Thursday, May 2, 2024

Joyous Sounds of N'awlins



Another Amazing Burst of Sound, Food, and Culture 

      Back in October of 2022, I wrote a missive about the history of MUZAK. I noted how it served at first to ease people’s nerves and help them adjust to this new thing called the elevator, then to help workers be more productive and positive at work, and then too try to make us less bored and upset in stores, train stations and airports. These days the sound effect is probably not MUZAK; it is often streaming internet channels such as Sirius FM. And the choice in these venues is often soft jazz or soft cover versions of rock hits by bands such as The Doobie Brothers and Steely Dan.  

      Last week I was in an airport going to the baggage area, and the comforting sounds were “Further On Down The Road You Will Accompany Me by Taj Mahal, “Further On Up the Road” by Bobby "Blue" Bland, and "River’s Invitation” by Percy Mayfield. And these were the real recordings! This soundtrack could only be happening in one place: I was back down in New Orleans, Louisiana.  

      Last week was the first weekend of JazzFest, and I was down in N’awlins, soaking up the music, the food, the architecture and cultures and having a great time. This was my third time at the Fest, and while I am a year older and it is harder moving throughout the whole festival site, I had a ball. I heard some folks I love that I had not seen in a while: Joe Louis Walker, Rosie Ledet, Buckwheat Zydeco, The Iguanas, and Tuba Skinny. I also got introduced to some folks I had not heard of before; singer/guitarist Mr Sipp, Luther Kent, Marc Stone, and the absolute amazing Midnite Disturbers -- a 12-16 piece horn “jam" band featuring some of the city’s best musicians. Talk about musical overload! 

      As usual, there were also great cultural things -- this truly is a jazz AND HERITAGE festival. There were dances, storytelling, crafts, and music from different Louisiana Native American nations. There were demonstrations of crafts such as woodworking and blacksmithing. There were workshops and demonstrations of cultural sewing design and cooking from African-American, Haitian, French, and Caribbean cultures. One of the great things for me about this aspect of the festival is the large number of children involved in the crafts and music. Louisiana is a place where each of the cultures that live in the state continue to effortlessly pass on their traditions and innovations down to the next generation. JazzFest is one place where the children get to shine, and they had key roles in the presentations. And the student brass bands were spectacular.

      This was my third time at the fest, and I plan to go for at least one of the two weekends for as long as I can. Like last year and this year, I will go a day or two before and stay a day or two after to see more of that wonderful town. This year I had a walking tour of the Treme district, saw the Jazz Museum, spent time again looking at the architecture in the French Quarter and beyond, and had some great seafood. All in all, it was a wonderful time, full of constant, joyous times, and wonderful music. 

      This weekend is the last weekend of the Fest, and it features a lot of diverse people, from The Rolling Stones to Bonnie Raitt to Trombone Shorty. I invite each of you to go to the Festival website, look at the schedule for a given day, and then go to the website or YouTube channel of whichever musicians strike your fancy You will, of course, see many you recognize and have heard. But it may also be good to go and explore the websites or You Tube recordings of some folks with whom you are unfamiliar. There are a lot of wonderful things going on at this fest just waiting to be discovered. Dip your toes in. Enjoy! 

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