Day 3 / Friday, April 27

As you know, we have to execute what has become known as the Staybridge Suites morning drill on Jazz Fest mornings. So, officially, the morning drill for the 49th edition of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival is: get up ... get ready ... slather on sunblock ... get Brass Passes, shuttle tickets, camera, hats, and phones ... decide if rain gear is going to be needed ... and head down to the lobby to grab some coffee and maybe a bit of food, if there was any left, but only enough to get to Jazz Fest without getting gnarly, because really good food awaits there. The weather forecast today was dry, so the umbrella, jackets, and ponchos were left at the Staybridge. The drill is such a habit by now that it barely requires any thought. With no effort at all, coffee in hand, we were on our way over to Canal Street and the shuttle buses at the Sheraton hotel.

Outside, the sky was a perfect blue, and it remained that way throughout the day. When we left the hotel around 10 a.m. the temperature was 68 degrees, on its way to a high of 74. The humidity was moderate, but there was a bit of a breeze, and that helped. 

We arrived at the Sheraton early enough that the line for the buses wasn't very long, and the Gray Line folks got us aboard one pretty much before we knew it. 

One change we noticed was that there was no host on the bus to provide commentary about New Orleans and some tips on attending Jazz Fest. That was a nice touch in previous years that we missed.

We entered the Fair Grounds Race Course (remember that Jazz Fest is held at a horse racing track), looping around the big parking lot to the drop-off zone, where we found the usual line waiting to get into Jazz Fest. 

Today, when the gates opened, there was quite a delay, as opposed to previously when the line moved right along. This was caused by the presence of metal detectors at the security checkpoint. It was fairly apparent that the security attendants didn't know how to get large numbers of people through them efficiently. But get through we did, and as soon as we did we were whisked to the front of the ticket line for the separate Brass Pass and premium ticket scans. 

And once again we found ourselves on the familiar turf of the race track, walking toward the infield while listening to a sound check from the Gentilly stage, this year crowned with a likeness of Fats Domino sitting at his piano. New Orleans lost Fats over the winter, and he would be a presence thoughout the festival this year.

Here is the map of the grounds for this year's Jazz Fest, just to refresh your memory of where everything is. The only change this year were that the Cultural Exchange Pavilion switched from Cuba to the 300th anniversary of the founding of New Orleans.

Foodwise, the only change was that last year's Cuban food booth run by Congreso Cubano in the Cultural Exchange area became a regular vendor, replacing the Guil's Gator folks. Guil's served a dish of fried alligator with fried jalapeno pepper rings that was flavorful, well-fried, and sharply spicy from those peppers. 

Guil's Gator was the marquee dish for longtime vendors Sharon and Guil Wegner, who had been vendors at Jazz Fest since 1995 before bowing out this year. I had this great dish in a po'boy on Day 10 in 2013Day 10 in 2014, and Day 3 last year, and on Day 2 in 2016 I had just the gator alone alone. You can read more about the Wegners and gator in general at any of those links. Sharon Wegner said after 22 years at Jazz Fest the decision was mostly an issue of finding enough staff to work their booth. It was a perennial challenge and one that eventually she and her husband no longer wanted to manage. She said they’ll miss being part of Jazz Fest. I'll definitely miss Guil's Gator. 

To make up for the loss of Guil's Gator at Jazz Fest, the folks at Vaucresson's booth added an alligator sausage po-boy, with grilled onions and peppers and a garlic-scallion sauce, to its lineup of sausages. 

The Cultural Exchange food this year was served by Loretta's Authentic Pralines, serving traditional rice calas as well as sweet potato and shrimp calas. This fritter-like thing was sold in the French Market in the 1800's. Loretta's also served lump crab stuffed beignets, praline stuffed beignets, and chocolate stuffed beignets, along with pecan, coconut, chocolate and rum-flavored pralines. 

Speaking of food, that was our first priority. We immediately headed to the Congo Square Food area, which is right across from part of Food Area II. This spot houses two of our favorites. 

Laurie started out with, what else but, the spicy sauteed spinach (jama jama) and fried plantains from the Bennachin restaurant located in the French Quarter. She's had it every year (Day 4 in 2012, Day 9 in 2013, Day 11 in 2014, Day 4 in 2015, Day 8 in 2016, and Day 2 last year). Read more at any of those places. I got the ingredients and surprised Laurie by trying it at home over the winter. The result came close, but the original is hard to duplicate, especially the plantains.

I went over to Food Area II, drawn to the friendly smile of Mrs. Merline Hebert and the stuffed bread from Creole Lunch House in Lafayette, Louisiana, with, of course, her husband Raymond's secret green jalapeno sauce, which Mrs. Herbert will tell you is applied to the stuffed bread through a hole you poke in the top. This is four years running for me for this awesome food: beef, pork, sausage, peppers, and onions in a delicious soft bread. You can read all about Mrs. Herbert and the bread on Day 8 in 2015. I also had it on Day 8 and Day 11 in 2016 and Day 3 last year.

