NEW ORLEANS JAZZFEST 2004 REVIEW and JAZZFEST 2005 PREVIEW

In a variant on the old saw, `tis Spring and a once-young man's fancy turns to the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, better known to fans as simply Jazzfest. For a Kentuckian, especially a native son of Louisville, this is usually an act of heresy, as it normally takes place during the Holy Week known as Derby Festival. Through a fluke of the calendar, however, Jazzfest '05 will conclude the weekend before Derby, so that your intrepid correspondent's impending sojourn in N'awlins will be capped off by a period of recovery as Louisville all but shuts down for the festivities leading up to the Run for the Roses.

2005 JAZZFEST PREVIEW

This year, for the first time, Jazzfest will focus exclusively on its daytime presentations at the Fairgrounds, leaving the night scene to others. While Jazzfest is more than the sum of its musical components, with atmosphere, culinary delights and more, the focus here is the music. I will highlight first a few of the jazz performers and then mention some of the other musicians. The first weekend, Friday April 21-Sunday April 23, will feature a Tribute to Louis Armstrong featuring Marcus Belgrave, Shirley Horn, Kermit Ruffins & the Barbecue Swingers (recently reviewed, February Louisville Music News, "Jazzin'"), the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Jazz Messengers Legacy Band w/ Benny Golson featuring Curtis Fuller, the Olympia Brass Band and Ellis Marsalis. Funk fans are excited about the reunion of the Original Meters; other rock, soul and blues acts of note include Steve Winwood, Sonny Landreth, James Taylor, Buddy Guy, Dave Bartholomew, Dr. John and a Tribute to Little Walter featuring Charlie Musselwhite, James Cotton, Jerry Portnoy, Carrie Bell and Jumpin' Johnny Sansone. The second "weekend" stretches from Thursday April 28 through Sunday May 1 and features many more wonderful jazz acts, including Los Hombres Calientes, the Heath Brothers Louis Hayes & The Cannonball Adderly Legacy Band, Doc Cheatham Memorial Jazz Band featuring Nicholas Payton, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Roy Haynes 80th Birthday Celebration, Nicholas Payton, Astral Project, Dr. Michael White & the Original Liberty Jazz Band, Pete Fountain and a Tribute to John Coltrane featuring McCoy Tyner, Ravi Coltrane, James Carter & Charnett Moffett. Some of the best old school reggae will be presented by Toots & the Maytals and Steel Pulse. The Jam Nation representatives include Trey Anastasio, Karl Denson's Tiny Universe, Dave Matthews Band and Widespread Panic. Other top names include B.B. King, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, Randy Newman, Marcia Ball, Elvis Costello, galactic and the list goes on. The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival's website, with updated listings, ticket information and more, is www.nojazzfest.com.

THE FIRST WEEKEND

Last spring there was no such respite; nonetheless, I persevered and spent the time immersed in music during the 35th Annual New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. For those not in the know, this musical odyssey encompasses the last Friday through Sunday of the final weekend in April and Thursday through Sunday the first weekend of May. There are numerous outdoor stages and tents at the racetrack in New Orleans, with music encompassing everything from traditional jazz to avant-garde jazz, Cajun to country, blues, rhythm and blues, funk, soul, rock, gospel, Native American and probably some genre I managed to miss. The outdoor portions of Jazzfest are augmented by evening concerts in various venues around town, supplemented by numerous club and auditorium shows that are independently promoted. For your intrepid correspondent, the music began disappointingly, with a schedule switch resulting in my missing Galactic drummer Stanton Moore's "showdown" with Dirty Dozen Brass Band's drummer. Walking into the Jazz Tent at the tail end of this segment, I caught a wildly enthusiastic crowd shaking a collective tailfeather to some burning funk propelled by the drummers and their musician friends. Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews, who is now better known for his trumpet work than his trombone playing, followed, with a set highlighted by his version of the standard "St. James Infirmary," complete with a loooonnggg high note.

