I don't think anyone works a jazz fest crowd quite like Wanda Rouzan ... not even Trombone Shorty. I try to see Rouzan – who performed with The Dixie Cups in the New Orleans Divas set – at jazz fest every year.
I've been waiting 40 years to hear William Bell. At 77, he still sounds as smooth as he did when he was topping the R&B charts in the '60s.
Cedric Burnside and Trenton Ayers make more sound than you'd think possible from two folks. Their gritty Hill Country blues was one of the highlights of the festival for me.
We spent Saturday morning in the Cultural Exchange Tent listening to musicians from Cuba. Changüí Guantánamo, one of the best bands in Cuba, hadn't visited the States since the '70s. I'm glad we got a chance to see them. They're wonderful musicians and really friendly guys. We also got to see percussionist/vocalist Pedrito Martinez, one of the best young musicians in the world. Moreover, he brought his mentor, Cuban percussion master Roman Diaz.
Fun, fun, fun.
I was disappointed when I heard that Hugh Masekela was sick and wouldn't be able to join Dr. Michael White for a tribute to Louis Armstrong in People's Economy Tent. But James Andrews and Nicholas Payton, who filled in for him, were hardly a consolation prize. They were amazing, and the tribute was beautiful and moving.
This was the second year we've see the Jazzy Jags from Southern University. What a talented group of young musicians. After the show, my friend told one of the singers she'd like to see them at the Chicago Blues Festival. I concur.
Henry Gray is one of my musical heroes. I see him whenever I can. He sat near us before the show to watch the Jazzy Jags. Then the 92-year-old bluesman went to the stage and rocked the blues tent. Gray, who suffered a mild heart attack a few months ago, was exhausted at the end of his set and had to be helped from the stage. But folks in the audience won't be forgetting his performance anytime soon.
I lost track a long time ago of how many times I saw Buckwheat Zydeco. It was weird being at jazz fest without him this year, but the tribute to Buckwheat Zydeco, led by his son, served as a powerful reminder of how magnetic Buckwheat Zydeco's music was. In addition to his son, Sir Reginald M. Dural, the set featured Corey Ledet, Nathan Williams and C.J. Chenier. One of the best sets I've heard at jazz fest.
Ellis Marsalis is one of the most important musical figures in New Orleans history. He's taught just about every top musician from NOLA (including his famous sons) over the past half century. A lot of folk know that. But if you've never heard him play piano, you're missing out on one of life's greatest pleasures. He fills his songs with delicately nuanced notesbut each note seems as if it's ready to explode at any moment. His band was great, too, especially Ashlin Parker, one of my favorite young trumpet players.
I've seen Charlie Gabriel perform with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band many, many times. I've never seen him as the leader of his own group, though. Every time he picked up his clarinet or saxophone, I closed my eyes and drifted through the years of New Orleans musical history. He's 84, but you couldn't tell it by the way he bounced around the stage. And he certainly still plays and sings as well as anyone in NOLA.
I don't know how I've missed seeing Davell Crawford all these years. I certainly knew about him. What a showman. His set was one of the most energetic and powerful ones we saw this year.
My friend absolutely loved Jamison Ross. Nice voice. His rendition of "Don't Go to Strangers" was lovely.
The sounds fromKhari Allen Lee's saxophone float by the audience. Nice set. And Marcus Akinlana, a percussionist in Khari Allen Lee's band and a noted artist, painted as well as played during Lee's set. Very cool.
John Mooney is an exceptional slide guitarist. Always enjoy his sets.
Major Handy blends zydeco and blues as well as anyone I've ever heard. He's been on my list for a long time. Glad I finally got to see him.
Alvin Youngblood Hart and his group rock. Hard.
The Gospel Tent seemed like a natural place to start our Sunday morning at jazz fest. We were blasted by waves of spirit as soon as we walked in the door. Great, great group.
Nicholas Payton's set at jazz fest featured traditional jazz, a DJ, dancers and a string quartet. The scope of the music was broad. Everything was interesting.
Lil Buck Sinegal wasn't a headliner on the second weekend, but we saw him three times. That's a good thing. He's an amazing blues guitarist.
I stay mostly in the tents at jazz fest. I don't know about the folks outside, but the ones in the tent are friendly and joyful. They dance, they laugh, they listen to some of the world's greatest music.