We started our music at the Fais Do Do stage. All totaled, between the two of us, we saw 20, that's right 20, performances today in whole or in part. In the interest of time, I'm going to skip the narrative and just provide some details about the artists and a link to previous blog entries if they are applicable. I will try to do them in the order that we were seeing them. For some perspective, here are today's cubes.

At Fais Do Do, we were seeing a young Cajun band, Kyle Huval and the Dixie Club Ramblers. Huval plays accordion, and the band is fiddlers Joel Savoy (from the the Savoy Family Cajun Band) and Mitch Schexnyder, guitarist Joe Vidrine, steel guitarist Chris Stafford (from Feufollet) and drummer Cody LaFleur.

By day, Kyle Huval teaches history Kinder High School and works at an animal hospital in Eunice. He has a history degree from McNeese State University and plans to get his doctorate. At night, he picks up his accordion and, along with the Dixie Club Ramblers, plays the Cajun music that was brewed in the dance halls of Southwest Louisiana. The band is named after a dance hall his great-grandparents ran.

Louisiana's Cajuns descend from the French-speaking Acadians who settled in Nova Scotia in 1604 only to be uprooted in 1755 by the British, who forced them south to the bayous and prairies of southwest Louisiana. In this refuge, a distinctive Cajun music evolved, blending older French and Acadian music with the sounds of their new neighbors: Native Americans, Spanish, Germans, and perhaps most importantly, French Creoles of African descent. 

In the 20th century came influences from country and western music, as well as blues, eventually creating the music emblematic of Cajun culture today.

It's the country influence that is especially evident in Huval's music, which includes twin fiddles and steel guitar. Like Huval, most of the Dixie Club Ramblers are in their mid-20s. "We all have a big East Texas influence, which, even back in the 1950's, had a different feel from the acoustic sound that was coming out of Lafayette, and which not too many younger musicians have picked up on," he says.

Huval originally wanted to play guitar, but growing up "we couldn't afford one, and all we had was an old accordion in the corner." His grandmother played French-language records and he adored the Mardi Gras bands he saw in his hometown of Eunice. By 16, he'd released his first album.

Few of the young Cajun musicians record original music or develop their own sound. Huval said technology, like YouTube videos, can make the problem worse as young players hardly stray from what they see and hear. "Back in the day, if I was playing and I went see you play, I might hear you play and say, 'I heard that song. I can't remember what he did. But I'm going to add my own little twist to it.' Or 'I didn't know the words, so I'm going to add my own words.' I feel like that's lost. You listen to these old guys play, like Aldus Roger, Austin Pitre, and Nathan Abshire play the same song. But each one is totally different.

"I want to give the young guys the confidence to do that. You can take a song and add your own twist to it. Nobody can tell you you can't do that. That's how we keep the music evolving."

We thoroughly enjoyed this really good Cajun music and we stayed through the whole set, which neither of us did all that often today. Call it a 'kid in a candy store' thing on the first day. Here is my video from today and here are one and two longer excepts from performances in Cajun country.

From here we split up for a bit. At the Gentilly stage, Laurie saw the blues rocker Eric Lindell, who we have never caught before at Jazz Fest. With his raspy, soulful voice and instantly memorable original songs, the multi-instrumentalist one of a kind talent. Mixing West Coast rock and swampy Gulf Coast R&B with honky-tonk country and Memphis soul, Lindell creates American roots music that is both surprisingly fresh yet familiar. Although influenced by American roots music from blues to country to rock, Lindell’s style is all his own. 

Born in San Mateo in 1969, Lindell spent countless hours in San Francisco, soaking up the musical sounds of the city, eventually leading him to pick up first the bass and then the guitar and harmonica. With a love of music and skateboarding, Lindell formed a few punky garage bands early on while his musical horizons expanded. He listened to the deep blues of Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, Jimmy Reed, and Albert King before drifting toward the R&B sounds of The Impressions, Stevie Wonder, and Donny Hathaway, soaking up the soul and learning how to craft a song. After performing at bars on the West Coast with a few short-lived bands, he formed his own group in 1993. He quickly gained a loyal Northern California audience thanks to countless performances and many late-night jam sessions. Established stars like Charlie Musselwhite and Tom Waits attended his shows, as did overflow crowds of music fans.

Following his muse, Lindell drifted to New Orleans in 1999, bringing his sound and style with him. He performed wherever and whenever possible, often playing the dive bars in Gretna and Algiers. Word of his singular talents quickly spread around the region. Artists including Branford Marsalis and the Neville Brothers began showing up at his gigs, and some of New Orleans' finest players, including keyboardist Ivan Neville, often joined him on stage. Galactic's Stanton Moore and Rob Mercurio, among many area musicians, became his admirers and then his friends. Since 2003, in addition to his own gigs, Lindell regularly joins forces with Neville, Moore and Mercurio and they perform together as Dragon Smoke.

