*New Orleans – As soon I my plane landed, I hit the ground walking. The Big Easy is a great pedestrian friendly city. There is a lot of places to go within walking distance near the French Quarters.
The first stop on my musical journey was the New Orleans Music Legends Park at 311 Bourbon Street. This is a very cozy area with statues of Pete Fountain, Al Hirt and Fats Domino. New inductess consist of Louis Prima, Chris Owens and Ronnie Kole. I arrived just in time as Eileina was greeting fans and others in attendance. Eileina and keyboardist John Brewer kicked into high gear with some crowd pleasing sounds of jazz.They performed “How High the Moon,” “Time After Time,” and “Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans.”
I walked through the French Quarter to the New Orleans Jazz National Historic Park at 916 N. Peters Street. You can learn about the history of jazz from the informative Park Rangers on duty. Jim and Martha Hession entertained the crowd and I as they performed classic jazz standards.
Louisiana Music Factory was my next stop for their popular In-Store Performance series. I saw many familiar faces from JazzFest past for an early afternoon of great music provided by Los Po-Boy-Citos, Andy J. Forest and Johnny Sanson, Anders Osborne and Stanton Moore. It was hard to tear myself away from this venue and the great music of what is called FactoryFest. Los Po-Boy-Citos performed material from their new CD Brand New Dance. Their sound is a mixture of salsa, boogaloo, funk and marinated by African High Life music. Their partial set list featured “Street Music,” “Dollar Bill,” “Jala Jala,” and title track “Brand New Dance.”
I walked several blocks over to Le Belle Gallerie at 309 Chartess Street. Let’s get this party started. Le Belle Gallerie threw its annual JazzFest Block Party on Bourbon Street. The street was blocked off during the show. Locals and tourists like myself got into a JazzFest groove while listening to sounds of Rebirth Brass Band and The Revealers from 4-7PM. The Revolution Steppers added to our enjoyment of this annual event. Jet lag paid me an unwelcomed visit around this time.
I had a hearty breakfast to start my day. I used my Jazzy Bus Pass on the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority Bus # 91 to City Park. I went to the New Orleans Museum of Art for the Sync Up Conference. This conference held on the mornings (Friday and Saturday) both weekends of JazzFest. This conference was very informative, entertaining and educational featuring leaders from across the entertainment industry. The three main areas of discussions were: international music festivals; licensing music to film, TV and video games; and using new technologies to promote and sell independent music. The conference schedule on Friday: Independent Artist Development and Distribution-Keynote: Career Development In the New Music Business. This featured Mystikal being interview by Wild Wayne of WQUE (Q-93.3 FM). The panel discussion: Success In the Music Business-With or Without Selling Records moderated by Scott Aiges, Director of Programs, Marketing and Communications-Jazz and Heritage Foundation), featuring Peter Himberger, Principal, Impact Artist Management (New York, NY), Kristin Hersh, Founder, Throwing Muses (New Orleans, LA.) and George Howard, Co-founder, Tune Core (New Orleans, LA.).
I walked over to the fairgrounds for the 2011 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival presented by Shell. Hundreds of thousands of fans flock to the Big Easy every year for the seven-day event that has been called America’s best festival. April was Jazz Appreciation Month. The motto is “Jazz Born in America, Enjoyed world wide.” Jazz is celebrated in the Big Easy all year long. This is evident by the popularity of the recent French Quarter Festival, New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival presented by Shell and the upcoming Satchmo Festival. You can continue to celebrate Earth Day by walking, bicycling or taking public transit to the Fairgrounds for JazzFest. Parking is very limited. I recommend the Canal Street Car which goes out near the Cemeteries, which is walking distance to the Fairgrounds. Another option is the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority Special JazzFest Shuttles #48 or Line # 91. I find the the drivers to be friendly and helpful on each of the transit options that I have taken to the Fairgrounds for JazzFest. Don’t forget to purchase a Jazzy Pass which can be used on the Regional Transit Authority Buses.
I’m glad that JazzFest is hosting the celebration of Haitian culture. The country is still recovering from the devastating earthquake last year. The recent elections in Haiti is offering hope for the future with the election of Haiti’s pop-star-turned President elect Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly. 2011 Jazz & Heritage Festival presented by Shell featured several icons of Haitian music and culture featuring Wycef Jean, Tabou Combo, RAM, Boukman Eksperyans, Emeline Michel, Djakout # 1, DJA-Rara and Ti-Coca & Wanga Neges. I arrived at JazzFest just in time to as Ti-Coca & Wanga Neges engaged the audience in a wonderful and joyous showcase of Haitian music and culture on the Lagniappe Stage. The music of Haiti is very contagious, and spreads throughout the Fairgrounds in a remarkable manner.Few people in the crowd could resist the pulsating rhythms. Their hour long set left the crowd wanting more.
