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As my fifth New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival gets closer, the anticipation gets stronger. This year is a little different- I have two friends coming to Jazz Fest on my say so, so I’m a little stressed, wanting to make sure they tell me what they want to hear, making sure they love it as much as I do. So in prepping for my favorite week of the year, here are some things you don’t want to miss:

At the fairgrounds:

Thursday, May 3rd

High School Gospel Choirs: I like to open my fest with the McMain Singing Mustangs – every year, these kids bring some serious firepower to the Gospel Tent.  McDonogh #35 High School also does some incredible stuff later in the afternoon.

New Orleans Music Legends: Bassist George Porter Jr. has probably played on your favorite album, whether with Tori Amos, David Byrne, being the bass line sampled for tons of hip hop classics, or with his own groundbreaking work with the legendary Meters. Do yourself a favor and see him. While you’re at it, check out piano virtuoso Henry Butler, and the boys and girl in Dumpstaphunk. All of em will make you wish you lived here and saw em more often.

Home Grown Up and Comers: I saw Mia Borders in a tiny club with a leaky roof on the lower east side last year and she was amazing. Probably got an awesome band with her, including NOLA saxman Khris Royal (who’s probably with George too), and her cover of Bill Wither‘s “Use Me” was just bananas last year.

2012 Fantasy Map

2012 Fantasy Map

Friday, May 4th

The One Woman Army, now with backup: Theresa Andersson is a tremendous singer, fiddle player, and all around musician. This year, she’s got a great krewe of musicians with her, including Hannah Krieger-Benson, a fantastic trumpet player and singer who’s doing her own stuff (Hannah KB Band) and some ska too (The Local Skank)

Pick your own Jazz Adventure:  Three amazing jazz sets happening right after Theresa, at the same time. I have no idea how I’ll do all three.  Big Chief Donald Harrison will be mixing his bebop and modern jazz skills with R&B and NOLA classics, ala the amazing cover of “Indian Red” he did for the Treme Season One Soundtrack.  Or, you can get your fill of low end saxophonics, with Roger Lewis (Dirty Dozen Brass Band) leading three Bari Saxes and a Bass Sax for Baritone Bliss (which was fantastic last year).  Or, you can see Preservation Hall trumpet man Mark Braud do his own thing in the Economy Hall tent.

Holy People: Bet on Mavis Staples, who was already among the top reasons we went with this weekend, to put on a ridiculous set at the gospel tent in honor of her friend (and ours), the late great Levon Helm.  I’m sure her set is going to be so great, I’ll probably miss Deacon John‘s killer cover of “Many Rivers to Cross” to get a spot. However, if I were you, I wouldn’t miss much else of his set.  Local music legend, a fantastic performer, a great singer, a helluva guitar player, just amazing stuff, see Deacon John.

Mahalia Jackson - Historic Jazz Fest Picture

Mahalia Jackson – Historic Jazz Fest Picture

Saturday May 5th

Family Preservation: Loads of famous families in the New Orleans tradition – on Saturday, the Brunious family represents in Economy Hall. A few hours before Mark Braud (nephew to the late John Brunious) takes the stage (and hopefully passes out some ice cream) with the
Preservation Hall Jazz Band, his other uncle (and brother to John) Wendell Brunious will step up to the stage- Wendell was on fire at BAM a couple weeks back, sitting in with Dr. John, so look for some tasty trumpet goodness all around.

Raisin’ Hell: Another scion of a famous musical family takes the Fais Do Do stage, Rockin Dopsie and his Zydeco Hellraisers.  I feel like a lot of my favorite Zydeco bands all seemed to be packed into first weekend, but Rockin Dopsie is a notable exception.

Local Greats to Look For: Anders Osborne is a beast on guitar, and his new album is a great mix of sweetness, of sadness, of blues and power.  Not sure who’s playing with them, but see it.  Paul Sanchez’s Rolling Road show is always packed with local stars, Joe Krown with Russell Batiste and Walter “Wolfman” Washington is a tight organ guitar drums trio that does it right. John Boutte‘s voice, which you may recognize from the theme song from Treme, is tremendous to hear in the Jazz Tent – he may spoil us with a great cover of Leonard Cohen‘s “Hallelujah”…if we’re lucky!

