Day 4 / Saturday, April 28

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Day 2 of the 2018 drill: You know, get up ... get ready ... slather on sunblock ... get Brass Passes, shuttle tickets, camera, hats, and phones ... decide if rain gear is going to be needed ... and head down to the lobby to grab some coffee and maybe a bit of food, but only enough to tide us over to get to Jazz Fest, where real good food awaited. We were completely successful once again. 

Like yesterday, no rain gear was required. The sky was mostly a brilliant blue throughout the morning, although some clouds made an appearance from time to time as the day went on. When we left the Staybridge around 10 the temperature was 74, on its way to a high of 82. The humidity was moderate again, with just a slight breeze, so it was warm today, but not awful. The sculpture ("At Rest" by Jason Kimes) in the median of Poydras Street would be fairly comfortable today. As would we. 

The shuttles were again plentiful, and we were at the Fair Grounds quickly. The security people figured out how to move large numbers of people through the metal detectors efficiently, so we were on the grounds, ready for brunch, in what seemed like record time. What is the secret to the metal detectors? Take everything out of your pockets and hold them high above your head when you pass through. After all, what they are looking for is something that one would have concealed, and it would not be on your head or above. The things you learn these days ... 


Once again, Laurie went straight to the Congo Square food area, and once again I veered off at the last minute to Food Area II. Her food was couscous with a sweet yogurt sauce with raisins from the Gambian Foods people. You can read more about Gambian Foods in the reports from Day 3 in 2012, when we each had their pitas (steak for me, veggie for Laurie) and Day 10 in 2013 when Laurie had the veggie pita again. She had their grilled tofu with veggies topped with orange peanut sauce on Day 3 in 2014 and Day 8 in 2015 and tried the couscous on Day 11 in 2015. It was back to the tofu on Day 9 in 2016, and Day 3 last year. Then she had the couscous again on Day 9 last year. It's a cool, pleasingly sour dish. It was a good morning for cool.

Jazz Feast! Ian McNulty on what’s new for Jazz Fest food and how it all shakes out _lowres

It's hard to believe after all these years that there is still food left to try, but this morning I tried something new as well, a po'boy with shrimp remoulade from TJ Gourmet Foods, a catering company from New Orleans. These are the same people who make the Cajun chicken and tasso with Creole rice that I had last year on Day 2. Both dishes are very good.

The remoulade po'boy is, like the couscous, a cool item, a seafood sandwich, filled with shrimp under the sharp horseradish bite of the remoulade. A layer of slaw adds more crunch. Part of the secret to this sandwich is that the shrimp are boiled in a crab boil for an extra kick. You don't have to get this in a sandwich, they also serve it as a salad, but the traditional po'boy bread really adds to the whole experience in my humble opinion. This sandwich immediately moved onto the must-have-again list. Although I think everything I've tried here is on that list. 

Here are today's cubes so you can follow us around the Fair Grounds. We calmed down a bit today, spending more time with the artists we visited, until a mid-afternoon burst upped the total number of artists we heard between the two of us to a still impressive 17.

After eating, we headed to the Fais Do Do stage, which no one will be surprised to hear. On that stage was Rusty Metoyer and his band, the Zydeco Krush, out of Lake Charles, Louisiana. This was traditional zydeco music done very well. There seems to be an endless supply of Cajun and zydeco bands coming to Jazz Fest every year from southwest Louisiana. And that makes us very happy!


Rusty Metoyer is another one of southwest Louisiana's rising stars. Like most of these bands, Metoyer and his unique zydeco music are working every weekend between Houston and New Orleans and get out around the country and abroad as well. 

Metoyer was immersed in Creole la-la music (the precursor of modern zydeco) from an early age, as both of his grandfathers were Creole musicians. They and other family members were always playing instruments at holiday gatherings. However, he didn't pick up the accordion until the age of 14 after both grandfathers had passed away and he realized that someone needed to keep the tradition going in the family. He learned and polished his skills listening to Keith Frank, Step Rideau, and Geno Delafose. In 2010, his senior year of high school, he formed the band Rusty Metoyer and The Zydeco Krush.

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He took some time off from music while studying business at McNeese State, but did find time to play drums with Corey Ledet. Soon he became serious with his own band again, and also took part in the zydeco super group Creole United and their debut project, "Non Jamais Fait." The group featured seasoned Creole musicians Ed Poullard (see Day 2 last year)and Lawrence Ardoin and was led by zydeco musicians Andre Thierry (see Day 10 in 2014)and Sean Ardoin.

Now 24, Metoyer performs regularly with his band in Louisiana and Texas for a wide variety of events, including festivals, night clubs, trail rides, corporate events, casinos, and private parties. What makes his music unique is the noticeable influence of many different genres such as funk, rock and roll, R&B, country, hip hop, and soul. They have released two recordings, the first when Metoyer was barely out of high school, but they are in no hurry to advance in the music business. 

"A lot of people think you just start and get big out of nowhere," said Metoyer. "I was always told by other musicians that it takes time. You have to keep working at it and you'll get there. I know you might not know who I am yet. But in due time, you'll definitely know who I am. You'll know my music in due time." That's the title of one of the songs on his latest recording.

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The band is doing mostly original material with fresh lyrics and flavors of traditional and contemporary zydeco. One of their tunes, Louisiana Summertime, is about fishing, front-porch sitting, and other joys of bayou life.

"Our second CD is more in-depth music-wise and with songwriting," said Metoyer. "My first CD, I went in there, 19 years old, and really didn't know anything, never had any music training. On the second CD, I'm a little more seasoned with it. I knew what I wanted to do, how I wanted to do it. The songwriting and the music arrangements are a lot better on this one."

Metoyer holds down a day job as a school bus driver, which still leaves time for his band and school. He holds on to hopes of making it in music -- in due time. "I'd like to it as far as I can. My biggest goal is to play Madison Square Garden. That's been a goal since before I even knew I would play zydeco. That’s my life goal. All the biggest people ever have played there. Either that or the Super Bowl. Even if I don't get that far, that’ll push me to get farther than if I was aiming for something lower."

This band never stopped from the downbeat. We thoroughly enjoyed the set. Here is my video and here are a whole bunch of videos on his Facebook page, none of them very long, but it give a flavor of the dance hall circuit many of these artists play on every week.

Metoyer for Blog

Laurie stayed for most of Metoyer's set but split for awhile to go over to the Gentill stage to see some of the set by Tracksuit Wedding, a rock-soul-funk-blues powerhouse out of Denver. This band is the brainchild of keyboardist Libby Anschutz and lead singer Ali Frankfurt, who formed the band in 2013, bringing together seasoned players from all over the Denver scene. Its primary objective: get a groove going.


