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Why The Fuck Are We Not All In Lafayette? April 24, 2015

Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, FYYFF, New Orleans, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street, WTF.
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My tax refund (first in years, and a nice one) has come, and I say: fuck it, and start looking at the cubes. The Jazz Tent. Congo Square. Where are the big names in Jazz that tour the rest of the country and never come here? I love Terrence Blanchard and he’s New Orleans to the bone but couldn’t we book just one, big name, never gonna see them hear otherwise act? And Congo Square? Where is the Afro-World music? Mannie Fresh and Big Freeda and Kermit and What. The Fuck. Why am I not in Lafayette where the real festival is? The price of the ticket is nothing. But I can’t find a day I wouldn’t be going in just to eat. The Blues Tent looks the best and well, folks, I’m listening to it now. It’s right across the fucking street. Elton John and The Who and all I can think of is that British tabloid with the pictures of Jagger and Richards with the Night of the Living Dead headline. Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga? OK, I think Tony’s desire to do duets with pop stars has finally jumped the intergalactic warp-powered mothershark. Phone 042415 001

Just: Fuck you New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival​. Fortin Street is still the best place to be, here at the Fortin Street Stage VIP Seating Area (King and Queen Seating Only)​ at the Fortress of Squalitude​. And if I can’t resist closing my eyes and imagining Roger Daltry isn’t pumped up on some sort of steriod–B-vitamin–Peruvian Pure cocktail straight out of Jim Carroll with autotune in both ears, I can hear the Wheeling Crash of Beautiful Doom one last time from the Secret VIP Section. If Townsend’s rotator cuff is still up to it.

Like the MoM’s Ball, I still have my memories, and I can take a pass. And at least on Fortin Street, I can still Be There, Hovering Just Above on a Cloud of Righteous Fuck You-ey-ness. FYYFF. The Shrine of Jazz and Heritage is up. Time to run the speaker out the window for between acts.

At least please keep the shirts ugly. Hollering WATERMELON at the people not unfortunate enough not only to buy them but to turn around and wear them the next day was the height of last year’s Festival. All my tax-related file are mixed with work and a week’s mail on the board that spans the easy chair behind my desk. I’ve been sick all week. I haven’t cleaned the bathroom. The carpet in front of the couch is full of Cheez It and tortilla chip crumbs. There are no Vegetarian Heaven Red Beans. But you know where I at. Maybe I can pass the vac, clean teh toilet and clear a path through the bedrooms. Just ping me if you’re coming in case I’ve wandered off. And if I have, see what Jimmy’s got cooking and get a beer from him till I wander back.

The N.O. Jazz and Some Other Stuff Festival April 11, 2011

Posted by The Typist in 504, Jazz, Jazz Fest, music, New Orleans.
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I was talking to a friend the other day about how we had both fallen into like bluegrass music (Jerry Garcia recording Old and in the Way and the New Riders of the Purple Haze had a lot to do with it), and it put me in mind of the times I saw Doc and Merle Watson as a featured name artist at Jazz Fest.

Once upon a time the big Spring festival was the Jazz and Heritage Festival in earnest. I found a website, Swag’s Jazzfest Cube Rescue, which tries to capture old “cubes” showing the artists performing in years passed, and looking at cubes from say 2000 and a handful of earlier vintage reminded me how much the festival has transformed, and not necessarily for the better. Anyone remember the last time a blue grass band played the Gentilly Stage on a weekend? Me either. Neither does the Festival, as searching for Doc or Merle Watson on their official list of past performers turns up nada.

Looking at the old cubes was like a trip back in time to a schedule heavy with R&B, Blues and Jazz greats, along with a heaping helping of major local artists. As recently as the last Sunday in 2000, the closing acts were The Radiators, John Mooney, The Neville Brothers, Sonny Landreth, Joe Sample and King Sunny Ade and his African Beats. The closest the Festival got to pop acts that year were Lenny Kravitz and Lyle Lovette. Now the Festival seem to be in competition for the Voodoo Festival crowd, and I think anyone with a long history of attending the Festival will admit it is not just the same. I don’t know if the apocryphal story of a certain pop band’s fans booing Dr. John is true or not, but it feels about right.