Here is Lindell doing Cinnamon Girl on the Gentilly stage today; here are one and two more from other places this year; and here is a full concert from Drew's in New Jersey. And here's some Dragon Smoke.

On her way back to meet me, Laurie passed by the Fais Do Do stage and caught some Cajun honky-tonk music from Yvette Landry, a singer-songwriter who grew up in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana, not far from the levees of the Atchafalaya Basin, North America's largest swampland. It was in and around that swamp where she learned an appreciation for the music, dance, stories and language of her Cajun culture. After earning a Master's degree in education and developing a successful teaching career, she began telling stories through song, using a variety of instruments.

By day, Landry is still an educator, teaching American sign language and song writing at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. She has also taught bass, guitar, accordion, and vocals at a number of seminars and summer programs.

By night she sings and plays with several bands, including her own Yvette Landry Band, the Lafayette Rhythm Devils, Balfa Toujours, and Les Ferrailles. She has also performed with the Red Stick Ramblers, the Pine Leaf Boys, Steve Riley, Roddie Romero, Donna the Buffalo, and many others. She also finds time to serve at the Memphis Chapter of the Recording Academy and is a Board Member of Louisiana Folk Roots. Her first children’s book, "The Ghost Tree," was nominated for a Louisiana Young Reader's Choice Award. She uses all of her endeavors to bring cultures and traditions together.

Here is Landry at Jazz Fest in 2017, and here's a full performance recorded at the Library of Congress in 2016. Both have Richard Comeaux on pedal steel guitar and Beau Thomas on fiddle. And here she is with our old friends from the Swamp 'n' Roll TV show on KDCG-TV out of Lafayette in 2014.

While Laurie was doing that, I first stopped off at the Gospel Tent to hear some of the Bester Sisters, from Slidell, Louisiana. This family band was started almost 40 years ago by the Besters' grandparents, who were both ministers. Led by missionary Rose Bester, this veteran group uses family ties (and good musical genes) to belt out traditional songs of praise and inspiration. Here's my video from the first of many quick stops at the Gospel Tent.

My primary goal was the Jazz Tent to see Jesse McBride present the Next Generation, a group of young musicians who have studied either formally and/or informally with McBride and represent the future of modern jazz in New Orleans. McBride, a talented and adventurous pianist and bandleader, is often compared to the late Art Blakey for his determination to encourage and develop young talent.

Originally from Houston, McBride started playing music on violin at age 4, going on to win numerous competitions. His passion for violin changed to piano once he entered Houston's Kinder High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in the early 1990's. He came to New Orleans in 1998 to study at the University of New Orleans with Ellis Marsalis.

It was at UNO that McBride began an association with the late Harold Battiste and eventually became the keeper of the flame of the esteemed educator, saxophonist, and record producer's AFO record label and his conceptual project, The Next Generation. While studying, and later teaching at UNO, and then at Tulane University, McBride has continued Battiste's tradition of helping young artists develop a personal voice in music.

"It's the preservation and the expansion of the second 50 years of the 20th century of New Orleans music," McBride explains. He adds that the first era of New Orleans jazz from 1900 to 1950 and artists like Louis Armstrong, Buddy Bolden, and Sidney Bechet receive the bulk of the attention. "The guys from the 1950's to the present also had a major contribution to this music. It should be celebrated as well because the music didn't stop in 1950."

An important aspect of the Next Generation philosophy and thus the band's repertoire is to perform material composed by some of New Orleans modern jazz greats. Thus, the Next Generation's sets are likely to include tunes penned by Battiste, drummer James Black, pianist Ellis Marsalis, saxophonist Alvin "Red" Tyler, and trumpeter Clyde Kerr Jr.

"All of these young people that are coming up, no matter where they go to school and no matter who they come in contact with, they're still not exposed to those cats. I spend hours and hours and days and years to make sure that they are and that they understand the way those cats taught me. I want to help them understand the New Orleans music culture."

Educators like Battiste and Kerr didn't just talk notes, scales, or techniques. When they spoke of those things, they often included life lessons -– thoughts on humanity, community, politics, and history. McBride takes their lead in his approach to mentoring young musicians. "It's a continuum of that thought," he says. "Yeah, we're going to cover a lot of music but inevitably, life is going to come into that. The Next Generation is a life perspective."

McBride is presently a full-time professor at Tulane University teaching big band, combo, and improvisation classes. However, eager, young jazz musicians often gather at his studio or home to soak in his knowledge.

"How it usually goes, is one or two of them will start shedding with me and they'll tell their friends, 'Hey, we're learning something over here.'"

McBride calls the the Next Generation a fun and festive environment. "The Next Generation is for the young cats to come out to play," he says. "If I haven't met you, well, come out because you might enjoy playing with some young, focused musicians. The Next Generation is a door that never closes."