The Cafe du Monde stand between the Jazz and Blues tents, around 5:30pm.  Good time to hydrate and get some iced coffee.  Hard to see ending my Preservation Hall second line early, but gonna need to refuel. And what better place to do it? Herbie Hancock and his band in the Jazz Tent on your right, the Warren Haynes Band (with tinyrager.com faves Nigel Hall and Alecia Chakour, as well as Dr. John, playing out) on your left in the Blues Tent.

Jazzfest 1975 Historic Poster

Jazz Fest 1975 Historic Poster

Sunday, May 6th

Sunday is always the most packed day, the closing day of the festival.  Of course, I can tell you to park at Gentilly Stage all day, or don’t miss Galactic, but hopefully you already know.  Here are a few things you might not know about:

The Family that Prays Together: Remember that John Boutte guy from Saturday?  He’s bringin’ his whole family to the gospel tent. You should get there too.

Arieal

Arieal

Glen David Andrews: Cousin to Trombone Shorty and James Andrews, the fire-breathing trombone player’s got an incredible performance you don’t want to miss.  Why he’s not taking his rightful place closing down the Gospel tent is beyond me, but at least it makes the FOMS (Fear of Missing Something) to close the festival a bit easier.

Camping at the Jazz and Heritage Stage: I don’t know the higher heights, but every other group at the Jazz and Heritage stage is a smoker, starting with War Chief Juan, the TBC Brass Band, Los Hombres Calientes will be incredible (why not in the Jazz tent?), and

Big Chief Bo Dollis: It’s not clear if the Big Chief is going to make it, he’s fallen ill, so I expect the boys to rock it out hard for him even if he can’t make it.  Look for Brooklynite turned Orleanian Billy Iuso wrecking shop on guitar (if not here, with Anders on Saturday), he’s a force to be reckoned with.

Close out with the Hall: Okay, so you’ve got 8, count em, 8 amazing sets lined up to end your fest. My pick is Preservation Hall – they’re going to have a lot of friends on stage with them and it’s going to be a lot of fun.  Also, I have no idea why they put Sharon Jones in the Blues Tent when she’s going to want the crowd up and dancing.

The night shows are a whole other animal, coming for part 2…

Words by Guest Writer: Russ Agdern

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The 2010 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival:

An “Easy D” Perspective: Saturday, May 1, 2010

Mike "Easy D" Deasy

Mike "Easy D" Deasy

(Read Easy D’s “Prologue” here)

(Read Easy D’s “Wednesday, April 28, 2010” here)

(Read Easy D’s “Thursday, April 29, 2010” here)

(Read Easy D’s “Friday, April 30, 2010” here)

Moving slow this morning.  Quick check of the weather forecast reveals no change.   Total cloud cover, breezy, chance of rain.  This is great.  No need to continuously apply SPF 30!  Time to get on the school bus!  Unfortunately, we missed the first period of classes.  However, we arrive in time to catch the end of the Henry Butler & the Game Band set at the Gentilly stage.  This band had much more of a gospel feel than New Orleans Social Club showcasing Henry Butler’s great voice as well as his piano playing prowess.

Henry Butler @ Jazz Fest 2010

Henry Butler @ Jazz Fest 2010

We were focused.  It was time to hoof it over quickly to the Acura stage for Anders Osborne.  During the trek,we loved listening to snippets of Chubby Carrier & the Bayou Swamp Band at the Fais Do Do stage and Rebirth Brass Band at Congo Square.

Rebirth Brass Band @ Jazz Fest 2010

Rebirth Brass Band @ Jazz Fest 2010

Saturday at Jazz Fest gets extremely crowded.  It’s good to have a strategy so that you can enjoy viewing the performers without having to battle the crowds.  This is especially true as one gets older and perhaps less slim (like me).  Over the last couple of years, our Krewe has adopted the following strategy for the Acura stage once the crowds build: position ourselves in front of the big screen to the left of the stage near the Grand Marshall entrance.  This is where we went next.

As with the jazzfest set last year, Anders Osborne played with the Stanton Moore Trio.  What a powerful group!