Pocket trumpeter and vocalist Olu Dara, enthralled the crowd at the Blues Tent. Although he came to prominence in the avant garde New York loft scene, this Natchez, Mississippi native has made it known that his true musical love is more rooted in the blues and roots music of his youth. His material ranged from guitar-based grooves to the jazzier sounds of "Harlem Country Girl," interspersed with a James Brown-style groove on an unnamed tune which led to serious dancing in the packed tent. A brief excursion to Congo Square for South African guitarist Selaeo Selota was disappointing, as he sounded like the pop side of George Benson. There were no such letdowns back in the Jazz tent, however, as I experienced my first 2004 "Jazzfest Moment" during the performance of Donald Harrison Jr. Saxophonist Harrison first came to most jazz fans' attention during his stint in Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, alongside fellow New Orleanian Terence Blanchard. Harrison promotes what he calls "Nouveau Swing," an updated version of hard bop, assisted by his nephew Christian on trumpet, Peter Martin on piano, Davis Pulphus on bass, among others. The first segment featured a fast, insistent song entitled "Freedom Beat," a blues for Charlie Parker entitled "Christopher Jr.," and a third song featuring a jazz rap. When Harrison left the stage briefly, while the band played a fast second line beat, those in the know expected him to return in full Mardi Gras Indian regalia and Harrison did not disappoint. He returned accompanied by a full krewe of "Injuns," resplendent in their handcrafted beaded costumes and soon the jazz turned to pure New Orleans street during a "Phat Tuesday" medley including "Injuns, Here They Come" and "Hoo Na Nay." The crowd melted into a mass of smiling dancers and thus ended the first day.

That Saturday, guitarists Doug Wamble in the Jazz tent and Leo Nocentelli at an outdoor stage provided two very different approaches to the art of guitar playing. Wamble, who played the Jazz Factory a few months earlier, brought a slide approach more usually encountered in the blues. Nocentelli, (a founding member of the original Meters), offered up not just the scratchy funk sound he brought to the Meters, but stretched out in a style more reminiscent of Jimi Hendrix. I left during a lengthy medley of "Fiyo on the Bayou" and "Cissy Strut" to go hear New Orleans' progressive jazzers Astral Project. The Project had just released The Legend of Cowboy Bill on its own label, available through www.cdbaby.com and the performance featured music from this disc. The title song featured a loping arco bass solo as an interlude in an otherwise high energy piece. "Dark Sage" evoked the Dark Prince, Miles Davis, in a voodoo rundown featuring Steve Masakowski paying homage to vintage John McLaughlin during his solo. This was followed by "Open Space," with shifting rhythms and dynamics apropos of the song's title. Throughout the performance, Astral Project demonstrated the telepathic cohesion, even in its freer segments, which only comes with years of playing together.

Astral Project's set was followed by fellow homeboy Branford Marsalis with his superb quartet of Joey Calderazzo on piano, Eric Revis on bass and the irrepressible Jeff "Tain" Watts on drums. The opening piece was a tribute by Watts in memory of his dog, "Mr. JJ." Showing respect for the packed house, Marsalis ended the song abruptly due to horrible feedback problems and did not begin again until the technical glitches were fixed. It was worth the wait, as the quartet tore into "Mr. JJ" with Coltrane-like intensity, including a Calderazzo quote from Trane's "Acknowledgment" movement from A Love Supreme. "A Lonely Swan" was next, a Calderazzo ballad featuring Marsalis on soprano. The rest of the set went by far too quickly, as Marsalis and company moved through three more extended pieces during which the band evoked moods happy and sad with consummate musicianship and passion.

The final act at the Jazz Tent that day was the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, led by trumpeter Irwin Mayfield. The first three pieces were all Duke Ellington numbers, superbly played but lacking the intensity of the prior two groups. Therefore, I chose to end my day at the Fairgrounds with Irma Thomas, the "Soul Queen of New Orleans." Her set included such classics as "Time Is On My Side," "It's Raining," and "Breakaway," with newer material thrown in to keep the mix interesting.