Among the current members of the Next Generation on stage today that I could identify: Joe Dyson Jr. (drums), Tim Warfield (sax), John Michael Bradford (trumpet), and Trevarri Huff-Boone (sax). The two guitarists were really good, especially together, but I can't identify them. Here's my video of this group today in the Jazz Tent. Here's one from the WWOZ studio in 2016 and one from the Louisiana Music Factory in 2014. If you like solid modern jazz like this, here's a YouTube playlist of an entire recording from 2007.

I was in for the duration of this, the first of many very, very good performances in the Jazz Tent this year. Meanwhile, Laurie continued to roam, ending up at the Congo Square stage, where the Batiste Fathers and Sons, featuring David, Russell, Damon, Jamal, Ryan, and Christopher Batiste (no relation to Harold Battiste), were playing. 

Headed by David Batiste, one of the pioneers of New Orleans funk, this group lays doen a blast of down-home funk and R&B. 

In 1962, he formed David Batiste and the Gladiators and recorded a hit record with Funky Soul. He also performed with the Meters in the late 1970's. In 1982, various members of the family, including Paul, Michael, Peter, David, Damon, and Russell recorded as the Batiste Brothers Band. That group is still active, but without David, who now leads this group.

Russell Batiste started playing drums at the age of four and began playing in the family's band when he was only seven. After a two-year stay with Charmaine Neville's band, he joined the Funky Meters in 1989 as a replacement for Zigaboo Modeliste (it's a full set, but you can never have too much Funky Meters). These days he is one of the Joe Krown Trio along with Walter "Wolfman" Washington, who we've seen a lot (see Day 10 in 2014, Day 3 in 2015, and Day 3 in 2016). 

This funky music was just right for Laurie. 

We were about to meet up at one of our favorite places, but on the way there was another stop at the Gospel Tent for me. This time the Zulu Male Gospel Ensemble was performing. 

This group is part of the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club, which is well known in New Orleans for its good deeds ... and the coconuts thrown from the floats in their Mardi Gras parade. Here's my video of the Zulus' really cool gospel group, including a great take on Swing Low, Sweet Chariot, and here's a video with Something's Got A Hold On Me

Then, as I headed into the infield, I found myself right behind the New Wave Brass Band as it was playing behind a second line made up of the Keep n It Real, We Are One, and Pefect Gentlemen Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs. So I second-lined my way the rest of the way to our meeting! Check it out here


We met at La Divina Gelateria's stand in the infield, located between the Gentilly and Fais Do Do stages. We love their inventive gelato flavors, all freshly made. 

La Divina used to have a store in the French Quarter, which we went to often. They had gelatos and sorbets in an incredible array of flavors, and also sandwiches, salads, and beverages. For some reason they closed it over the winter. In its place is yet another storefront offering tours of heaven knows what. So it's Jazz Fest or nothing for us and La Divina now, and we must find a new place for cool treats in the French Quarter. Anyway, Laurie had Azteca gelato, which is dark chocolate with hints of cinnamon and cayenne. I had crème brûlée gelato, smooth vanilla with crunchy pieces of caramel.

We enjoyed our gelatos at the back of the Fais Do Do crowd, where Michael Doucet and BeauSoleil were playing their great traditional Cajun music with a few modern touches. You can get som background on Doucent and the band in the Day 9 report in 2013. They always draw a huge crowd, so it's never that easy to see them at Jazz Fest, but I did get a close-up view at the Wolf Trap gone-but-not-forgiven Swamp Romp in 2014. I didn't do any video, we were too far back in the crowd, but here's one that I could find from today, complete with some guy talking throughout, which unfortunately is all too common. For something a bit quieter, here's an hour from the Millenium Stage at the Kennedy Center last year.

We walked together over to Economy Hall, where Mark Braud's New Orleans Jazz Giants were performing. This is another must-see group for me. Braud, who is a great trumpter and a mainstay at Preservation Hall, although not in the main touring band any more, leads this group through some fabulous takes on traditional New Orleans jazz tunes. The players today included three New Orleans legends: Freddie Lonzo on trombone, Tim Laughlin on clarinet, and Herlin Riley on drums. Meghan Swartz on piano and Mark Brooks on bass rounded out the group. You can read more about this group in the Day 9 report from 2014. It was very enjoyable, even if the tent was packed and I watched from the fringes. Here's my video from that location.

Laurie continued on to the Grandstand and the intimate Lagniappe stage to see some Cuban music from Papo y Son Mandao, which is Cuban guitarist Alexis Muñoz "Papo" Guevara and his band, Son MandaoPapo was born in Yaguajay, Sancti Spiritus, Cuba, in 1964. He rlearned guitar and harmony through self study and with the help of other Cuban musicians. He began working in music professionally in 1993, joining the Trio Ensueño.

