It's time for my 2009 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival recap, so here goes...
Thursday 30 April: We saw/heard Tulane University Jazz Ensemble. Then off to see Little Freddie King Blues Band in the Blues Tent (he played at the first Fest 40 years ago) - awesome. Then the Louis Armstrong Summer Jazz Camp band. Then New Birth Brass Band (love those horns and that brass sound!), then Michael Ward (jazz violinist). Next up, George Wein and the Newport All-Stars (also played at the first fest 40 years ago). Then Emmylou Harris.
High points of the day - the Louis Armstrong Summer Jazz Camp band, and some of Emmylou Harris' songs - she has the most amazing voice.
Clever t-shirt of the day: WTFWJD
Friday 1 May: tons of music again: Forgotten Souls Brass Band - great; BeauSoleil avec Michael Doucet (zydeco/cajun music - great); then Marcia Ball (great blues and funk piano/vocals, all with a Louisiana twist to it); then off to John Boutte (great jazz vocals), followed by Esperanza Spalding (24year old phenom, plays upright bass with incredible vocals - watch for this name going forward). Last but certainly not least, Tony Bennett, who was incredible.
High points of the day - Marcia Ball singing "Louisiana 1927" (that song alone was worth the price of admission for the day), and Tony Bennett singing "The Good Life" and "I Left my Heart in San Francisco" as well as many of his other standards. He also has a sense of humor, dedicating "The Good Life" to Britney Spears - the crowd was howling with laughter at that one...
Clever t-shirt of the day: Please direct all questions to my agent.
Saturday 2 May: started the day with The New Orleans-Helsinki Connection band (made up of musicians from Helsinki Finland, and New Orleans - they met through some joint gigs then the Helsinki folks came over post-Katrina to help, and the rest is history). then on to Sherman Robertson in the Blues Tent; then over to see/hear Treme Brass Band in the Economy Hall tent (the most New Orleans-centric music at Fest is there), then Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Both Treme and Pres Hall had the crowds on their feet the entire time. Economy Hall tent is the only stage at Fest with a dance floor - it was packed as usual; and the second lines were frequent - moving through the entire tent. Finished the day with a little of the Kings of Leon set at the Gentilly Stage. I saw them a few years ago when they opened for U2, and didn't think much of them, but I heard a good number of songs that I really liked.
High points of the day: seeing the usual dancers and second-liners in Economy Hall - after 11 years in a row at Fest, I know these faces and come to count on them as part of my Fest - including the little 80+ year old lady that leads the second lines, and the french couple on the dance floor (she's pregnant this year, but still dances amazingly well); tall-grey-haired guy second-lining, and middle-aged-guy who dances with little-old-lady. I don't know a single name, but they're a big part of Fest to me.
Clever t-shirt of the day: This isn't the most direct route to work, but I hate my job anyway.
Sunday 3 May: started the day in the Blues Tent hearing Kenny Neal - amazing guitar; then over to the Jazz Tent for Jeremy Davenport (great trumpet, great vocals and an amazing band); stayed put to hear Ellis Marsalis next (amazing jazz pianist, and father of Wynton, Branford, Delfeyo and Jason Marsalis - all great jazz musicians in their own right). He also was Harry Connick Jr.'s piano teacher when Harry was a kid. then over to Economy Hall to hear Bob French and the Original Tuxedo Jazz Band with Teedy Boutte (related to John Boutte, not sure how). Great band and great energy. The heavens opened during this set, sure was glad to be in a tent. Rain let up as it was ending but sky was still ominous, so we left for the day.
High point of the day: Jeremy Davenport's 11-year-old trumpet student playing "Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans" during his set; and the Ellis Marsalis set - amazing as always.
Clever t-shirt of the day: Don't let reality ruin your day.
OVERALL: Music, food and spirit are alive and well in New Orleans - go down and spend your tourist dollars, because that's the lifeblood of this city. The post-Katrina rebuild and recovery is coming along, but again, it's a tourism-driven city. They're being hurt by this economic downturn as much if not more than any other region.
Fest dates for 2010 are: 23-25 April and 29 April - 2 May. Mark your calendars!!