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Sanctifying Place May 1, 2011

Posted by The Typist in Jazz Fest, music, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.

It was Odd to sit on my stoop on Fortin Street, a literal stone’s throw from the Gospel Tent at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, and hear the WWOZ announcer inside the festival talking about a gospel group riffing on James Brown. Isn’t it really more a matter of James Brown having riffed on the music of his childhood church? As I sit directly across the street from that stage and spent most of the last two days listening to the mighty choirs and soaring organs over the pounding drums and bass of Black southern gospel, it is an easy insight to understand.

Recall the controversy when Ray Charles took the sound of gospel and turned it into I Got A Woman in 1956, or think whether the entire R&B sound those of us in the Baby Boom grew up with would be the same without Sam Cooke. It was not only Black artists who mined this vein but many of the idols of our own youth. One of my favorite artists, Leon Russell, was a one man revival show in his own rock-and-roll piano recordings of the early 1970s (when he wasn’t producing/arranging Bonnie and Delaney or Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs and Englishman tour). Anyone who has walked past the gospel tent will recognize the influence in his signature song Delta Lady or the dark gospel cover by the Rolling Stones of I Just Want to See His Face.

As Jazz Fest approached and the tents went up, I thought about how wonderful it would be to sit right across from the Jazz Tent where I’ve spent many an afternoon, or even right behind the Blues Tent, both of which back right up to the fence on Fortin, but after the last two days I’m glad I landed where I did. Friday’s how ended with a long and rousing reverse cover of the Isley Brother’s Shout, spoiled in part by the arrival of the water vendors hawking in front of my house but I didn’t care. I just cake walked my irresistibly wiggling hips across the street the better to hear. If you’ve missed the Gospel Tent in the past as I have, don’t make the mistake a habit. Or stop by the VIP Seating Area of the Fortin Street Stage on your way out if you leave early and take in the closing set. In the ending as in the beginning was the choir, and the choir was good.


1. sussah - May 1, 2011

The gospel tent has always been my favorite at Jazz Fest. I’m hoping to go on Thursday. glad you could hear so much from your front porch! thanks for the wonderful descriptions, sp


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