Anders Osborne – Guitar and Vocals

Stanton Moore –  Drums

Robert Walter – Organ

Will Bernard – Guitar

Anders Osborne @ Jazz Fest 2010

Anders Osborne @ Jazz Fest 2010

It has been a year since I have seen Anders Osborne live, but I have been following his career closely and could not help but notice that his appearance has taken a turn to say the least.  When viewed on the big screen, Anders’ appearance is, how can I say this tactfully, even more disconcerting.

Anders Osbourne @ Jazz Fet 2010
Anders Osbourne @ Jazz Fet 2010

However, there was nothing disconcerting about the performance or the great songs from Anders’ brand new album American Patchwork.  Most notable was the killer tune ‘On the Road to Charlie Parker’ as well as another gem ‘Acapulco’.  During the set, Anders thanked the Stanton Moore Trio for helping to ‘get my shit together.’  It’s easy to see why with such great collaborators providing the right mood for Anders’ introspective lyrics.

Anders Osbourne @ Jazz Fet 2010

Anders Osbourne @ Jazz Fet 2010

Later in the set, Anders brought another collaborator, guitarist Pepper Keenan (Corrosion of Conformity, Down) for a couple of tunes, including the haunting dual lead guitar laced ‘Darkness at the Bottom’.

Pepper Keenan w/ Anders Osborne & the Stanton Moore Trio @ Jazz Fest 2010

Pepper Keenan w/ Anders Osborne & the Stanton Moore Trio @ Jazz Fest 2010

Afterwards, Anders quipped about starting a ZZ Top cover band with Pepper.  I found Anders set to be quite powerful and emotional, certainly destined to be one of my highlights of Jazzfest 2010.  Anders is currently touring with the Trio on the west coast promoting the new album.  Go see them if you can!

After that set, I was spent.  Seems like just the right time to head to the Blues tent and grab a seat for Chris Thomas King.  You may remember Chris from his co-starring role in the Coen Brothers film O Brother Where Art Thou.  I learned several years ago that Chris is a great singer and delta blues guitarist when I caught him at a blues festival in Wheeling, WV.  His Jazz Fest set featured Chris playing mostly acoustic instruments with a couple of tunes on electric.  My guitar playing buddy was impressed.

Chris Thomas King @ Jazz Fest 2010

Chris Thomas King @ Jazz Fest 2010

Crawfish Strudel

Crawfish Strudel

Time for some food!  I was ‘beered out’ by Saturday, decided I should look for a different beverage.  I selected the Rosemint Iced Tea (unsweetened).  Delicious.  At this point I was looking for something I had not tried for and saw a sign for something called a Crawfish Strudel.  Hmmm.  Better check that out.  What I saw was a small rectangular flaky bread loaf with a slit through the top stuffed with a soupy concoction with chunks of crawfish.  Kinda like a small bread bowl, if you will, but very delicate.  A very nice surprise!  While I was working through the food lines, I could see the big Acura screen between the booths.  I noticed that Irma Thomas was sitting in with Galactic!  I guess I picked the wrong time to get hungry!

Band of Horses @ Jazz Fest 2010

Band of Horses @ Jazz Fest 2010

By this time, our dogs were barking (it’s hell growing old), so we worked our way over to the Fais Do Do stage.  Got there in time to see BeauSoleil avec Michael Doucet finish their set.  Excellent.  Most of my Krewe ended up randomly gathering as the Honey Island Swamp Band set up for their set.  One brought a chair and set it up toward the back of the crowd.  Some friends and I parked on the bleachers to the left of the stage.  Some were in the standing area in front of the stage.  It’s great to have a group split during a day at the fest then randomly meet near the end of the day.  Some of my group reported that the Band of Horses set at Gentilly was killer.  Others reported that Galactic had many special guests throughout their set, not just Irma.