In 2001, Papo emigrated to Mexico, directing and performing for 12 years with Coco Ache in hotels and restaurants in Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco. In 2012, he emigrated to Louisiana, where he performss in Baton Rouge and New Orleans. His repertoire encompasses multiple musical genres, including Latin Jazz, salsa, bolero, and cha-cha. Here's a sample of this band from last year's Jazz Fest and here is another from the Casa Borrega club in New Orleans. 

After Mark Braud finished, my goal was the Jazz Tent, but I cut through the infield to grab a snack and then see a few minutes of the great alto saxophone of Big Chief Donald Harrison Jr. with his fantastic band. The snack was boudin sausage balls, fried to perfection, with hot sauce of course, from Papa Ninety Catering of Belle Chasse, Louisiana. This is something that I triend way back in 2012 on Day 2. It was actually my first bite at Jazz Fest. Boudin is a sausage made of pork, pork liver and maybe heart, cooked rice, and herbs. If it's not in a sausage, it's rolled into a meatball-sized ball and fried, and it is incredibly good.

So was Big Chief Harrison, shining brightly as the sun hit his white suit and playing his nouveau-swing (R&B influenced jazz with a touch of funk) music at the Congo Square stage along with Detroit Brooks on guitar, Bill Summers on percussion, Darryl Staves on drums, Jason Weaver on bass, and Conun Pappas on keyboards. We've had so many good experiences with Harrison over the years: at Jazz Fest (Day 8 in 2014, Day 9 in 2015, Day 2 in 2016) and four times at evening shows in clubs: once at the Blue Nile with Dr. Lonnie Smith (Day 6 in 2013), twice at Snug Harbor, once with Dr. Lonnie (Day 6 last year) and once with his own band (Day 6 in 2014) and at the Orpheum Theater on Day 6 in 2016 in a fantastic career retrospective.

I will always try to spend a few minutes with him at jazz Fest, and was disappointed that I had to leave before the "New Orleans party" portion of the show with Mardi Gras Indians from Harrison's Congo Nation of Mardi Gras Indians  So I have to say it: the scheduler who put Harrison on at the same time as the great young horn player Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah and his sextet had a bit of a mean streak. After all, Adjuah is Harrison's nephew.

I had to hurry over to the Jazz Tent to catch most of this performance. On stage with Adjuah were Braxton Cook (sax), Lawrence Fields (keyboards), Max Moran (bass), Corey Fonville (drums), and Weedie Bramah (percussion). This was the first time I have seen him at Jazz Fest, although not in New Orleans, as we saw him in Lafayette Square at the Wednesdays at the Square concert last year on Day 6, and you can read all about him there. Today the group performed music from Adjuah's brilliant trio of recordings, the Centennial Trilogy, released last year to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the first commercial jazz recording. 

In the trilogy, Adjuah continues his exploration of what he describes as "stretch music," which was the name of the recording that preceded the series and gave listeners a taste of things to come. As the term implies, the innovative jazz-based leader pulls from the limitless possibilities of genres and use of instrumentation and electronics to create elasticity in his approach. 

Adjuah took a cue from his saxophone-playing uncle in developing his own mode of expression when he created stretch music, just as Harrison did when he introduced nouveau swing. That's why it was so very cool to hear these two great artists back-to-back today.

The band was solid throughout (Max Moran has played with Harrison several times that we have seen him, solidifying the connection even more, and we see Bramah here and there as well). Adjuah was brilliant. At one one point he told the audience that the trilogy represented the musicians "reevaluating our relationship with jazz" and urged us to use music to discover "the questions we need to ask to affect change." I can't say enough good about his mind and his music. This was highlight number two from the Jazz Tent this year. Here is my video, and here are one (with some background) and another, both really nice long performances. In addition, his media page has a whole lot more to read and listen to.

Meanwhile, Laurie was at the Acura stage listening to the great pianist and singer Davell Crawford. I'd seen Crawford playing with Donald Harrison Jr. on Day 8 in 2014, but neither of us have ever seen him alone. He is a dazzling pianist for sure, and a dazzling performer as well, one of the true wonders of the contemporary New Orleans music scene.

Performing professionally since the age of seven, Crawford emerged as a teenage piano terror and has enjoyed a wild, widely acclaimed career. He is a committed advocate for the arts who has taught in schools, given masters classes, and conducted workshops on the importance of American roots music such as traditional jazz, gospel, funk, and R&B. 

Beyond being one of the few musicians committed to keeping the piano sounds of New Orleans alive, Crawford is one of the most versatile and most documented young piano players in America today. He has kept true to the music while adding a little freshness and vitality. Laurie became a big fan during this show. Here is an article about Crawford where you can get a better sense of who he is. For some music, here are 1, 2, and 3 from the Acura stage today and here's a half hour from the WWOZ studio in 2015.