The members of the band beyond Anschutz and Frankfurt are Josh Skelton on guitar and vocals, Stu Miller on guitar and vocals, Roqui Lluma on bass, and Trevor Mariotti on drums and percussion. They are all familiar faces at Colorado venues, both as fans of live, local music and as hard-working musicians. Frankfurt fronted a gritty punk-rock group called the Blackouts for many years. It may seem like an odd move from that to the groove-based, party atmosphere of Tracksuit Wedding, but for Frankfurt, the only thing that matters is the music.

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"It's definitely been an evolution," she says. "That's what defines us, the melding of styles." The combination of influences and sounds truly makes Tracksuit Wedding stand out. The band's original tunes are at once familiar and fresh, the perfect combination of the good old days of loose, low-fi, bluesy rock and the well-honed professionalism of seasoned musicians.

"Over the years of playing together we have experimented with lots of added instrumentation and backup vocals," says Anschutz. "We have stripped some of that away to simplify our sound and write energizing rock songs that people will want to move to. This is the sound we've been searching for."

Ever the one to explore new sounds, Laurie liked what they have arrived at. Here's a video of their song Give It To Me.

Strangely, as we had agreed to meet at the WWOZ hospitality tent, we individually stopped at the Gospel Tent to hear some of the Archdiocese of New Orleans Gospel Choir on the way there. There's no background to be found on the choir, so here's some info on the Archdiocese as part of this blog's continuing mission to provide background on the city itself.


The Archdiocese of New Orleans is the second-oldest diocese in the present-day United States, having been elevated on April 25, 1793, by Pope Pius VI during Spanish colonial rule. (If you are wondering, the Diocese of Baltimore was established on November 6, 1789.) However, the Catholic Church has had a presence in New Orleans since before the founding of the city by the French, 300 years ago in 1718.

The Archdiocese is a culturally diverse community within the diverse city of New Orleans. As a major port, the city has attracted immigrants from around the world. Since French and Spanish Catholics ruled the city, they encouraged enslaved Africans to adopt Christianity. Thus the city has a large population of African American Catholics with deep heritage in the area. Later European immigrants, such as the Irish, Italians, Polish, and German Bavarians have also been a part of the Archdiocese throughout its history. In the last quarter of the 20th century, many Catholics from South Vietnam settled in the city. New waves of immigrants from Mexico, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Cuba have added to the Catholic congregations.

Here is my video of the Archdiocese Gospel Choir, and here are 1 and 2 others from today's concert in the Gospel Tent. It was to be my only stop there today, but any time you pass by the Gospel Tent your spirit can't help but be uplifted!

OZ Tent

We met at the WWOZ tent, which we are at a lot every day but I don't take time to detail those stops because I don't keep records of our comings and goings all that carefully. The tent can always be counted on for clean facilities, rehydrating fresh fruit and ice water, a quick pick-me-up in the form of iced coffee or café au lait, chairs in shade with fans, live radio broadcasts to watch, and sometimes surprises like impromptu Mardi Gras Indian parades. It's become ingrained in our Jazz Fest experience, and we love being a part of it.

On our way over to the Acura stage for what was sure to be a highlight of the festival, we stopped in the Blues Tent to hear some of Eddie Cotton, a guitarist and singer who mixes classic electric blues with contemporary R&B. It was a great show. The backing band was solid, and Cotton’s vocals were powerful, his expressions engaging, his moves very cool, and his guitar skills outstanding. Plus, his interaction with the audience got everyone inside the crowded Blues Tent going -- and a lot of people outside as well.


Cotton's music has been referred to as "soul blues." It’s a description Cotton agrees with, though he's inclined to see it more simply. "I just call it 'my blues.' They may describe it as 'soul blues,'" said Cotton, laughing. "We try to play blues like a lot of our influences in my music, so that would make it, like I say, just blues to me. But we try to play it with a whole lot of soul, and we use other genres in my blues, so maybe that's why they say that."

Born in Jackson, Mississippi in 1970, Cotton grew up in nearby Clinton, the son of a minister. He first became interested in music, as so many great blues artists have, while performing gospel music in church, where people brought their instruments to play during services. "Anything anybody wanted to play, they could bring it," he recalled. "I loved the instrument part of it. Singing wasn't no big deal to me. I loved watching them play instruments."

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"Being raised in the Church of God in Christ, which is a very musical church, I've always loved music. I've always been drawn to music. Fascinated by it, from a child."

Cotton began learning to play the guitar at an early age, and started getting serious with it when he was 10. After a friend of his father's helped him gain an understanding of the instrument and then a local guitarist furthered his instruction, he was, by his teens, accomplished. 

He was heavily influenced by such legends as B.B. King, Albert King, Howlin' Wolf, and Buddy Guy

After high school, he studied music theory at Jackson State University, where he also began playing jazz. "That opened my eyes up to a whole new world," he said.

King Edward Antone

While at Jackson State, Cotton's first professional break came in 1991, when he was 21. Cotton befriended local blues icon King Edward Antoine, who invited him to join his band for their weekly show at Jackson's Subway Lounge

"Getting hired by King Edward to play the Subway Lounge, in King Edward’s All Blues Band. They hired me the first night I played there, and I played there for two and a half years. I played every other weekend, sometimes every weekend. That was my first consistent gig."

After two years with Edward, Cotton formed his own band, the Mississippi Cotton Club, and released an independently produced album in 1998. Several more highly acclaimed independent releases followed.

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Looking back over the years, Cotton considered what he's learned about himself as a player and a performer. "When you're young, you're all over the place. You're trying to keep up with the most popular thing. Now I want to play what I want to play, and that's because of the blues.

"I'm not trying to be popular. I just love playing what I love to play. And I've learned how to be an original artist. That's something that you have to evolve into, I guess. Got to find yourself. I have found what I want to do, and I do what I love to do."

When not performing, Cotton remains close to home as a minister and church administrator at the church his father founded in Clinton.

Here are my video from the crowded Blues Tent, and here are 20 minutes from the Chicago Blues Festival in 2016 and another 20 minutes from a festival in France this year

We were somewhat ahead of schedule when we arrived at the Acura stage, so we caught the end of the set by the Hot 8 Brass Band. We saw these guys once before, on Day 4 in 2015, and you can read their very, very interesting story there. Here's my video from that quick look at one of the best brass bands going in New Orleans today. Their website has a video page with a whole lot of music, and here's a half hour from the French Quarter Festival in 2016.

Hot 8

There was some time to kill between sets at Acura, so we headed off to grab some food before we got super hungry. I mean at Jazz Fest you always want to eat, so why wait until you need to eat? We ended up at the Congreso Cubano booth in Food Area I

Ropa Vieja

Frijoles Negro

Laurie got frijoles negros, stewed black beans cooked to the perfect point between firm and tender, served with rice and flavored with lots of cilantro and a lime wedge.

I got ropa vieja (slow-braised steak). This classic Cuban dish translates as "old clothes," because the shredded, stewed beef looks like torn cloth. Congreso Cubano's version was full of strips of green bell peppers and fresh tomato flavor, and had a bit of spicy kick as well. I found it tasty, but a bit difficult to eat as the strips of beef weren’t separated all that well and I ended up with big clumps and no knife. But taste-wise it was worth giving it another try another time. 

