Sometimes they have to make sacrifices to hold the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. It’s not always easy.
Imagine Beausoleil violinist and singer Michael Doucet. Doucet broke his hip after slipping on ice in Alaska on April 1 – while still recovering from knee surgery. Still, on Sunday he cautiously climbed the stairs to the Sheraton Fais Do-Do stage, sat down near his brother guitarist David Doucet and, with a smile and good mood, played the haunted and happy Cajun fiddle.
Imagine Charlie Gabriel. The 89-year-old saxophonist and clarinetist of the Jazz Banda Preservation Hall played the first weekend of the Jazz Fest with COVID. And yet on Sunday he led a traditional jazz band in the tent of Economy Hall Jazz Fest.
He sat down while playing clarinet and tenor saxophone, but stood to sing. He smiled and applauded and introduced his ace band. It included creative director of Press Hall and bassist Ben Jaffe, who also missed the first weekend of the festival with COVID.
Maze with Frankie Beverly will perform on the Congo Square stage during the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival on Sunday, May 8, 2022.
Gabriel’s horns were held with trombonist Craig Klein and trumpeter Kevin Lewis. Gabriel’s clarinet gave “Yellow Moon”, a song he co-wrote with Jaffe – not to be confused with the Neville Brothers song of the same name – a Middle Eastern note. He sang “Come With Me”, another Gabriel / Jaffe song.
Joshua Starkman, a regular guest at Press Hall since reopening last fall, has been working on a 1950s Gibson archtop guitar near Gabriel. His solo and rhythmic works fit right into the pocket created by Jaffe, pianist Meagan Swartz and drummer Glen “Buddha” Andrews. Andrews kept his focus even as he kept an eye on his three-year-old son Glen and Glen’s four-year-old cousin Keilan as they had fun on stage.
Have a nice day with Irma, Buffett
The final Sunday of the 2022 Jazz Fest also included Jimmy Buffett pulling out flip-flops to lead his Coral Reefer Band dressed in a Hawaiian shirt in their introductory “I Will Play for Gumbo”.
Bluegrass legend Ricky Skaggs who howled on a mandolin for Bill Monroe’s song on Fais Do-Dou moved to Kool & the Gang which organized “Celebration” for a huge crowd on the Congo Square Stage stage.
Irma Thomas wore her BayouWear dress to measure and mom for Mother’s Day on the festival stage. Following the synthesizer takeover of her contemporary galactic collaboration Heart of Steel, Thomas, her band and horn section minted gold in New Orleans rhythms & blues with Ruler of My Heart, Breakaway and Wish Someone Would Care.
After Willie Nelson canceled his Sunday headliner at Gentilly Stage for 48 hours, the festival was simply able to promote Promise of the Real, a band led by Willie’s son Lukas, for a final date. Or they ran into the Radiators, who had been closing Gentilly’s stage for years.
The Zac Brown Band rocked the Shell Gentilly Stage during the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival on Sunday, May 8, 2022. Zac Brown replaced…
Instead, the producers rushed in and found a last-minute replacement in the Zac Brown Band in five hours. Instead of having a day off after Saturday night’s gig in Austin, the band’s musicians and crew struggled to drive themselves and their gear to New Orleans by Sunday morning. Their team transferred the equipment to the Shell Gentilly stage while other bands played.
Large stuffing shoes
Zac Brown Band closed the main stage of Jazz Fest 2012. Taking Willie’s place meant he would play on a smaller stage, with a smaller field. The band squeezed onto the stage as thousands of fans filled the field.
“We need to fill in some big shoes,” announced the bearded, heavily tattooed Brown even before he dived into the first song, “Homegrown”.
Later, after Buffett’s “Toes,” he continued, “We are so glad we were asked to do so. There will never be another like Willie. He is one of my heroes. Just being connected to him in the same sentence is fucking great. ”
Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefer Band perform on the festival stage during the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival on Sunday, May 8, 2022.
Like everyone else who had ever met Willie, he told the story of Nelson trying to push him so hard he couldn’t perform: “I think it was fun.”
Jazz Fest was booked by Zac Brown Band, but ended up with a pretty good cover band. Brown and company took a strong look at the Allman Brothers ‘Whipping Post and, after their own “Same Boat,” a fleet going through Charlie Daniels’ “Devil Went Down to Georgia.”
But they have only just begun. After chewing a lot of time, various members of the band sang great pieces of rehearsals: “Poison”, “Sledgehammer”, “All Night Long”, “Happy”, “Sabotage” and much more. It was fun, but maybe they did something from Willie Nelson – or more from Zac Brown.
Norah meets Tank, Shorty checks out
With an audience gathering in front of the WWOZ Jazz Tent, Norah Jones named Tarrion’s special guest the “Tank” Ball of New Orleans ’Tank & the Bangas. “We’re going to make a song we both know,” Jones said.
It was actually a song that everyone knew: “Don’t Know Why,” her groundbreaking single, first released 20 years ago. Ball jumped on the second verse; she and Jones aligned on the bridge. It was nice and fun.
Since Frankie Beverly and Maze stopped early in Congo Square, local talent Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews and his Orleans Avenue closed the entire 2022 Jazz Fest just after 7 p.m.
Photos: Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue perform on the festival stage
With about half of New Orleans on stage with him – New Breed Brass Band, Mardi Gras Indians, his brother James “12” Andrews and more – Shorty bypassed “When the Saints Go Marching In” before the final standing ovation.
“Happy Jazz Fest!” he shouted as a conclusion. “See you next year!”
I hope he is right.