Then the Honey Island Swamp Band tore into their set.  The Honey Island Swamp Band is:

Chris Mulé – guitar, vocals

Aaron Wilkinson – mandolin, guitar,harmonica, vocals

Sam Price – bass, vocals

Garland Paul – drums, vocals

Honey Island Swamp Band @ Jazz Fest 2010

Honey Island Swamp Band @ Jazz Fest 2010

I have been following Chris Mulé and Aaron Wilkinson for years, since their days as part of Eric Lindell’s band.  Both are great players and singers.  In addition to the band, the stage was filled with a keyboard player, backing vocalists, and a horn section, quite a departure from the spare traveling band I saw just a few weeks ago at a small club in my hometown.  But what a dancin’ party it was at Fais Do Do!

I knew that the crowds for Pearl Jam at Acura would be impossible.  I made the decision long before coming to New Orleans that I would end Saturday at the Gentilly stage for guitar god Jeff Beck.  It has been about a decade since I last saw Mr. Beck.   I am happy to report that he is getting better with age if that is possible.  His very tight band consisted of a phenomenal female bass player and singer, drummer, and a keyboardist.  Most tunes were instrumentals, but hey, that’s OK, Jeff makes the guitar sing like no one can.  Also, gotta love a guy that is comfortable in his wardrobe.  Great ending to yet another great day.  Heavy clouds, no rain!  I like this trend!

Jeff Beck @ Jazz Fest 2010

Jeff Beck @ Jazz Fest 2010

Saturday Night, 5/1

Some of our Krewe were talking about going to see Anders Osborne and the Stanton Moore Trio again at The Rock ‘N’ Bowl on Saturday night.  I wasn’t wild about going to the same venue two nights in a row and I wasn’t wild about seeing Anders again on the same day after that draining (in a good way) set at the fairgrounds.  Last year, I did not make it to the Frenchman Street area in Marigny, an area just east of the French Quarter.  Frenchman Street is a street lined with music clubs and restaurants that is more of a scene, hip, vibrant, bohemian, you name it area than the much more touristy Bourbon Street.

Soulive @ Jazz Fest 2010

Soulive @ Jazz Fest 2010

We decided to go see Soulive at The Blue Nile.  Upon arriving on the scene, the streets and sidewalks are literally jammed with people.  Most I have ever seen on Frenchman Street.  When we approach The Blue Nile, we land in a block long admission line.  We finally make it in to the club just before the show starts.  There was a large deep crowd of people in front of the stage.  We positioned ourselves just to the right of the stage.  While not the best vantage point, at least we can clearly see the keys.

Soulive @ Jazz Fest 2010

Soulive @ Jazz Fest 2010

Soulive is Eric Krasno (guitar), Alan Evans (drums) and his brother Neal Evans (keyboards).  What a pleasure to see this band in such a small venue!  I have always loved Kras’ guitar playing, but from our vantage point, we had a bird’s eye view of Neal’s thumping left hand bass line playing coupled with his right hand organ playing.  How does he do that?

Soulive @ Jazzfest 2010

Soulive @ Jazzfest 2010

As the set progressed, the crowd got much larger and our bird’s eye view became less ideal.  There was nowhere to move or breathe for that matter, so we moved a little further back.  By this time, Nigel Hall joined the band to sing a few tunes, some of which were James Brown-like.  At least we had a little more space to shake our bones!   Several minutes later, the long set ended.  Terrific performance!  We decided to get some air and check out the street scene.

Across the street in front of the now closed Café Brasil, there was a blues band (electric) playing.  What fun!  Not 30 feet from the blues band, a brass band was holding court in the middle of the intersection.  All the while, people were stopping to listen, dancing, and strolling by.  We continued walking up the street taking in all of the sights and sounds.  Most of us decided that we weren’t going to fight the crowds and return to the Blue Nile for the 2nd set.  The one guy that did stay behind later reported that the second set was all Beatles tunes. RUBBER SOULIVE! Darn!

There were no cabs to be had on Frenchman Street, so we decided a stroll through the neighborhoods was in order.  It was a very pleasant evening and the walk did us good.  Once we were back in the French Quarter, we happened to stroll by the Co Co Club on Bourbon Street and saw the most excellent blind blues guitarist, Bryan Lee, playing.  What a bonus!  Even though there was no cover and we could have gone inside, we had a great view of Bryan and the sound was great out on the street.  We paused for about 10 minutes enjoying the band.

What a great night!  And back to the hotel just before 2:00?  I love it!

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