Congreso Cubano

Congreso Cubano, which was opened in 2014 by Orlando "Orly" Vega, Rick Ostry and Charlie Miller, began cooking by hosting pop-ups around the city for a few years before going into the catering business. The company operates out of Stepping Stone Kitchen, a licensed commercial kitchen in Uptown New Orleans.

We hurried back to the Acura stage for the Jazz Fest tribute to Fats Domino. We stayed on the fringe of the crowd, but still quite close to the front of the huge stage. We could see some of the stage, and had great sound and an unimpeded view of one of the giant video boards. This show was a lot of fun, mixing New Orleans music royalty with old-school players and piano masters and just a dash of celebrity for a hit-filled tribute like only Jazz Fest can do.


Fats was a lifelong New Orleanian who grew up and lived in the Lower 9th Ward. He ruled the R&B and pop charts from 1949 until the early 1960's with many of the hits performed today. He died on October 24, 2017, at age 89, not having performed for quite some time.

The music was organized by Gregory "Blodie" Davis, co-founder of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band (and also the guy who organizes Blodie's Jazz Jam every year at Jazz Fest). The band, dubbed the Fats Domino Orchestra, was made up of horn players, bassists and guitarists who played with Domino throughout his career, plus a few stellar New Orleans musicians such as "Big Sam" Williams on trombone, Roger Lewis on baritone sax, and Shannon Powell on drums.

Fats - Deacon

The band was magnificent, and everything rolled behind the continuous theme of one of Dave Bartholomew and Fats' more memorable creations, It Ain't My Fault, which they played while performers switched out. There was no dead air, that's for sure! 

Fats - Jackson

Deacon John Moore kicked off the party with Goin' to the River, a remarkably exuberant take on the song about heartbreak and suicide. Impeccably dressed in a linen jacket with dark blue slacks, a fedora sporting a striped ribbon, with a gardenia on his lapel, he then gave All By Myself a spin as New Orleans musician Al "Little Fats" Jackson played the center-stage Steinway. Jackson then did Hello Josephine. If you squint just a bit, Jackson, with his ringed fingers and round baby face, looks a lot like the Fat Man himself. He often plays tribute shows to Domino.

Fats - Davell 2 Fats - Davell

Pianist Davell Crawford, with his close-cropped fuchsia hair and an iridescent paisley suit jacket that he could have borrowed from Allen Toussaint, took on two of Fats' hits, giving the piano a workout on Four Winds Blow (great sax solo by Herb Hardesty in this) and I'm Ready.

Fats - Irma and Band

Fats - Irma 2Fats - Irma

Crawford stayed on stage to back up Irma Thomas, who slowed things down a bit with a life lesson about how to deal with a straying man before she sang an in-the-groove version of I Hear You Knockin', in which Powell answered that line each time with sharp wraps on his drums. She gently lowered the neckline on her off-the-shoulder Bayou Wear top emblazoned with images of flowers and vinyl records, telling that straying guy that "While you were out..., I decided to go blueberry pickin'" before launching into Blueberry Hill.

Sometimes a quiet moment in a rock and roll show can lasso an audience's attention. The great pianist Jon Batiste did just that when he played a gorgeous piano solo that quieted the crowd. And then, just like that, he tore tearing into a rip-roaring version of Ain't That a Shame -- a highlight of the show.


Pianist Jon Cleary joined Bonnie Raitt for a duet of All By Myself (this is Fats at Jazz Fest in 2001 with Hardesty again), which Raitt sent out to both Domino and saxophonist Charles Neville, who died Thursday, the day before Jazz Fest opened. Tributes to Charles were everywhere during Jazz Fest this year, almost as much as to Fats, and that is entirely appropriate.

Fats - Raitt 2

Al Jackson, who played the piano for Deacon John Moore when he opened the show, closed out the afternoon, with Blue Monday and When the Saints Go Marching In

The one thing that was missing was everyone coming back onstage for a grand finale. That didn't happen, maybe because there were too many piano players involved, who knows. Anyway, tribute shows can be hit or miss. When they work, however, they offer interpretations of great artists by great performers. Jazz Fest seems to do these particularly well. It had a few rough spots, to be expected with performers who don't usually play together, but it did a good job doing what it set out to do. And that was to pay tribute to Antoine Dominique "Fats" Domino Jr. It was a fabulous show. Here's my video of the the video board, which shows Irma, Jon Batiste, and Bonnie Raitt with Jon Cleary.

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Fats was born on February 26, 1928, in New Orleans. The youngest of eight children in a musical family, he spoke Creole French before learning English. When he was 7, his brother-in-law Harrison Verret taught him to play the piano and introduced him to the vibrant New Orleans music scene. By age 10, the talented boy was already performing as a singer and pianist. This picture is of the 10-year-old Fats.

At 14, Domino dropped out of high school to pursue his musical dreams, taking on odd jobs like factory work and hauling ice to make ends meet. He was inspired by the likes of boogie-woogie piano players like Meade Lux Lewis and singers like Louis Jordan. In 1946, Domino started playing piano for the well-known New Orleans bass player and band leader Billy Diamond, who gave Domino the nickname "Fats." That's Fats on the piano in this picture of the Billy Diamond Band. 

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Domino's rare musical talents quickly made him a sensation, and by 1949 he was drawing substantial crowds on his own.

Says Diamond, "I knew Fats from hanging out at a grocery store. He reminded me of Fats Waller and Fats Pichon. Those guys were big names and Antoine -- that's what everybody called him then -- had just got married and gained weight. I started calling him 'Fats' and it stuck." 

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In 1949, Fats Domino met collaborator Dave Bartholomew and signed to Imperial Records, where he would stay until 1963. Domino's first release was The Fat Man, based on his nickname, a song co-written with Bartholomew. It became the first rock 'n' roll record to sell a million copies, peaking at No. 2 on the R&B charts. The two continued to churn out R&B hits and Top 100 records for years, with Domino's distinctive style of piano playing, accompanied by simple saxophone riffs, drum afterbeats, and his mellow baritone voice, making him stand out in the sea of 1950's R&B singers.

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Fats found mainstream success in 1955 with his song Ain't It a Shame, covered by Pat Boone as Ain't That a Shame. Boone's version hit No. 1 on the pop charts, while Domino's original reached No. 10. The hit record increased Domino's visibility and record sales, and he soon re-recorded it under the revised name, which remains the popular title and version today. It also happened to be the first song John Lennon learned to play on guitar, and he later covered it on his "Rock 'n' Roll" recording

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In 1956, Domino had five Top 40 hits, including My Blue Heaven and his cover of Glenn Miller's Blueberry Hill, which hit No. 2 on the pop charts, Domino's top charting record ever. 