If you don’t remember those days at the Fairgrounds, consider this. The lineup at this years French Quarter Festival is about what the lineup used to look like at Jazz Fest, minus the few big touring names. And it doesn’t cost $50 to go. Now if you’re a fan of Wheezer (whatever that is) or whoever else, $50 isn’t a bad price for access to the band whose stage you will camp in front of all day, with an entire afternoon of opening acts that might open your eyes to some new and different music and a all you can afford buffet of some of the best food and crafts you’ll see anywhere. Go for it. Have a blast. Stop by my stoop on Fortin Street and buy a water bottle. We’re glad you came to see your band and are here spending lots of money. Come back real soon. Or come for French Quarter Fest next year and see what you missed when your parents were coming to the Fairgrounds: a true festival of our heritage.

Heritage Forever April 26, 2009

Posted by The Typist in 504, Jazz Fest, music, New Orleans, NOLA.
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Today I sat in the patio-like paddock of the Fairgrounds and watched my son and a dozen fellow students mount the New Orleans Jazz Fest and Heritage Festival Lagniappe Stage and play Kidd Jordan’s Second Line, directed by Kidd himself.

Played. At Jazz Fest. Kidd Jourdan. I’m having a hard time getting past that simple set of facts, keep rearranging it in my head to find new ways to combine those words just as an excuse to keep repeating it over and over again. For a New Orleans father, this is even more powerful than seeing your son pull his helmet on and run out onto the field for the first time.

He is part of an after school program called the Heritage School of Music, funded by the Jazz and Heritage Foundation which sponsors the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. His teachers at the Lusher Charter School Heritage School site include Kidd and Kent Jordan, both icons of New Orleans music.

It was a hard slog to get there in time. My wife could not come and I had her drop me at Esplanade Avenue and Mystery Street so she would not get caught up in Fest traffic, and so she (who is not from here) would not have to navigate the bizarre intersection of Gentilly, Paris, St. Bernard and DeSaix without a native guide. I had a comp ticket for my book signing but had to march myself all the way around to the Belfort Avenue entrance, which is way the hell down that street about halfway back down the far side of the track.

I was, however, so pumped at the idea of seeing him up on a Jazz Fest stage that I managed to arrive early (almost 30 minutes after getting dropped), with a crawfish bread in hand and camera ready. As I sat there mopping my brow to try and save my hat from the huge sweat I had worked up getting there, I stared at the stage with the familiar bulbous lettering across the banner at the top, the sign in the familiar hand writing (all of the Jazz Fest artist signs are done by the same person) announcing that the Heritage School of music would be up next. I considered that my son would be in that number, and was in that moment absolutely floored.

For the handful of parents and others who managed to find their way into the paddock so early on a Jazz Fest Sunday, it was a vision of the Heritage I often chide the Festival for downplaying, preserved and handed with care to the next generation.

My son is a beginner at sax but some of the kids in this program are incredibly talented, tackling Chick Corea, John Contrane and Miles Davis compositions with some fantastic solos. He is a bit intimidated by some of the more experienced kids, but I think he could easily have handled the piano part of All Blues they had charted for the junior horn students playing behind the soloists in the Dillard program.

I don’t think he knows just how fortunate he is to have this opportunity (kids rarely are), but I will keep reminded him until it sinks in. Two of the most accomplished musicians in New Orleans are teaching him, and taking him to play as Jazz Fest.

I just want to type those last words over and over again like a scratched record: to play at Jazz Fest, to play at Jazz fest…

If this wasn’t enough to cause my head to just burst with pride and an overwhelming sense of good fortune to live in this city, I also must remember my son will miss his next midweek private saxophone lesson because his teacher, Grace Bennett, will be in rehearsals with Allen Toussaint all this coming week for next weekend’s Jazz Fest performance.