Laurie also hit the Jazz and Heritage stage for the brass band all-star group known as the New Orleans Nightcrawlers. We saw these guys on Day 8 in 2015, so you can read more about them there, and for a sample of thier show today, check out the song samples from Munck Music's recording. Munck has been recording at Jazz Fest for years, and there's lots of performances to tap into at their site.

The Nightcrawlers were founded in 1994 by pianist Tom McDermott, sousaphonist Matt Perrine, and trumpeter Kevin Clark. Other original members of the band included trumpeter Barney Floyd, Frank Oxley and Peter Kaplan on percussion, Craig Klein and Rick Trolsen on trombones, and saxophonists Eric Traub, Ken "Snakebite" Jacobs, and Jason Mingledorff. More recent members of the band have included saxophonist Brent Rose and drummer Tanio Hingle. Originally modeled on the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, the Nightcrawlers have brought even more originality to the New Orleans brass band scene with their very creative arrangements. Here they are at the French Quarter Festival last year and here is a YouTube playlist of Live at the Old Point Bar. Very good stuff.

Sort of concurrently with my boudin balls, Laurie was eating a platter with crowder peas and okra with collard greens and rice from from the Praline Connection of New Orleans, which you can read about on Day 2 in 2015. She had it on Day 3 last year as well, so apparently it is good.

Then, somehow, Laurie also found some time to see some of Samantha Fish, an exciting young blues guitarist, making her Jazz Fest debut in the Blues Tent. Such is her buzz that Jazz Fest producer Quint Davis personally introduced her, noting that she may "look like Marilyn Monroe" but is a stone-cold blues rocker. That she is. She fronted her band with confidence to burn. Her burnished voice at times recalled Bonnie Raitt and Amy Winehouse. Her ringing slide guitar evoked Jimmy Page. She wailed as her band stomped behind her.

Fish has been a guitarist, songwriter and performer since she was a teenager, and she has been on the blues scene for more than a decade. She is a woman of many moods, as is her music. "Sometimes I'm feeling edgy, pumped and rocking. Sometimes I'm all soul or acoustic. I love taking each piece to different places," she said. "I'm constantly in a creative spin," she said. "I draw from my experiences, from where I come from and where I want to go. I never know what is going to spark my next idea."

She moved to New Orleans a year ago, and stocked her band -- it included both a violinist and a two-man horn section that alternated baritone sax, trumpet and even flute -- with New Orleanians. "New Orleans has made me feel very, very welcome," she said. "It's a great place to play music. It's a beautiful place and somewhere I've wanted to be for a long time." She finds creative inspiration just walking through City Park, along the lakefront, or through the neighborhoods of the city. "I love how every neighborhood has a vibe," Fish said.

Here are one and two videos of Samantha Fish at Jazz Fest today and here is an entire performance from Las Vegas later this year. She performs a lot with Tab Benoit, and they make a great duo. Check that out here.

By this time I was beginning to head from the Jazz Tent to the Jazz and Heritage stage, where we going to meet for the rest of the day. I did have some time, though, so, where else but the Gospel Tent, to see Tonia Scott and the Annointed Voices. This group formed more than 20 years ago at Ebenezer Baptist Church in New Orleans and sang at the church as the Anointed Voices of the Ebenezer Radio Choir. Tonia Scott has served as their director throughout. Some movie trivia: the group was in "Ray" in 2004 and Queen Latifah's "Last Holiday" in 2006. Check out this group in my video.

With still more time to burn, I took a walk around the infield, stopping for a few minutes at the Fais Do Do stage to hear some of Chubby Carrier and the Bayou Swamp Band, who you can read more about in the report from Day 2 in 2015. I also saw him on Day 2 last year. He does some real high-energy zydeco, and he has a personality to match. Here's my video from today's quick stop. Here's another from today, and here is a playlist of an album for even more.

Continuing around the infield, I meandered my way through the crowd along the walkway by the Gentilly stage to see some of Lukas Nelson and his band Promise of the Real

Lukas, of course, is the son of Willie Nelson. We've seen this band before, locally at the Farm Aid concert in 2016, and Laurie saw them do a full, epic show that same year at Jazz Fest (Day 11) with Neil Young in the rain (a show I only saw a minute or two of, but heard a lot more of between sets in the Jazz Tent where I was staying out of the weather). 

Lukas (lead guitar) and the band -- Anthony LoGerfo (drums), Corey McCormick (bass), Logan Metz (keyboards, lap steel, guitar, harmonica), and Tato Melgar (percussion) -- take country to a bit different place, and for me at least, it's a good place. Here is the video I took at this quick stop. Here's another from Jazz Fest today, and here is a full concert from the Strawberry Music Festival in Grass Valley, California, this year. One more, from 2013, on (in?) the awesome Jam in the Van web site.

Continuing around the infield walk, I found myself in another second-line parade, this one with the Free Spirits Brass Band and the Big Nine, Go-Getters, and Ladies of Unity Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs. 