I walked over to the Blues Tent to get my dose of the blues with icons of New Orleans featuring the Joe Krown Trio with Walter “Wolfman” Washington and Russell Batiste, Jr. in a set of blues, soul and New Orleans R&B.
I walked over to the Grandstands so that I could rest my feet for a while in an air conditioned building. I planted myself at the Allison Miner Stage for back to back interviews with jazz musicians. Ben Sandmel interviewed Anat Cohen and Tom McDermott. The crowd and I were also rewarded with a couple of songs performed by these musicians. Mulgrew Miller was interviewed by Jason Patterson. These interviews are always very insightful and fun.
Los Hombres Calientes featuring Irving Mayfield and Bill Summer heated up the Fairgrounds with a set of Latin jazz and jazz to the delight of all in attendance. The Mighty Clouds of Joy, Tab Benoit, Wyclef Jean, Robert Plant & The Band of Joy, The Golden Striker Trio with Ron Carter, Mulgrew Miller and Russell Malone, The Haitian New Orleans Connection featuring Emeline Michel, Dr. Jean Montes and Dr. Michael White were the highlight musicians closing out the first day of JazzFest on their respective stages.
Day two of JazzFest got under way with another enlightening morning at the Synch Up Conference at the New Orleans Museum of Art in City Park. Larry Vallon, Executive Vice President, AEG Live delivered the keynote address: The State of Today’s Live Music Industry. Mr. Vallon opened his speech with an video overveiw of AEG’s Live concerts and venues and spoke about the joys and and pitfalls of organizing and producing a music festival. A lively panel discussion : Curating a Music Festival moderated by Hugh Southard, President, Blue Mountain Artists (Charlotte, NC), Danny Melnick, President, Absolutely Live (New York, NY), Rob Gibson, Artistic director, Savannah Music Festival (savannah, GA.) Bruce Labadie, Festival Director, San Jjose Jazz Festival (San Jose, CA.), Michael Arnone, Producer/Creator, Michael Arnone Crawfish Fest (Augusta, NJ), Jennifer Pickering, Executive Director, Lake Eden Arts Festival (Asheville, NC) and Mel Puljic, Principal, Mondo Mundo (New York, NY).
I walked over to the Fairgrounds Blues Tent to feast on the set of music served up wonderfully by Les Getrex & Creole Cookin’. The 2011 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival presented by Shell On Site Press Conference was held in the Press Tent and featured short speeches from Quint Davis, Jazz Fest Producer/director, Host, Mitchell Landrieu, Mayor, New Orleans, John Hollowell, Executive Vice President, Deep Water, Shell Oil Company, Larry Vallon, Executive Vice President, AEG Live, Tim Bryant, President, Fair Grounds Race Course and Slots, Nancy Marinovic, President, Board of Directors, New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and Foundation, Inc., Emeline Michel, Haitian representative, musician and Richard Morse, Haitian representaive, member of RAM.
Curtis Pierre & Samba Kids featured a lot of audience participation in the Chouest Family Kids Tent. The parents beam with delight seeing their kids performing samba music on stage. Stilwalkers were added to the fun-filled festivities in the Chouest Family Kids Tent.
DJA Rara from Haiti captivated the crowd with thier unique instruments and energetic set of music. It would be great to see this tight band performing together with some of New Orleans Brass Bands, perhaps recording a CD together.I also enjoyed the interview and performance of Ricky Skaggs and Arlo Guthrie at the Allison Miner Stage.
Jeremy Daveport, John Boutte and Ahmad Jamal played to a standing room only crowd in the Jazz Tent.
Washboard Chaz Blues Trio kicked off the festivities for day three of Jazz Fest. Chaz Leary aka- Washboard Chaz on a custom made washboard was join onstage with Andy J. Forest on harmonica, and St. Louis Slim for some good old fashion country/delta blues. Additional highlights for day three of JazzFest consisted of Jazz & Blues featuring Luther Kent, Phillip Manuel and Big Al Carson, Boukman Eksperyans of Haiti and a emotionally and spiritually uplifting set of The Zion Harmonizers Tribute to Sherman Washington and Leroy Jones & New Olreans Finest followed by Pete Fountain. Check out www.nola.com to view photos from first weekend of JazzFest.
These are two helpful websites if you are already in route to New Orleans for business (conference) or visiting for pleasure (JazzFest). www.neworleanscvb.com and www.nojazzfest.com Don’t forget to bring your dancing shoes.