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Despite his enormous popularity among both white and black fans, when touring the country in the 1950's, Domino and his band were often denied lodging and had to utilize segregated facilities, at times driving miles away from the venue. Still, Domino continued to ride high on his success through the end of the decade, churning out more rocking hits like Whole Lotta Loving (1958), I'm Ready (1959) and
I Want to Walk You Home (1959).

He described his songwriting process as taking inspiration from everyday events: "Something that happened to someone, that's how I write all my songs," he explained. "I used to listen to people talk every day, things would happen in real life. I used to go around different places, hear people talk. Sometimes I wasn't expecting to hear nothin', and my mind was very much on my music. Next thing I'd hear, I would either write it down or remember it good." Domino believed the success of his music came from the rhythm: "You got to keep a good beat. The rhythm we play is from New Orleans."

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After recording an impressive 37 different Top 40 hits for the label, Fats left Imperial Records in 1963. He joined ABC-Paramount Records, but without his longtime sidekick Dave Bartholomew. His music became less commercially popular than before, and by the time American pop music was revolutionized by the 1964 British Invasion, Domino's reign at the top of the charts had reached its end.

Domino left ABC-Paramount in 1965 and returned to New Orleans to collaborate once again with Dave Bartholomew. The pair recorded steadily until 1970, but only charted with one more single, a cover of a Beatles song Lady Madonna which, ironically, had been inspired by Domino's own musical style. Still, Domino's songs and New Orleans sound would continue to influence a generation of rock 'n' rollers as well as the growing ska music genre in Jamaica.

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Domino continued to tour for the next two decades, but after a health scare experienced during tour dates in Europe in 1995, he rarely left New Orleans, preferring to live comfortably at home with his wife, Rosemary, and eight children, off the royalties from his earlier recordings. A quiet and private man, he occasionally performed at local concerts, but generally shunned publicity of any kind. He was in the first group inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, in 1986, introduced by Billy Joel.

Four of his songs have been named to the Grammy Hall of Fame for their significance in music history: Blueberry Hill, Ain't It a Shame, Walking to New Orleans, and The Fat Man. Domino was also presented with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1987.

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Despite being urged to leave New Orleans prior to Hurricane Katrina striking the city in 2005, Domino decided to stay home with Rosemary, who was in poor health at the time. After the hurricane hit, Domino's Lower Ninth Ward home was badly flooded when the Federal levees failed and he lost virtually all of his possessions. There were rumors that he was dead, but the Coast Guard had rescued Domino and his family on September 1. Here is the story of Fats and Katrina.

Fats 10

The flood devastated Domino personally. He quickly put the rumors of his demise to rest, releasing the album "Alive and Kickin'" in 2006. Despite his losses, a portion of the record sales went to New Orleans' Tipitina's Foundation, which helps local musicians in need. For repairs to Domino's home, local musician friends and international rock stars  recorded a charity tribute album, "Goin' Home: A Tribute to Fats Domino." 

In later years, Domino largely stayed out of the spotlight. His beloved wife died in 2008. The following year, he attended a benefit concert to watch such other musical legends like Little Richard and B.B. King perform, but stayed off the stage. A documentary about his life, "Fats Domino and the Birth of Rock 'n' Roll," premiered on PBS in 2016. 

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The rock 'n' roll legend died of natural causes on October 24, 2017, at the age of 89. He will be remembered as one of rock's earliest and most enduring stars, who helped break down color barriers in the music industry. He was honored with a massive second line

Fats had a long history with Jazz Fest. His first official festival appearance, in 1975, was not at the Fair Grounds, but aboard a riverboat in an evening concert that also featured Allen Toussaint and B.B. King. He logged several more Jazz Fest evening shows on the river in the 1980's.

At the Fair Grounds, Fats performed every other year in the 1990's and early 2000's. (His 2001 performance at Jazz Fest is commercially available on a DVD called "The Legends of New Orleans: The Music of Fats Domino.")

Fats 12

His shows at Jazz Fest always were a hoot. He rarely paused between songs, plunging into one beloved million-seller after another, his band and bevy of saxophonists struggling to keep up. Domino joyously belly-bumping a grand piano across the stage at the conclusion of one of his shows remains an indelible Jazz Fest image.

When Fats made his final appearance at the Fair Grounds, it turned out to be one of the most memorable, but not for the usual reasons. In 2006, he was booked to close out the Acura Stage at the first Jazz Fest following Hurricane Katrina. His personal story of survival made him the perfect symbol for the city's resilience and recovery.

Fats 15Fats 13

But in his later years, Fats began to doubt his ability to live up to the high standards of his heyday. The morning of his Jazz Fest show, his performance anxiety got the best of him. He felt ill and went to a hospital. Doctors found nothing wrong, but he still insisted on going home.

Instead, his pal Eric Paulsen, co-host of WWL-TV's Eyewitness Morning News, drove Fats to the Fair Grounds. He still didn't perform, but he did make a brief appearance on the Acura Stage ahead of his last-minute fill-in (Lionel Richie). Domino waved to fans and offered a brief apology: "I'm sorry I'm not able to perform. I love you all and always will."

With that, he disappeared from the Fair Grounds for good. Today tens of thousands saw that he was there in spirit, as he will be forever. So Long, Fats.

Fats 14

It was now about 3 p.m., and our musical interests were now going to lead us in different directions for a few hours. Laurie took the blues and rock route, while I took a more jazz-oriented route. Between us, we packed about one-third of today's combined performers into this stretch of music.


Laurie headed across the Fair Grounds to the Gentilly stage to see Bonerama, the great (only in New Orleans) rock band fronted by three trombones. We've seen this band at Tipitina's on Day 5 in 2013 at the big Instruments-a-Comin' benefit and then for a rowdy evening at the Hamilton in D.C. in June of that year. Laurie caught them at Jazz Fest on Day 4 in 2014, and that's where you can read more about them. I finally saw them at Jazz Fest with Laurie last year on Day 9.

Bonerama 1

Mark Mullins, Craig Klein, and Greg Hicks play the trombones in the band, Bert Cotton plays guitar, Matt Perrine lays down the bottom, either on sousaphone or electric bass, and Walter Lundy does the drums. This great lineup is known for turning popular rock and heavy metal songs into brass band music that describes description.

This year marks their 20th anniversary, and Mullins added bloodline to the show, introducing his son, also a trombonist, on stage, then letting him have the ultimate in vocal fantasy doing Robert Plant in the band's rousing take on Bring It on Home to Me from "Led Zeppelin II." There was also ride through the Allman Brothers' Whipping Post and a Fats Domino homage with I'm Walkin

Bonerama 2

We also see all of the members of this band -- especially Craig Klein – all over Jazz Fest. All three trombones were with George Porter Jr. and the Runnin' Pardners last year, Craig Klein plays with the Storyville Stompers brass band and the Paul Sanchez Rolling Road Show, and any one of them can appear with the Midnite Disturbers, the New Orleans Nightcrawlers, or any number of brass bands or Mardi Gras Indian funk bands.

