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The 2010 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival:

An “Easy D” Perspective: The Prologue

(2nd Weekend: April 28, 2010 – May 4, 2010)

Mike "Easy D" Deasy

Mike "Easy D" Deasy


JAZZ FEST 2010 Poster By Tony Bennett

JAZZ FEST 2010 Poster By Tony Bennett

This series of articles will recap my experiences and the experiences of my ‘Krewe’ in New Orleans for the 2nd weekend of the 41st annual New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.  I arrived for my visit in the evening on Wednesday, April 28 and left on the morning of Tuesday, May 4.  My recap will focus on the music I saw and listened to, but I will also describe some of the magic that is the City of New Orleans: the food, the people, the tourists, and the places.

2010 Congo Square Poster by Terrance Osborne

2010 Congo Square Poster by Terrance Osborne

When talking about my Krewe, I will not refer to them by name because ‘what happens in New Orleans, stays in New Orleans’.  Unlike yours truly, the rest of my Krewe currently have jobs.  All of us, including me, have families.  You will have to believe me when I say that as a group, we were reasonably well behaved, but had a tremendous amount of fun with just the right amount of partying.  No one went to the hospital; no one got arrested.  A splendid time was had by all.

I planned to take a note pad wherever I went so that I could recall my activities during the weekend.  As soon as I arrived, I realized that this plan did not make any sense.  There is so much going on all of the time that I would surely miss something while writing on the fly.  You will have to depend on my memory, which I am happy to report is usually quite good.  You will not notice if I forget some things.

Fairgrounds Race Course during Jazz Fest

Fairgrounds Race Course during Jazz Fest

The 2nd weekend of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival is held at the Fairgrounds Racetrack from 11:00 AM until 7:00 PM from Thursday through Sunday.  There are 12 stages with music running simultaneously all day.  It is often quite a challenge to decide who to go see perform.  To get an idea of the schedule, go to www.nojazzfest.com and click on ‘music schedule’ where you can review ‘the cubes’ listing the acts performing at the stages on a given day.

Photo by Crawfish Monica

Photo by Crawfish Monica

Some of the stages are in tents (Blues, Gospel, Jazz, etc).  The rest of the stages (Acura, Gentilly, Congo, Fais Do Do, Jazz & Heritage, etc) are outdoors.  If the weather is decent, I prefer to go to the outdoor stages.  Some of my favorite artists have performed in the tents over the years, but if the sun is shining, I’ll often bypass a favorite in favor of an act outdoors.  Also, I enjoy strolling between the stages and discovering great music that I never intended to see.  Strolling between stages also affords the opportunity to stop at the food booths.  The food at the Fairgrounds is excellent and relatively inexpensive.  Many local favorites are featured including gumbo, jambalaya, po boys, many crawfish dishes, etc.

Photo by Lynn Lesh

Photo by Lynn Lesh

After a full day at the fairgrounds, it’s time to get back to the hotel, get a shower, perhaps a power nap, before partying again and going to a night club for even more music.  Club shows generally run from 10:00 PM to 2:00 AM.  Late night club shows generally run from 2:00 until dawn or even later.  The vast majority of the music clubs are not on Bourbon Street.  They are scattered about in various neighborhoods.  A great source of club music listing is the ‘Nearly World Famous Jazzfest Grids’ at www.jazzfestgrids.com.  That’s a lot of activity to attempt for several days in a row!   So remember, there are no rules.  It’s OK to take a day at the fairgrounds off or a club show evening off.  With restaurants, shopping, Bourbon Street, etc., there are plenty of ways to relax in New Orleans.    And remember kids, it’s a marathon, not a sprint!

~ Easy D ~

~ Continue to the next installment of Easy D’s Jazz Fest 2010 adventure~

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The 41st New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival

A Russ Agdern Perspective: Part I

Mr. Russ Agdern

Mr. Russ Agdern

What a week!  My third trip to the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival (Jazz Fest) was nothing short of incredible.  The surprises were many, the disappointments were few, the food was awesome, and when you get to hear some of the best music in the world in one the most important musical towns in the world, you’re in for a good time.