The Free Spirits were wearing some very cool tie-dyed shirts with an eagle representing their free spirits.

By this time I was feeling the need for an afternoon snack, so before I finally met Laurie, I stopped at Ms. Linda Green's stand, just around the corner from the Jazz and Heritage stage, to get a tasty bowl of Ya-Ka-Mein. 

I get this a lot. It's a great way to rehydrate with a bit of protein but a bit of heat as well. You can read about this tasty dish and its creator, a former champion from the Food Network TV show Chopped, on Day 11 in 2014Day 4 in 2015, and Day 3 in 2016. Last year I had some of Ms. Linda's bread pudding on Day 3. It was good, too, but in a much different way!

We finally met at the Jazz and Heritage stage, where Big Chief Juan Pardo and Jockimo's Groove were putting on another one of their incredible Mardi Gras Indian funk extravaganzas. Big Chief Juan's smile and enthusiasm are positively infectious.

We've seen Big Chief Juan with the 101 Runners on Day 9 in 2016 and Day 8 last year. (Isaac Kinchen, who helps with vocals in this band does the same with the 101 Runners.) We've also seen Big Chief Juan with Galactic in 2012, with Glen David Andrews at the Concert in Armstrong Park on Day 1 in 2013, and with Dumpstaphunk on Day 11 in 2016. Back in 2014 we caught a few minutes of Jockimo's Groove on Day 11, and you can see video of that and some older videos linked from that page. Last year we got to see quite a bit more, also on Day 11. Here is my video from today.


We had decided to end the day at the Jazz and Heritage stage as well, but while they changed out the stage we did a bit more roaming. First we went to the Jazz Tent, hoping to see some of the legendary Ron Carter with Donald Vega on piano and Russell Malone on guitar, but we got there in time to see just the final minutes. Darn it all, anyway. This would have been a highlight of the weekend for sure.

In case you didn't know, Ron Carter was a member of the second great Miles Davis Quintet in the early 1960's, the group that included Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, and Tony Williams. He was recorded on Davis' classic albums "Seven Steps to Heaven" and "E.S.P." (among others). He also performed on some of Hancock, Williams, and Shorter's recordings during the 1960's for Blue Note Records. He was a sideman on many Blue Note recordings of the era, playing with Sam Rivers, Freddie Hubbard, Duke Pearson, Lee Morgan, McCoy Tyner, Andrew Hill, Horace Silver, and many others. That gives you some idea why we regret not catching more of this.

So, instead, we hurried over to the Cultural Exchange Pavilion, which is focusing on the 300th anniversary of New Orleans by showcasing artists that are true to the city's musical roots. In this case it was Sidi Touré, from Bamako in the West African nation of Mali. Mali has a deep musical history with some truly inspiring acts. The 59-year-old singer-songwriter plays guitar and was accompanied by more traditional African instruments. The Songhaï blues he plays are in the roots of American blues and its variations, brought across the Atlantic by slaves. In turn, American blues and rock have had an influence on Songhaï music.

When Touré first emerged on the international scene in 2011, he was regularly compared to Ali Farka Touré. There was a similarity in means and sound and in addition to name, and both musicians hail from the Songhaï region of northern Mali. Sidi's signature blues-inflected guitar and plaintive vocals are very similar to Ali Fakra Touré’s pioneering work. But Sidi's musical identity has fully become his own.

Touré says, "Musicians need to create, need to draw on what's out there." It's something that applies to his creativity but also to the creativity of Western artists coming into contact with and influence by African music. He considers it a "compliment" that people would borrow elements of his culture's music. But the Songhaï of West Africa, "We are the owners," he said. Here is my video of this wonderful music. I love when musicians look amazed at the reaction that they are getting, and these guys are loving it. For some more, here is a KEXP radio concert and a performance at the Kennedy Center's Millenium stage.

As we headed back to the Jazz and Heritage stage, we were pulled into Congo Square by the reggae sounds of Steel Pulse, and we just had to spend some time with them. This legendary band formed in 1975 in the Handsworth area of Birmingham, England, which has a large number of Afro-Caribbean, Indian, and other Asian migrants. 

Their debut single, Kibudu, Mansetta And Abuku, linked the plight of urban black youth with the image of a greater African homeland, and they were initially refused live dates in Caribbean venues in Birmingham due to their Rastafarian beliefs. Aligning themselves closely with the Rock Against Racism organization, they chose to tour with sympathetic elements of the new wave movement, including the Stranglers and XTC. Eventually they found a more natural home in support slots for Burning Spear

Despite critical and moderate commercial success over three albums, the band always had stormy relationships with record labels due to the controversial subjects and lyrics of their songs. But they have retained a huge fan base and continue to appear at all of the major reggae festivals. 