Here's a video of Bonerama today, set up by drummer Wlater Lundy. Can you find Laurie in the Gentilly crowd? And here they are doing the Led Zeppelin song In My Time of Dying at the Funky Biscuit in Florida earlier this year.

Pow Wow

After that show, Laurie visited La Divina's stand for some gelato. This time it was bourbon pecan. She ate it while strolling around the market in the Louisiana Folk Village near the Fais Do Do stage. 

She also found some time to take in the pow-wow being demonstrated by the Northern Cree group from Maskwacis, Alberta, in Canada. The group was formed in 1980 by Randy Wood with brothers Charlie and Earl of the Saddle Lake Cree Nation. They are one of the most respected pow-wow groups in North America, having been nominated for six Grammy awards. Their music has been described as remarkably unified and powerful. Here's an example.

Next up for Laurie on her afternoon foray was the great blues guitarist Tab Benoit and his Voice of the Wetlands All Stars at the Gentilly stage. I've only seen this group in passing, on Day 9 in 2015 and Day 3 in 2013, where you can read a lot more about them. Laurie caught them on Day 8 last year and liked them so much made it a point to see them again today. 



Since 2004, Voice of the Wetlands has been raising awareness of the importance of the South Louisiana wetlands to the environment in this area of the country. Artists like Benoit, Cyril Neville, Corey Duplechin, Johnny Vidacovich, Big Chief Monk Boudreaux, Johnny Sansone, Waylon Thibodeaux, Anders Osborne, Michael Doucet, and George Porter Jr., among others, sometimes even Dr. John, help to create that awareness by touring the country acting as wetlands ambassadors and playing some smoking hot swamp rock. 


If you have an interest in environmental issues, check out this great cause. It's rewarding to support something like this that comes from the grass roots, a result of one person's passion. Here's some of today's show. It's mostly Big Chief Monk Boudreaux doing the Mardi Gras Indian chant Hold 'Em Joe until Tab takes over at the end and turns it into a rockin' masterpiece.

As for me, the first stop was the Jazz Tent, where the great New Orleans singer and pianist Henry Butler, Steven Bernstein, and the Hot 9 were playing some rather unusual, incredibly original, and very good music.

When Butler moved to Brooklyn from New Orleans, he hooked up with retro-futurist trumpeter and bandleader Bernstein. Butler, who I saw on the Congo Square stage on Day 4 in 2016 (where you can read much more about him), tells stories through the rise, swing, and rumble of his fingers as they channel sounds that reflect the diversity of Louisiana: Caribbean, jazz, classical, pop, blues, and R&B, among others. Along with Butler, Bernstein and the fiery Hot 9 use that traditional New Orleans palate as their launching point, exploring everything from early 20th-Century blues to thoughtful and exhilarating improvisations on New Orleans classics.


Bernstein facilitates this by combining a forward-looking perspective with a rooted sense of what's come before. Known for his work with the Lounge Lizards and Sexmob, he's also the leader of the Millennial Territory Orchestra, an ensemble that draws tunes and inspiration from the dance orchestras that toured the United States before World War II.

Though historical explorers they may be, neither Butler nor Bernstein avoided incorporating the most modern and freer edge of today's jazz expression into their music. Each has found ways to balance past and future in their respective musical signatures. "Steve's got this modern touch in his playing and his arrangements, avant-garde and beyond," says Butler. Bernstein laughs and says, "I call Henry a space-traveler/historian."

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The two first worked together in 1998 in the Kansas City All Stars, a touring big band led by Bernstein that came out of the Robert Altman film "Kansas City." They reunited in 2011 to perform a special, one-off concert at a blues festival in New York City. The material they chose to do that day -- the classic blues of Bessie Smith, the first-generation jazz of Jelly Roll Morton, and other similar tunes --resonated in a way neither had expected.

They reassembled in 2012 for an engagement at Jazz Standard in New York. "We had to get tunes together since we'd be doing two sets a night," explains Butler. "Steven came over to my place and he'd propose a tune, we'd play it and I'd feed ideas to him -- he calls them 'Henryisms.' Then he'd work them out for the whole band, play them back to me and I'd have to come up with some new ideas all over again. That's how most of the arrangements came about."

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"We knew we had something special on the first set of the run," recalls Bernstein. Veteran producer Joshua Feigenbaum was in the audience that night. He returned for most of their shows that week, convinced the group had to record. Both Butler and Bernstein refer to him as the third partner that made their recording a reality. "This music is really the result of three perspectives," says Bernstein. "The song choices came from Henry and myself and I did the arrangements. But the push to get this music recorded -- and the idea for using an expert rhythm section -- that's Josh. He heard the value in this music and made this album happen."

The music that Butler, Bernstein, and the
Hot 9 (
Curtis Fowlkes on trombone, Charlie Burnham on violin, Doug Wieselman on clarinet and saxophone, Peter Apfelbaum on saxophone, Erik Lawrence on saxophone, Matt Munisteri on guitar, Brad Jones on bass, and Donald Edwards on drums) have created together is filled with modern flavors, agile arrangements and a vitality that never allows the historical focus to limit itself to mere recreation. "We're not trying to replicate New Orleans music or old-time blues," says Bernstein. "We're all musicians who have come out of other experiences, many of us in New York work with Don Cherry and Wynton Marsalis and Lou Reed and Levon Helm. We're taking that and then using the framework of Jelly Roll Morton and Fats Waller." 

This was totally engaging music as you can see from my video. The band was on fire and totally enjoying themselves. Here are some better videos, shot during the band's recording session. Here is a live performance from the Chicago Jazz Festival in 2016, and here's a live version of Professor Longhair's Mardi Gras, shot at the Jazz En Tête festival in Clermont-Ferrand, France, in 2015.

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"The thing I like best about this band is that people just come and have a great time, and are tapping their feet and smiling," Bernstein said. "All this heavy music is going on, and they don't need to know that. If you're a music person, you can go, 'Wow, that was some heavy music.' But as far as I'm concerned, people are just there enjoying themselves. I feel like it's the first project I've ever been involved with where both of those things are happening at an equal level."

Unfortunately, metastatic colon cancer that Henry Butler had been battling for a couple of years caught up to him over the summer and we lost this wonderful artist to the ages. If there is a tribute to him at the 2019 Jazz Fest, as there should be, I intend to be there.

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Next for me was a stop at the Blues Tent to see Sona Jobarteh, a kora virtuoso from The Gambia, and her band. She is a groundbreaking musician who has risen to international success on her skill as an instrumentalist, her distinctive voice, her infectious melodies, and her grace on stage. 


The kora, a 21-stringed African harp, is one of the most important instruments belonging to the Mandé peoples of West Africa. It belongs exclusively to Griot (hereditary musical) families, and only those who are born into one of these families have the right to take up the instrument professionally. Sona, who was born into one of the five principal Griot families, has become the first female to take up this instrument professionally in a male tradition that dates back over seven centuries. 