2010 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival

2010 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival

New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival takes place over the last weekend of April and first weekend in May at the New Orleans Fairgrounds, but, like most parties in this town, can’t be contained in one venue, so Fest spills out in the clubs, halls, restaurants, bars, record stores, boats, coffee houses, laundromats, Carnival float warehouses, street corners and empty lots of the Crescent City.  Two things set Jazz Fest apart from other festivals in my mind – the musical diversity and the food.

Who Dat Ville

Photo by Marisa Harford

While heavy metal, pop, opera, classical aren’t there, and quality hip hop is not so represented (The Roots and Chali 2na were both here in 2008, haven’t seen a hip hop group I like since at the fairgrounds), some of the very best in Jazz, Funk, Blues, Gospel, Zydeco, Cajun, Folk, Rock are all over the place at the fairgrounds and in the venues around town.  Ani DiFranco and Gift of Gab played club shows, members of REM sat in with Bonerama, Pearl Jam, Elvis Costello, Simon and Garfunkel, Van Morrison all played at the fairgrounds, so don’t be fooled into thinking this is solely a Jazz festival, because it ain’t.  Sure, there are 3 different jazz stages at the fairgrounds (one for general jazz, one for traditional New Orleans Dixieland Jazz, and one split between brass bands and Mardi Gras Indians) but there are also two main stages, a gospel and blues tents, a zydeco/Cajun stage… you get the idea.

Prejean's pheasant, quail and andouille gumbo (Photo by Prejean's Restaurant)

Prejean's pheasant, quail and andouille gumbo (Photo by Prejean's Restaurant)

The food at the fairgrounds is tremendous.  It is freaking delicious and goes way beyond “best festival food you’ll have” into some of the best you’ll ever have…period.  I wait all year for Prejeans Pheasant, Duck, and Andouille Gumbo.  Their Fried Chicken and Jambalaya combo is one of the best ways to spend $8.  And I’m not even talking about all the things most folks seem to like, like the crawfish monica, the shrimp po boys, the cochon de lait sandwiches, the mango freezes… trust me when I say you should budget yourself 20 bucks per day for food at the fairgrounds. You’ll thank me.

Photo By Lynn Lesh 2010

Photo By Lynn Lesh

This being my third Jazz Fest, I tend to have a rhythm I like to follow, things I like to do.  Some of my favorite moments of Fest have happened during the in between days or extra days, so I tend to do second weekend with an extra day or two on either end of the weekend.  This gives me time to actually see the city, something I don’t really do as much while the music is in full swing.  This also gives me a chance to catch additional great music at various places, including the Louisiana Music Factory which hosts many in store sets during the days surrounding Fest.  I think this review works best chronologically, so let’s start at the beginning, shall we?

Welcome to NOLA

Welcome to NOLA

Wednesday: April 28, 2010: Day One

Arrive at airport, no traffic on Bronx/Queens Expressway and breeze through security line… only to find a gate full of ANGRY people.  Why so serious?  You see, the airlines don’t apparently know that it is Jazz Fest, even if millions of people do.  So they oversell flights, and are shocked when they need 5 volunteers to go later, but folks already have reservations and concert tickets.  I considered getting bumped, but wanted to get to town.

House of Blues, New Orleans

House of Blues, New Orleans

I don’t normally do House of Blues shows, would rather support local clubs.  But today, they had Kermit Ruffins of the Barbecue Swingers, doing a “Treme House Party” on stage with Walter Wolfman Washington, Dr. Michael White, Henry Butler, and Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews.  This sounded awesome.  Plus, Fesshead Krewe (represented by a metal bust of Professor Longhair) was hosting a party in an empty lot, with The  Rebirth Brass Band and an all star band of Neville-related project alums (Band called “Never Was Brothers”), which sounded great.  So no flight credit for me. Really excited about this House of Blues‘ show.  So excited that I call after I land to see if I should get tickets early or just walk up.  The box office suggested coming early so I head right from my host’s place towards The French Quarter.  On the way, pass by Fesshead Fest, and never have a received a look of utter betrayal like the one I got from the man waiving people in to Fesshead Fest.  The guy was shocked that I kept driving, how could I do this to him?!  But I stopped long enough to hear The  Rebirth Brass Band rock out one tune and was it hot!