I’m not usually reduced to a monosyllabic response to anything but: wow. Just f—ing wow. I have to remind myself that for every struggle we have faced to come and live here, at every turn in this broken road we have met such good fortune. In the case of his music teacher, it was one of the people I first came to know online after Katrina and before I moved here who has since become a friend, one with connections in the music biz who hooked us up with Grace. Getting Matt into Lusher where he had this chance (and Killian into Ben Franklin and NOCCA) were a stroke of luck almost beyond belief.

My wife frets that the kids don’t appreciate all the culture swirling around them, but I remind her of the Bay City Rollers poster she once confessed to having hung in her own teenage bedroom, remind her that I still have some Uriah Heep LPs from when I was the boy’s age. And I reminder her now much our daughter’s taste in music has moved, that the girl who once listened to bland pop radio and treasured a Now 17 compilation CD has stolen my Hot 8 disk.

There are guys in my son’s program he worries about keeping up with, the ones who grew up among musicians, who took up their horns when they were much younger. Not everyone gets that kind of start but to live here is to offer my children a richness of culture of every kind people in towns and cites in the rest of this country can only get with an upgraded cable TV package. Here it is everywhere, all around us, calling to them as is called to me once, as it calls still.

Why would we live anywhere else? Why would anyone?

Memo to Quint Davis April 19, 2009

Posted by The Typist in 504, African Music, blues, Jazz, Jazz Fest, music, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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Yesterday we pretty much planted ourselves at the Abita Stage at French Quarter Festival, with the idea that Mrs. Toulouse (nee’ Mrs. Wet) would really like to see Little Freddie King. (She was not disappointed).

All I could think of as I watched a parade of fine acts was that this is what Jazz and Heritage looks like. Casa Samba drew an estatic response from the crowd, who discovered a kindred set of booty shakers. And once the girls in the g-strings took the stage Boy suddenly lost interest in his phone’s video game and started paying attention.

We watched the Fatien Ensemble, organized by Dr. Micheal White and Jason Marsalis with superb African drummer Seguenone Kone merging jazz and African rhythms. (I caught Kone doing a show with Sunpie Barns a while back at the Maple Leaf, a magically ecstatic pairing), And of course we caught Little Freddie King. After wards Reynard Poche, New Orleans sideman extraordinaire took the stage with his own funk group. We left before 101 Runners, sadly, as they are a fantastic mix of funk and Indian.

And as I contemplated Jazz Fest next week (while I’ll be signing my book I’ll be missing out of Bon Jovi. Oh dear), I thought: this stage on the batture of the river where this city began, these acts on this stage; this is what the intersection of European and African music a century ago has done for the world.

This is our heritage.

Thank you French Quarter Fest and the artist sponsors for not forgetting why we live here, and why the visitors come. It is not for Bon Jovi.

P.S.–The sponsor for Fatien was Threadheads. Check out their site, activity and fund raising raffle.

Last Act at the Private Street Stage May 6, 2008

Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, Dancing Bear, New Orleans, NOLA, Rebirth, Recovery, Sinn Fein, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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By Sunday, I was done in. The combination of days treading through treacherous, treacly mud pits and an unballasted wallet left me walking like a sailor just back from the Horn, with a Odd swinging gait and a permanent list to windward. I was burned without and within by too much sun and too much fun and could in no way contemplate another day at Jazz Fest.

Somehow I drug myself out of bed that sunny morning and managed to plow through all the necessary chores for a weekend: laundry done and my shirts ironed, something cooked easy to serve up for the week, a trip to K-Mart for some necessities, a blog post written up. After all that I was beat, but managed to find the energy to replace my back bicycle tire. I was determined that I was not going to let the last of April, first of May pass without hearing Carlos Santana. His is an almost quintessential Jazz Fest act, combining jazz, rock and Latin rhythms in a way an Orleanian can digest as easily and with as much relish as a crock of creme brulee: an almost impalpable richness and sweetness touched with fire.