Sona's family carries a longstanding reputation for renowned kora masters, notably her grandfather Amadu Bansang Jobarteh, who was an icon in Gambia's cultural and musical history, and her cousin Toumani Diabaté who is renowned for his mastery of the kora.

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Sona began learning the kora at the young age of four from her brother Tunde Jegede. By the age of six, she also started to learn the cello, piano, and harp. She gave her first performance on the kora alongside her brother at London's Jazz Café at the age of five, and her first solo cello recital at the age of 11 at the prestigious Southbank Centre's Purcell Room in London. As a teen she was admitted into the world renowned institutions of the Royal College of Music and the Purcell School in England. There she furthered her studies in western classical music. During this time she also excelled in composition and started to write her first compositions for full orchestra. 

By her mid-teens Sona was established as a permanent member of her brother's internationally acclaimed African Classical Music (ACM) Ensemble, with whom she toured the world for many years, having the opportunity to work alongside internationally acclaimed artists such as Oumou Sangaré, Toumani Diabaté, and the BBC Symphony Orchestra.

In her late teens, Sona continued to pursue her passion for ancient Manding repertoire and began working on the kora intensively with her father, Sanjally Jobarteh, who is steeped in the knowledge of this ancient tradition yet open to modern interpretation. She completed a degree in African Culture and Linguistics at SOAS University in London, and it was during this time that she started to develop her identity as a solo artist.

Sona's work is not limited to music, for she is also an educator. She has taught kora and Manding music history to university students for many years in England, as well as being invited to universities in the United States and other nations to lecture on music history. 

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In 2014, she began her ambitious plans to set up The Gambia's first cultural academy. She started by founding the Junior Department, which she named after her late grandfather. The Junior Department has been running with great success, and she is now pouring all her efforts into expanding The Gambia Academy of Music and CultureThe project is gaining momentum and Sona is now revolving much of her career around this pioneering venture. 

It is mind-bending to see such talented people who spend as much time giving back to their communities as they do performing. I think that is common in New Orleans as well, and that's one of the reasons we like it here so much.

Here's my video of Sonah Jobarteh to set the Jazz Fest scene, but better are this short video that shows the detail of the kora, and this full concert if you really want to get into this beautiful music.  

I still had some time before the next artist I wanted to see, so, let's see, how could I pass that time. How about Bonnie Raitt? This is the beauty of Jazz Fest in a nutshell! 

I've seen this blues icon and social activist a couple of times before at Jazz Fest (at the Preservation Hall Jazz Band's 50th birthday concert on Day 5 in 2012 and at the B.B. King tribute on Day 11 in 2016) and in concert at Wolf Trap way back in 2004, and it's always a treat. It's hard to believe that she has been making great music and fighting for just causes for more than 40 years.

Today she was performing a solo set just after the Fats Domino tribute at the Acura stage. She was supposed to be the lead-up to Aretha Franklin's aappearance at Jazz Fest, but Franklin's ill health forced her to cancel, so Raitt was instead warming up for ... Rod Stewart. That just didn't seem right.

I know I said I was going to try to cut back on the writing this year, but I'd like to try to summarize Bonnie Raitt's career here, because I think a lot of people know who she is but don't know exactly how she got to be who she is.

Raitt was born in Burbank, California, the daughter of the Broadway musical star John Raitt and his first wife, the pianist Marjorie Haydock. She was raised in the Quaker tradition. Her background would suggest a quite different direction in life than female blues-rock icon, for there were very few white women immersing themselves in blues culture in the 1960's, and even fewer actual musicians among them to serve as role models. 

She began playing guitar at Camp Regis-Applejack in upstate New York, at an early age. Her early models were Odetta and Joan Baez. She said she learned to play guitar off an Odetta album that she first heard at Camp Regis in 1959. 

Next came the Elektra album "Blues at Newport ’63." There she heard Mississippi John Hurt, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, Rev. Gary DavisJohn Lee Hooker, and John Hammond Jr. It drew her in and made her eager to attend the following summer's Newport Folk Festival, but at 15, her parents deemed her too young. From that album, she found John Hurt's Candy Man especially appealing. She said, "When I heard that, I went, 'I don't know what that stuff is, but this guy is so cute, his voice is so cute, and his guitar is so pretty.' I just had to learn about it."

Raitt credits her sojourns to summer camp between 1958 and 1965 with "counteracting the whole beach boy scene in California, which I couldn't stand," and orienting her to the East Coast world of progressive politics and the civil rights and anti-war movements. She spent her junior and senior years of high school at Oakwood Friends in Poughkeepsie, New York, and there heard talk of the folk scene in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She said she entered Radcliffe in the fall of 1967 "because of Cambridge and the Club 47. I was a regular little freshman wearing my tights, but I soon started listening to the Harvard radio station, WHRB, and found out that some of the guys were connected with the folk and blues circuit.

"The first person I saw at Club 47 was Spider John Koerner, who I fell in love with and have never stopped being in love with. I saw Canned Heat. My WHRB friend Jack Fertell wouldn't let me see Taj Mahal because he figured I'd jump the stage! I saw Joni Mitchell wearing that little, red satin, pleated mini-skirt with her hair rolled up. That was it!" 

One day, Bonnie was invited to blues promoter Dick Waterman's house and was amazed to discover that "Son House was sitting there! By this time I was hanging out with the blues freaks at the radio station, trading Charley Patton licks and Son House licks. So here was Son House in the flesh, and we actually sat with him all afternoon because Dick had to go out and he didn't want to leave Son House alone. That was the beginning. After that I really started getting proficient on the guitar.”

At Radcliffe she majored in social relations and African studies. Her plan was to travel to Tanzania, where President Julius Nyerere was creating a government based on democracy and socialism. 

However, after two years of college spent a summer in Philadelphia with Waterman and other local musicians. She got a job at the (now extinct) Second Fret club, and it was well-received. Raitt says this opportunity changed everything for her. She returned to Radcliffe that fall, but the once-robust Cambridge folk scene was dissolving into legend. She had friends in Worcester who told her there was money to be made there, "So I'd go there on the Trailways bus with my dog and and I'd hang out on the Clark University campus with my friend Paul Pena and play any number of seven or eight coffeehouses there every other weekend while I was in school."

Raitt and Fred

In the summer of 1970, Raitt played with her brother David with Mississippi Fred McDowell at the Philadelphia Folk Festival. She also opened for John Hammond at the Gaslight Cafe in New York, where she was noticed by a reporter from Newsweek, who began to spread the word about her performance. Scouts from major record companies were soon attending her shows to watch her play. She eventually accepted an offer from Warner Bros., who soon released her debut album, "Bonnie Raitt," in 1971. The album was well received by the music press, who praised both her skills as an interpreter and guitarist. If you don't know, at that time few women in popular music had strong reputations as guitarists.