Café Du Monde beignets

Café Du Monde's Beignets (Photo by Marisa Harford)

Park on Decatur, run to the box office, snag a ticket, stop by Café Du Monde for some beignets (French donuts with powdered sugar) and some Café Au Lait (coffee with milk).  Great couple musicians jamming on some folk and soul music out front, a sister with dreads on guitar, a youngish guy on guitar, a drummer… another guitarist walks up and joins them, as does a singer, who starts singin’ the hell out of some Bill Withers.  I love Bill Withers.  Hey, apparently, so does Cyril Neville, who’s suddenly standing five feet from me, also checking them out.  I decide not to say anything to him, even though he’s an amazing musician who’s done some amazing stuff, most recently touring with Galactic and burning down The Brooklyn Bowl after The Saints won the Super Bowl.  Another woman walks up and starts singing Aretha Franklin‘s “Chain of Fools” and is fantastic.  This is gonna be a good week.

Go hang with my host for a few moments before I head over the House of Blues, he’s an old friend through social justice work and is a good dude trying to good work in a city that needs it.  Off to HOB!

Photo by Matt Cornell

Kermit's Poster (Photo by Matt Cornell)

Show review:

This show had all the makings of an epic, but some things worried me – like why call it a “Treme House Party” when people can go see Kermit Ruffins playing in the Treme tomorrow night?  It’s Jazz Fest.  My guess is that lineup doesn’t need to piggy back off the show, even if it is popular.  Great opening act, singer and a guitarist accompanying.  Great voice, insane Mariah Carey-like upper range.  But the main event was a disappointment, for a few reasons:

1)      The curtain opened and we were watching a ‘Treme House Party’.  The stage was set with couches, chairs, a bar, and random non musicians hangin’ out, having drinks.  Weird.  The House of Blues brings you a fake version of something that exists for real a couple miles away tomorrow.

Trombone Shorty @ Kermit's Show

Trombone Shorty @ Kermit's Show (Photo by Matt Cornell)

2)      I had hoped there would be some real interaction between the guests, with each other, with Kermit.  But the show was a lot more of Kermit plays one song, special guest X leads The Barbeque Swingers for a few numbers, maybe Kermit joins on one, then special guest X leaves.  LAME.  Don’t get me wrong, this wasn’t actually lame, the musicianship was fantastic, but the vibe was off, and Kermit having a drink on stage, trumpet in hand, while someone else leads his band and doesn’t get in on it?  Weird stuff.

3)      Because of 1 and 2, things were low energy for the first half, which is a shame b/c Walter Wolfman Washington and Dr. Michael White were great.  But Henry Butler really kicked things up a notch with his cover of “Mustang Sally.”  Then Trombone Shorty’s mini set was also great and he brought his brother James Andrews out to do “Skokie” and “Oop Oop A Doo.”

Treme on HBO

Treme on HBO

4)      I’m sure Treme is awesome.  I can’t wait to see the series, actually.  And I very much dig John Boutte, the guy who wrote the song that became the theme.  Still, it sounds a lot like the beginning to “Do Whatcha Wanna“, and I got very excited the four times I heard it this weekend, only to be disappointed.  My guess is musicians in NOLA will be as tired of that song as they are of “The Saints” very soon.

I know folks say that bad sex and pizza, even when they’re bad, are pretty good.  But whoever said those things must clearly not know good pizza and good sex, because pretty good doesn’t freaking cut it when it could be mind blowing.  While pretty good, and probably great for folks who didn’t know they could expect more, this show was probably the disappointment of the weekend.  It could have been one of those crazy moments of synergy when brilliant musicians make something happen, but instead it was a weird, gimmicky thing that was more like an all-star review than the party I had hoped for.

Irvin Mayfield and the NOJO Jam

Irvin Mayfield and the NOJO Jam

Next up, I stopped by the Jam Session at Irvin Mayfield’s new place, called a “head cutting session.”  For y’all don’t know, cutting heads is not just jamming, but is actually competitive combat.  Kinda how a poetry slam is to spoken word and performance poetry.  So, to hear it billed like that, I was hoping for some folks spitting fiyo.  What was going down there was a bunch of younger cats playing some charts together.