It is not just the sheer beauty of straight ahead guitar jazz like Europa or the cathartic drum rite of a perfect Black Magic Woman that drew me there, but something elemental like the Odd forces that hold atoms together, a species of the Strong Force. Santana is one of the generation of musical bodhisattvas: a line of musicians running back to jazz artists of the 1960s like John Coltrane, Pharoah Sanders and Rahsaan Roland Kirk, powerful jazz innovators who expressed a profound spirtuality through their music. Somewhere along the line musicians with that sort of overtly spiritual inclination seem to have vanished. Perhaps they were all sucked into one of the many marketing arms of the Cult of the Gospel Inerrant, that peculiar religio-business that has replaced Christianity in much of America, to pop up as acts like Jars of Clay or Third Day.

Santana is one of the last of a different breed. To hear him is not to experience the happy, corporate pop of what little I have heard of popular “Christian” music. The instrumental second part of Black Magic Woman is not some toe-tapping, feel-good cant. It is what was called in the decade from which Santana emerged An Experience. What comes through is not the gentle spirit of the shyly-smiling blond guy with a lamb on his lap. It is instead music that could be the song in the head of the demiurge as he raised the first roaring volcanoes out of a chaotic ocean, and then tossed the burning sun into the sky, the frenetic rites of the first peoples upon discovery of the drum and the dance.

And so while my tired wife napped in the sun with the pretense of a book in her lap I applied myself to the bicycle pump and set out to find a spot where I could at least hear Santana’s mid-afternoon performance. I pedaled up the narrow cul-de-sac streets between St. Louis No. 3 and the west side of the Fairgrounds, and found myself on the corner of a quiet residential street abutting the Fairgounds and a narrow strip of asphalt with a city street sign reading Private, right behind the port-o-lets west of the Acura stage, not fifty feet from where I’d turned the corner the day before to go buy a beer and some food over by the Jazz Tent.

Private was an apt name for the place. I had pedaled over expecting to either be disappointed that I could not find a good spot or instead that I might find one that would look like Frenchman Street on Mardi Gras night. Apparently the world is divided into people who plop down their $50 and go in the gate to Jazz Fest and people who find something else to do. Except for one fellow in sleevless black smoking Marlboro’s back propped against the fence and a handful of the people who lived back there sitting out in lawn chairs, Private was very nearly just that: my own personal place to listen.

There’s not much more I can say about Santana that I haven’t already said. I was so tired that I can no longer remember the entire play list, only highlights: an ecstatic Black Magic Woman and rocking versions of Oye Como Va and No One To Depend On, Maria Maria, a John Contrane number my tired brain can’t recall two days later. There was a long speech on politics that I silently applauded, not for its overt electioneering, or even for the long list of activists and musicians Santana cited as being in the tradition he tries to uphold (it was long and I couldn’t recreate it without notes). Instead, what wowed me was the way Santana wrapped it up with Jimi Hendrix’s famous aphorism: “We are about the power of love, not the love of power.”

Oddly enough, I had picked up a button with Jimi’s picture on it and the same saying just two days earlier when passing the Save Our Wetlands table. I visualized the button laying atop my muddy poncho on the porch back home, and immediately connected the three note base line and the simple, whammy bar guitar riff that goes with it, the one common to Hendrix’s Third Stone from the Sun and Santana’s Black Magic Woman (listen hard in your head; you know the one). “We are about the power of love.” The phrase is still ringing in my head days later even as the discrete events of Jazz Fest retreal into a blur.

That is what this last Jazz Fest was about: a healing that during the last two we were not ready to receive, an experience no Big Chief from Kansas City could possibly understand. There is enough distance now for healing, and the line up was perfect. Jimmy Buffet was my touchstone to the Gulf Coast during my cold years of exile, and the party that life here can be if you so choose. Terence Blanchard was It, The Thing, distilled into music of such emotional power that it lifted you past The Event and into the place that healing can begin. And finally Santana: the ineffable essence of beauty Keats once found on an old urn and which I found at the corner of Verna and Private; a rollicking tribal celebration with drums and fire of the Power of Love; the love of this place that brings us home, that drags us out of our tired patio chairs and back to this lonely corner of Mid-City because we need cannot get enough, the power of the love of those who have come home to stay and rebuild New Orleans.

I left before the Neville Brothers played.