Her next couple of recordings also got good reviews (many think "Give It Up" was her best work), it that did not change her commercial fortunes, even after she was featured in a cover story for Rolling Stone in 1975. So, she began to experiment with different producers and styles, adopting a more mainstream sound that was not so well received.

In 1977, "Sweet Forgiveness" became Raitt's commercial breakthrough when it yielded a hit single in her remake of Runaway, which was recast as a blues tune based on a rhythmic groove inspired by Al Green. Then, in 1979, she helped organize the Musicians United for Safe Energy (MUSE) concerts at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The shows spawned a highly successful three-record album, as well as a feature film. The shows featured co-founders Jackson Browne, Graham Nash, John Hall, and Raitt as well as Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, the Doobie Brothers, Carly Simon and James Taylor, Gil Scott-Heron, and others.

More lackluster album sales led to problems with the recording business and in the early 1980's Raitt was struggling with alcohol and drug abuse problems. However, she continued to tour and participate in political activism. In 1985, she sang and appeared in the video of "Sun City", the anti-apartheid record written and produced by guitarist Steven Van Zandt. She participated in in Farm Aid and Amnesty International concerts and traveled to Moscow in 1987 to participate in the first joint Soviet/American Peace Concert. Also in 1987, Raitt organized a benefit in Los Angeles for Countdown '87 to Stop Contra Aid.

In late 1987, Raitt joined singers k.d. lang and Jennifer Warnes as female background vocalists for Roy Orbison's television special, Roy Orbison and Friends, A Black and White Night. Following this highly acclaimed broadcast, Raitt began working on new material. By then, she was clean and sober, having resolved her substance abuse problem. She began recording a bluesy mix of pop and rock under the production guidance of Don Was at Capitol Records.

She returned to commercial success in 1989 with her 10th album, "Nick of Time," ranked number 230 in the Rolling Stone list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. Raitt herself pointed out that her 10th try was "my first sober album." At the same time, she broke out with her duet In the Mood with John Lee Hooker. 

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"Nick of Time" was the first of many of her recordings to feature the rhythm section of Ricky Fataar and James "Hutch" Hutchinson, both of whom continue to record and tour with her.

"Luck of the Draw" and "Longing in Their Hearts" continued her run of successful recordings, and in 2000, Raitt was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She is listed at Number 50 in Rolling Stone's list of the 100 Greatest Singers of All Time and number 89 in the Rolling Stone list of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.

Here is my video of the time that I spent with Bonnie Raitt, and here is her nice take on Mose Allison's song Everybody Is Crying Mercy, and here are What Am I Doing Here, I'd Rather Be the Devil, What You Doing to Me with Jon Cleary, and Something to Talk About.


I spent too much time listening to this great artist (and why wouldn't I?) so I was late getting to the Jazz Tent for another great artist, tenor saxophone and flute legend Charles Lloyd, who was playing with his latest band, called the Marvels. The tent was unapproachable, so I stood outside at the back. There's an elevated area there where the track meets the concrete of one of the Fair Grounds parking lots on which the tents are located that provides a pretty good view of both the (far away) stage and the video board in the Jazz Tent. The sound there was perfect for the time I was there. I suspect it's not as good when the Acura stage gets cranked up.

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I talked a lot about Lloyd when I saw him at Jazz Fest on Day 10 in 2015. This was definitely a completely different band. I did not see her, but it also includes Lucinda Williams on vocals. What I did see was an astounding combination of saxophone, guitar (Stuart Mathis), and steel guitar (Greg Leiszwith bass (Reuben Rogers) and drums (Kendrick Scott). I wouldn't exactly call it jazz, but it wasn't quite rock either. And that's what you like, something completely original. It was like Lloyd was a bridge between the jazz rhythm section and the rock and country of the guitars. The focus was on him as he tied the two parts together. The vocals of Williams I am sure took this to another level altogether. 

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Charles Lloyd is 80 for crying out loud, putting out music like this. My goodness. Here's some Charles Lloyd from my video of the video board, and here are Nobody's Fault But Mine, Place in My Heart, and Dust with Lucinda Williams today. Finally from today is Charles Lloyd's tribute to Charles Neville, who passed just before Jazz Fest began. Lloyd also tours with the original Marvels that include the awesome Bill Frisell on guitar and Eric Harland on drums. Here and here is a complete concert by this group at Lincoln Center in 2016.

I met Laurie at the Jazz and Heritage stage, where the New Birth Brass Band was playing. You cannot beat a brass band late in the afternoon at Jazz Fest. Well, one thing can, so stay tuned for that. But the New Birth Brass Band was great. 

New Birth

The New Birth Brass Band are part of the New Orleans brass band tradition, but their relative youth means their music yields an eclectic set of musical genres. New Birth's members are virtuosos who mix elements of blues, ragtime, gospel, funk, soul, rock, and traditional New Orleans jazz into their sound. 

The beauty of this hard-working crew is that they're mainstream enough to appeal to fans of traditional brass bands, yet the eclectic range of styles incorporated into their live shows finds favor with younger fans as well.

The group was an offshoot of the Young Olympians, a group formed in part by Milton Batiste as an offshoot of the Olympia Brass Band in the 1980's. Back then, James Andrews was lead trumpeter and vocalist, joined by trumpeter Derrick Shezbie, tuba player Kerwin James (late brother of the Rebirth Brass Band's Philip and Keith Frazier), bass drummer Cayetano "Tanio" Hingle, trombonist Corey Henry (he of the Treme Funktet and Galactic), and percussionist Mister Action. 

The band has undergone a number of lineup changes, drawing members and collaborators from various other brass bands that call New Orleans home and gain strength from the city's history and spirit in often trying times. Recent members have included bass drummer Cayetano Hingle in the leadership role; trombonists Reginald Steward, Rob Harris, and Glen David Andrews; snare drummer Kerry "Fat Man" Hunter; saxophonist Darryl Adams; and trumpeters Kenneth Terry and Mervin Campbell. 

The great tuba player Kerwin James, a survivor of Hurricane Katrina like so many other brass band musicians in New Orleans, suffered a stroke in the summer of 2006 while in exile in Houston and remained in a coma there until his death at the age of 35 in September 2007. In perhaps a sign of the changing city, with newly arriving residents unaccustomed to living with longstanding traditions, the second line in his honor was halted by police after noise complaints had been received. At least two musicians in the parade were arrested for disturbing the peace. 

But as James himself had said before his passing, "New Birth never dies, it multiplies," and the band has kept the spirit alive with new tuba player Rob Espino joining its ranks.

Here's my video of the New Birth Brass Band, and here is the Munck Music sample list of their recording from today so you can get a taste of the whole set. Here's one more, from last year's French Quarter Festival.

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After the brass band was done, we decided to use the set change time to grab some food. We each got platters. Laurie had one she gets often, the seafood au gratin, spinach-artichoke casserole, and sweet potato pone from Ten Talents Catering out of Covington, LouisianaPeggy Miranda and her husband, Jim, run Ten Talents. The Mirandas have been vendors at Jazz Fest for 30 years.