Megalomaniac's Ball - Garage A Trois (Photo by Jon Weber)

Megalomaniac's Ball - Garage A Trois (Photo by Jon Weber)

It was great to see them finding their feet, but again, not quite what I expected.  Still, the players was solid, lotsa horn players getting their groove on to “Straight“, “No Chaser” and whatnot.    Good times.  Caught several songs then felt my energy start to flag a lil bit.  While I was enjoying the jamming, it wasn’t worth starting the week off sleep deprived.  It was too late to hit The Megalomaniac’s Ball, featuring Garage A Trois, Stanton Moore Trio, Dead Kenny G’s, Mike Dillon and Earl Harvin Duo, at The Howlin’ Wolf, so I decided to head back towards the rental car.  A good but not great start to the week, was starting to feel a little bummed.  Thing is, some of the best shows I’ve seen at Fest have been the night before, so expectations were great and not met.

So…it’s 2am and I’m driving down Elysian Fields and about to turn onto my friend’s street…when I hear a brass band.  I immediately park.  Last year there were brass band battles on Frenchman, a block away.  I head towards Frenchman and sure enough there are two small groups going at it, with a frenzied group of dancers between them.  More and more players join up, including Clarence ‘Trixzey’ Slaughter, formerly of Trombone Shorty’s band.  It’s getting crazy.  The crowd is getting larger.  For the second time today, Cyril Neville bumps into me.  I decide again not to say anything.  A guy shows up with a baritone (smaller version of a tuba) and another guy with weird saxophones.  A shorter Latina woman is dancing like crazy.  Cyril bumps into me again and I thank him for such a great Super Bowl show at The Brooklyn Bowl with Galactic.

Cyril: Aww, thank you man.  You know, that night… we were Doin Work! You know?

Me: Yeah you right. And brother, you sure were.

Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews has now shown up and though half the crowd is spraining eyeballs trying to notice it is him without staring, he’s unarmed and just there to watch.  The band is taking it up and up.  Two drunk dudes are doing their best to ruin it by stumbling into the band but thankfully not succeeding.  Clarence ‘Trixzey’ Slaughter is KILLING on his horn.  Hell yeah! Finally, the band busts out “Saints” for a while, then second line and it’s a wrap.  Instead of bed by 2am, it’s more like 4:30am now.  And while still a little disappointed about the first show, I went to sleep real happy.  Seen some great musicianship and showmanship, and Jazz Fest hadn’t even restarted.  This was gonna be an awesome week.

~ Article by: Russ Agdern ~

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One of the most beautiful things about New York City it’s ability to provide us with beautiful music, of an genre, at any given time of the day or night. On this nasty rainy Tuesday night nothing could have kept me from a lovely intimate jazzy evening with Will Bernard, Todd Sickafoose and Ches Smith at The Stone.

The Stone door

The Stone door

I had never been to The Stone before and my girlfriend and I had a hell of a time finding it as we walked by it’s door 4 times before realizing that was the venue. No sign, both walls flanking the door looked like those metal security walls that the store fronts draw down when they close up for the night.  We thought it was a closed store and kept walkin’ on by. The whole time I am geekin’ out hoping it wasn’t one of those places that won’t let you in once the gig has started.  Finally, we figured it out.  The only hint was a little sticker on the obscure front door that read “The Stone.”

As I entered The Stone, I was immediately taken aback. No windows, no bar, no merch counter…barely any light, was there even a bathroom?  About 10 rows of chairs, maybe 50 in all, lined the floor in front of the playing area. I loved it. Musical intimacy at its best. Especially because only 20 of the seats were filled!!!!

The three wonderful musicians, Will Bernard on Guitar, Ches Smith on Drums and Todd Sickafoose on Bass, come up the stairs a little after 10pm and the first thing Will says: “Everyone’s gone to the bathroom, right?”  Good stuff.  Clearly, there would be no set break.

California invaded NYC that night at The Stone.  All three musicians are transplants from various parts of California. Personally, I was born in Sacramento, California and wish I could remember more about the beautiful state. Good to know if I was still living out there, I would be surrounded by amazing musicians!!  Well, with the exception of these three!!!

Directions to My House CD Cover

Directions to My House CD Cover

Many of the songs played last night were off an album that Ches and Will collaborated on a few years back called Directions to My House!

