tomato-fennel sauce, topped with fried pickled okra.

    

It is hard to resist Emeril's desserts, and after walking 800 miles at Jazz Fest, you feel like you have earned it. 

First up was a coconut semifreddo with mango sorbet and diced mango. 

We followed that with a New Orleans doberge cake layered with Vietnamese coffee pudding and black sesame pudding, topped with kaffir lime ice cream sprinkled with black sesame seeds. Plus Emeril's table-pressed French Truck coffee.

As always, NOLA provided a great dining experience. By the time we left the restaurant it was almost midnight, so we went straight back to the Staybridge. 

Sadly, the trip is winding down, but there is one more day full of good music to come, plus bonus time in New Orleans on Moday!

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© Jeff Mangold 2012