The band today includes two of its founding members, David Hinds on lead vocals and rhythm guitar and Selwyn Brown on keyboards and vocals. Sidney Mills on keyboards and vocals and Clifford Pusey on lead guitar have been with them since the 1980's. 

Here's my video of the late afternoon scene at Congo Square, and here is a full performance from the California Roots Festival this year. Steel Pulse is a band to be respected for not compromising, even in the face of less commercial success. 

Finally, we made it back to the Jazz and Heritage stage for the last performance of the day there, the Free Agents Brass Band. A brass band says New Orleans like nothing else, and it is always a great way to end a day at Jazz Fest. 

The flooding after Hurricane Katrina displaced New Orleans musicians throughout the world. The group that became the Free Agents was in Atlanta, desperate to hear the traditional second-line music music that was an essential ingredient of the cultural gumbo they loved in their pre-Katrina New Orleans. 

Founded by bass drummer Ellis Joseph, the Free Agents Brass Band filled that need. "I considered myself a free agent, so that's where the name came from," says Joseph. An experienced bass drummer and graduate of St. Augustine High School, he had traveled extensively with various New Orleans brass bands. He made it his mission to provide the native New Orleanians in Atlanta with the resonance of home by gathering several other musicians who had also relocated to Atlanta. The Free Agents were born from this tireless effort.

"We were all trying to be generous to everyone to make sure everybody had work," says Joseph. Among these musicians were trombone player Alfred Growe, tuba player Arian "Big Boy" Macklin Sr., and trombone player Ersel "Garfield" Bogan. Trumpet players Shannon Haynes, Chad Brown, and Julian Gosin and snare drum player Renard "Teedy Man" Henry, brother of New Orleans trombone great Corey Henry, would soon follow. 

Known for their motto, "We Made It Through That Water," the Free Agents have become known as the people's brass band, as they are about more than performing; they care about the authenticity of New Orleans brass band music and the importance of Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs to the culture of the city. 

Here's my video of the Free Agents, and here's something from 2015 at a Jazz in the Park concert. The showmanship of the Free Agents is so much fun, and we throroughly enjoyed this performance as an end to the day.

Or was it? As we left to catch the shuttle bus back downtown, we passed the Fais Do Do stage, where Corey Ledet and His Zydeco Band were finishing up.

I caught this really good band on Day 4 in 2016, and that's where you can read about him. What better way to end a Jazz Fest day than some bonus zydeco at the Fais Do Do? Here's the video I took today, and for some more, here are 1, 2, 3, recorded for the KRVS program Live at Cypress Lake Studios (another website you can could get lost in for days) a few years ago and here's an interesting one I found with Corey Ledet in a group with Louis Michot of the Lost Bayou Ramblers recorded for the same program. We saw the drummer in both of these bands, Cedryl Ballou, a few years ago playing with his grandfather, Classie Ballou (he was a few years younger here). Fiddle and accordion just sound so good together! 

We had one more item on the agenda for today, and that was to walk into the French Quarter to Bienville Street and up to the block above Bourbon Street to enjoy dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, GW Fins. I always add to that name, where they do seafood right. You can get some background and read about our other experiences at this outstanding restaurant in the reports from Day 7 in 2014, Day 1 in 2015, Day 7 in 2016, and Day 10 last year. The food is awesome -- the seafood fresh and prepared perfectly every time, the wine list is almost overwhelming, and the service spot on. 

This year we were seated in a booth on the lower level toward the back of the main dining room, perhaps where the couple in the picture are seated. 

I had the Seghesio 2016 Sonoma Zinfandel. With all of the choices on that wine list, I come back to this every year, it's that good. Laurie had 2015 Aguijón de Abeja (Bee Sting) Malbec from Argentine winemakers Héctor and Pablo Durigutti. The grapes for Aguijón de Abeja come from Patagonia, one of Argentina's newest wine appellations, located in the country's extreme south. The Malbec propagated here benefits greatly from Patagonia's cool climate and chalky sub-soils; promoting bright acidity, finesse, and freshness in the finished wine. The Durigutti brothers employ organic enology techniques in all their wines, bottling them unfined and unfiltered, thereby preserving the natural characteristics of each varietal.

Our appetizer, as always was Fins' special cold-smoked oysters, served in shells heated to 500 degrees. The cold oysters are placed in the shells just before serving, so they are sizzling, literally cooking right in front of you. A fantastic dish.


My dinner was blackened swordfish with sautéed spinach, fried shrimp, mashed potatoes, chili hollandaise, and corn butter. For Laurie, it was grouper with Thai mirliton slaw and spicy crawfish fritters with hot pepper jelly. Our dessert was a perfect crème brûlée.

It was a late dinner, the reservation was for 10, so it was almost midnight by the time we left. After a long day we went right back to the Staybridge. It was an incredible day of music, such variety and high high quality. And good food, too. And we get to do it for many more days!


© Jeff Mangold 2012