So, they go right into Agro Business. I notice that all the musicians were reading sheet music. With this style of  experimental jazz, it blows my mind how their actions can be translated into notes on a page.  I would LOVE to see what the drummers sheets look like. I kept going back to the drum composition. Couldn’t pull my eyes away from Ches’s playing.  Will begins to manipulate his trippy guitar sounds with the machines at his feet.  But we couldn’t hear the bass.

Turning to my pal,”Do you hear the bass?” “Not at all,” she says.

As I turn around to face the players, Todd bends down to turn up his amp. Now we are back business!

Wide Awake was next with it’s soft, slow start.  The drum brushes came out.  And soon the trippy picks of the guitar made way for the heavy parts that followed. As Wills face scrunched into his guitar rift, Ches proceeded to strike every surface of his drum kit.  Again, how does that translate into sheet music? Silence.  And then it’s Todd’s turn to bring it back up.  Todd’s fingers are moving a mile a minute and Will’s guitar softens as the song comes to a close.

Ches Smith @ Terminal 5 (03.28.09)

Ches Smith @ Terminal 5 (03.28.09)

It’s about this time that something in my memory triggers in relations to Ches Smith.  He looks sooooo familiar.  Turning to my friend, “I feel like I saw him with Les Claypool or something….” Today, while researching Todd, it all came together when I realized he was in the Secret Machines 3 and I had seen them open for Les Claypool at Terminal 5 last year.  I love when that kinda stuff hits home. And after last night, I will never forget his face, or hands, again.

I adore when the boundaries of time are broken in music; the spaces that can be manipulated with notes. The thing that separates each artist is when and where they place those notes.  Crab Apple Red is one of those songs that I love for it’s count/time/beat, pick your poison.   Todd started off with the deep bass and the rest flow in.  Will shined shortly after as he picked away at his guitar. After hearing the studio albums for a while, watching him play these songs live makes it so much more outstanding! It humbles you because they may make it look easy, but IT IS NOT!! As Will and Todd make eye contact with a smile, they put the song to sleep.

WE GOT A NEW SONG TONIGHT!!!!  In my notes I spelled it Mootwos, HAHA, but it is spelled Motooz.  Will bends over to prepare his machines to produce just the right sound they have felt this song was born to release.  I remember thinking…”foreboding”… when the song started. Low, mysterious…..Ches gave us a nice drum solo, Will manipulated sounds with his machines, turned over his guitar on his lap and then the SLIDE came out! Always a welcome sound.

“Are you having fun? I am having fun! It’s been a while since I got to play this stuff,” says Will.

Parental Guidance fullfill’s it’s name.  If there was a silent movie and the parents were yelling at the child, this would be the soundtrack.  It’s as if at first they are stomping their feet/bass strings and shaking their fist/drum sticks.  And then they calm down and talk rationally….relax. Ches’s cymbal manipulation was fun. My friend would later say, “I have never seen someone do that before!” Personally, I was wondering how using your fingers on the drums translates on to sheet music.  But, there is a story behind this song, I can feel it.

With Hall of Science, the brushes come back out on the drums, Will destroys his guitar into a manipulation of sound that would confuse most people. He slaps the guitar, smacks it. This is a whole different kind of rage. This is not music for the faint of mind, forget heart. It makes you focus. It makes you think.  There are parts that make it feel like a little getup and go jam and then there is chaos among the instruments.Will starts shaking the curtains, Ches scratches the floor with his feet, Todd rips the music in half……”HEY! That’s my music!” Will proclaims.  Laughter abounds.  “Guess we can’t play the head out.” But they do and I loved it!

Up until this point, I had wanted to remain seated. This isn’t the type of music you dance too, or rather,  I dance to. To each their own! But whenever I hear Not Necessarily Stoned, I immediately want to put on a  saucy red dress and move. And move slow. Each artist’s talent shined on this song. Will on guitar, Todd on bass and Ches on drums. It was a perfect song to end the evening.

After thanking Will, my fellow blogger friend and I leave the venue chatting away about the interesting performance we were just privileged to see. It’s always fun introducing friends into new musical environments. Another Happy Tuesday for this Tiny Rager 🙂 Thanks you guys!

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