April 28, 2007


As I get older and become more appreciative of Louisiana music, I find myself gravitating away from the Acura stage and spending more time at the Fais Do Do and Jazz and Heritage stages. On Saturday the 28th, my first day of 2007 at Jazzfest, I started at the Jazz and Heritage stage with the Mahogany Brass Band. Original Dirty Dozen sousaphonist Kirk Joseph was in the mix, as was leader/trumpeter Brice Miller and vocalist DJ Davis, who looked like he was teaching some children in the ways of percussion. Mahogany played traditional brass with a slint of the modern. Of course, things got extremely modern when Davis rapped a couple verses and was joined on vocals by fellow All That member Kevin O'Day, who was backstage waiting to drum with Big Chief Peppy. What is Jazzfest without white boys rapping, right?

I moseyed over to the food area for my traditional crawfish beignets and lemonade, after which I sat down for a bit at Groove Academy at Congo Square. Seemed like they were just a soul and disco cover group. Once I got tired of that, I went over to see Burnside Exploration at the Blues Tent. That shit was hot. I don't think the lame, seated crowd had any idea what to do with the rock-oriented, edgy yet honed blues that drummer Cedric and guitarist Garry Burnside churned out on stage with the help of two other guitarists. Yep, that's three guitars and no bass. Cedric is the grandson of R.L. Burnside, and Garry is R.L.'s youngest son. The music they played was so heavy for compared to the usual blues you hear. Imagine if PBS played blues, and that's how tight and murderous it was. Cedric and Garry sang, but Cedric was the bandleader. He talked in between songs an awesomely heavy left hand. No matter what ride bell or tom flourishes he threw in, he kept on that snare beat, no problem. LETTA HAVE IT.

Next up was Big Chief Peppy at the Jazz and Heritage Stage. He was playing with a full electric band, but he took them out of the equation for one song to show the crowd how the Indians used to do it. The soul of the stripped down chants and rhythms was pretty powerful and impressive.

After Peppy I headed over to the Congo Square for the Amazones: Women Drummers of Guinea. This was damn cool tribal and polyrhythmic music. The drummer faced each other on stage as synchronized dancers performed their syncopated, bird-like, and floaty arm movements.

Next up was Davell Crawford. The local vocalist and pianist was joined by violinist Theresa Andersson for an assortment of soul and R&B songs. Crawford was late hitting the stage, and once he did, he seemed distracted and unsure of his place. He wandered the stage in between songs and jumped from piano to synthesizer in the middle of a song on a whim. I felt like he was creating sound problems that weren't there, like a diva would. I felt for him, though. It was obvious he had so much fire and soul and creativity in him. He was just worried about if and how and the best way to get it out. It's rare to encounter a performer with such a talent for playing AND singing. I loved the Gospel spin he put on the songs with his passionate, reaching voice. Crawford is the only living local pianist whose playing could remind me of James Booker, I believe.

The highlight of the day was seeing an all-star cast of Bobby Charles admirers play his songs at the Fais Do Do stage. "Later Alligator" was performed, as was "Walking to New Orleans," with which Dr. John produced raised hairs. So, so classic and special. Marcia Ball gave us her beautiful voice, but the star of the set was Shannon McNally. The care she took with Charles' ballads was tremendous. I believed her delivery more than any other of the performers that day. There's nothing like renditions that come straight from a sincere place in the soul.

I should have finished out the day with Ludacris, but instead, I header over to Pharoah Sanders at the Jazz Tent. I was not impressed. Of course, he was an amazingly talented saxophonist with a kickingly dirty style, but he didn't play enough. If a song was fifteen minutes long, he played three minutes. That's a comparable ratio for each song of the set. I expressed my grievance to a friend, and he said that's just how they do it in jazz, but that's no excuse. You know what, then? They do it wrong in jazz. I don't give a shit about your band. You're a legend, and I expect something more than a cakewalk from you.

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