When I say Laurie gets this platter often, I mean Day 10 last year, Day 10 in 2016, Day 11 in 2015, Day 9 in 2014, and Day 3 and Day 10 in 2013. Some of these pages contain more info about the Mirandas and links to some recipies. It's all very tasty and very filling.

My platter was fried catfish, crabmeat stuffing, and potato salad from Stuf Hapn' of New Orleans. We haven't had this all that often (Laurie on Day 3 in 2013 and Day 10 in 2015, and me on Day 2 in 2015) and this was the first time either one of us had all three on a plate. It's all very tasty and very filling. 

After we ate, there was still some time before the closing act at the Jazz and Heritage stage, so off we went to sample for just a few minutes. Laurie went to the Blues Tent, no doubt because it was en route to or from the WWOZ hospitality tent, and heard some of the Fabulous Thunderbirds with their original singer Kim Wilson.

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For over 30 years, the Fabulous Thunderbirds have been the quintessential American band. The group's distinctive and powerful sound, influenced by a diversity of musical styles, can be seen in tunes like Tuff Enuff and Wrap It Up

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Wilson is the only original member remaining. "We started as a straight blues band," he says. "We now incorporate a mixture of a lot of different styles. We're an American music band and we're much higher energy than we were before."

In addition to Wilson, the current Thunderbirds line-up features Johnny Moeller on guitar, Steve Gomes on bass, Kevin Anker on keyboards, and Wes Watkins on drums.

Wilson's musical journey started in Goleta, California. At 17 he began playing the harmonica. His influences included Little Walter, George "Harmonica" Smith, Lazy Lester, and James Cotton. At the same time, he began singing and took after Bobby "Blue" Bland, B.B. King, Otis Rush, Jimmy Rodgers, and Muddy Waters. He ended up in the exploding music scene of Austin, Texas, where he met Jimmie Vaughan. They founded the T-Birds in 1974. 

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Their first recordings were primarily blues influenced. In subsequent releases, the band started to incorporate more Cajun, rock, and soul. Vaughn left in 1989 but Wilson kept the group going, incorporating keyboards into the guitar-driven sound. He moved back to California in 1996, continuing to cultivate the T-Birds music. 

Here is a brief look at today's show.

As for me, I walked across the lawn to Economy Hall, where Lena Prima was performing songs made popular by her father, the incredible Louis Prima

Not a lot of people today are familiar with Louis Prima, but he was a fantastic entertainer in the 1960's, known for his wild stage show and offbeat arrangements of jazz standards. 

Louis Prima's musicianship and bands were second to none, particularly when the wonderful singer Keely Smith (listen here), who played incredible deadpan next to Louis Prima's antics, and the outrageous saxophone player Sam Butera were in the group.

You can read more about Louis Prima on Day 2 in 2015, part of the story of how we tried to see Louis Prima Jr. in Economy Hall, but Jazz Fest decided to close down early that day because of an approaching storm, so I think we maybe got a couple of songs. 

For most of her professional life, Lena Prima was based in Las Vegas, which is where her father was a major attraction and also where she was born. But in 2011, Prima and her husband, bassist Tim Fahey, traded Vegas glitz for New Orleans soul. "Coming back here is the best thing I ever did," she said. "I don’t even know where to start. The people and the music and the vibe and the city. I love everything."

Prima mostly grew up in Las Vegas, but her family, including her mother, Gia Maione Prima, and brother Louis Jr., also spent time in New Orleans, where Louis Prima was born and raised. He even owned a golf course in Covington. During family visits to Louisiana, Louis taught Lena about his hometown and its traditions.

"Mardi Gras and St. Joseph’s Day," she said. "And walking around to the grocery stores, he knew everybody. I was a little girl, but I'll never forget that."

Prima's father died in 1978 at 67, but remains a vivid memory, too. Lena wanted to be like him. "He was like a magical creature, bigger than life, with so much charisma," she said. "He was a happy, warm, funny being. Who wouldn't want to be like that?"

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Lena was a professional singer by 18, performing with a Las Vegas rock band. Later, seeing the opportunity to support herself through music exclusively, she worked as a Vegas lounge singer. While performing in the 1990's with a latter-day version of Spiral Staircase (More Today Than Yesterday), she added a 20-minute tribute to her dad to the show. The enthusiastic response the tribute received during a cruise-ship performance convinced her to make it a full-length tribute.

In 2010, Lena participated in 100th birthday celebrations for her father in New Orleans. During that two-week visit, she performed at Jazz Fest and other venues. Upon returning to Las Vegas, she missed New Orleans. "That was a turning point," she said. 

After she performed at the French Quarter Festival in April 2011, she and her husband began the process of moving to New Orleans.

Lena Prima

Moving to New Orleans, she said, "It transformed me in so many ways. It freed me. I feel like I'm the best version of myself I've ever been."

There's a lot of music from Lena here on her Facebook page, and here are some vidoes from today in Economy Hall: mine and 1, 2, 3 more. The noted New Orleans bandleader Larry Sieberth was on the keyboards in Lena's band, and the rest of the musicians were spot on as she did her father's tunes.

After these brief encounters, either of which would have been worthy of closing out the day, we still met back at the Jazz and Heritage to close out the day with some Mardi Gras Indian funk to the max with J'Wan Boudreaux and Cha Wa

J'Wan is just 21 years old, but brings the chops of his grandfather, the legendary Big Chief Monk Boudreaux of the Golden Eagles, onto the stage with him. And the band is playing some serious funk to go along with the traditional Mardi Gras Indian chants and some very exciting original material as well. Like his grandfather, J'Wan tells stories about his life in his music and it is very impressive.

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The band is really brass heavy, which is somewhat different from most Mardi Gras Indian bands. But it really works. It's an incredible blast of funk music that comes at you while they are performing, with a bit of a Latin flair that makes it very danceable. 

Cha Wa

This band has come a long way since we first saw them On Day 10 back in 2013. We also saw them on Day 10 in 2015, where you can read a lot more about them.

Among the members of the band along with Boudreaux today were Thaddeus "Peanut" Ramsey on vocals and tambourine, Danica Hart on vocals, Ari Teitel on guitar, Clifton "Spug" Smith on sousaphone, Joe Genini on drums, Eric Gordon on trumpet, and Joe Maize and Haruka Kikuchi on trombones. 

Here they are in my video, and for some more, their video page and Facebook page have some good stuff.  I can't believe we've only seen this great band a couple of times. Today made up for it. What a great way to end the Jazz Fest Day.

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For a Saturday, we got out of the festival and onto a bus back downtown very efficiently. Given those platters, we didn't feel the need to go out for any dinner tonight, so we hung out in the suite for a couple of hours and then went down to the Pinkberry on Canal Street for a late evening treat. I put fruit and granola on my frozen yogurt, so it's a healthy snack.

© Jeff Mangold 2012