Later that night, after a bowl of seafood-rich but roux-less gumbo at Felix's, I went to check out Allman Brothers Band (ABB) founding member Dickey Betts at the State Palace Theatre downtown. This older theater has seen better days, but was a fine venue for a laidback evening of music by Betts and his band, Great Southern. I was pleasantly surprised by the variety of opening act Bonerama, a New Orleans group featuring four (count' em, four) trombones and a sousaphone, together with guitar and drums. The material ranged from James Brown style funk to Jimi Hendrix's "Crosstown Traffic," which featured Mark Mullins playing his trombone through a synthesizer. The set concluded with a spirited and somewhat humorous run-through of the ABB classic (raise your lighters, folks) "Whippin' Post." Betts and Great South opened with "Statesboro Blues," a Blind Willie MacTell song long part of the ABB repertoire, featuring Betts on slide. Betts' classic composition for the ABB, "Blue Sky," was prefaced with the Grateful Dead's "Franklin's Tower," to the delight of many in the crowd. The rough-hewn edge of the slide and the late '60s wa-wa pedal technology came together in what might become Betts' theme song, a classic blues entitled "Change My Way of Living." After a new song, there was an instrumental with hints of the early '60s hit "Tequila," which featured the first double lead guitar playing of the night. Through the rest of the set, Betts alternated newer material with old favorites, including a 17 minute workout on the ABB's "In Memory of Elizabeth Reed," and a lengthy encore consisting of "Jessica," which segued into "Mountain Jam" (the ABB's instrumental take on Donovan's "First There Is a Mountain") and back into "Jessica." As one with memories of seeing the original ABB at the Warehouse in New Orleans in 1970 and 1971, while Duane Allman was still alive, the evening left me with bittersweet thoughts regarding Betts' absence from the current incarnation of the ABB and also regarding his current band, which was certainly filled with high caliber musicians, but seemed more of a "backing band" than a band of colleagues.

The next day was the concluding outdoor day of the first weekend of Jazzfest. I first caught the Dirty Dozen Brass Band playing at one of the larger rock-oriented stages. The DDBB has lost some of the polish of a few years ago and that's a good thing, as it returned to the grittier sounds of the early days as the first band to really update the brass band tradition of New Orleans by bringing in everything from Thelonious Monk to James Brown. Playing a mix of tunes from their new Ropeadope CD, Funeral for a Friend plus older material, the horns were seriously syncopated, the guitar cut through whether comping or soloing and the DDBB had a drenched crowd dancing in the rain.

Back in under the Jazz Tent, Ellis Marsalis led his trio, consisting of long-time compatriot Bill Huntington on bass and son Jason Marsalis drums, through a set of mostly jazz standards. Saxophonist Derek Douget joined the trio for most of the set, beginning with Charlie Parker's "Bloomdido." A slow and emotionally intense version of "Equinox," by John Coltrane was next. The Jazz Tent was dark but for the stage lights, so the effect was like being in a small jazz club despite the much larger capacity of the tent. John Lewis' "Django" followed, with Huntington walking his bass and Jason effortlessly switching between sticks and brushes to provide just the right accompaniment. After another John Lewis piece, "La Ronde," the ensemble was joined by Chicago trumpeter Maurice Brown for Herbie Hancock's "Dolphin Dance." The closing number, "Softly As in a Morning Sunrise," was taken at a quick pace with Ellis quoting "Misty,," Douget soloing on soprano, with an individual sound unlike a mere Coltrane clone and Jason taking a very musical rather than showy solo. Throughout the performance, I kept thinking of how, in a city like New Orleans which is known for its sometimes over-the-top pianists, Ellis Marsalis brings a sense of understated grace and elegance to his playing.

The final acts I caught were typical of the eclectic programming of Jazzfest. Following Ellis Marsalis' sophisticated jazz, it was on to the funk of drummer Zigaboo Modeliste, whose unique blending of second line New Orleans street rhythms and James Brown-style backbeat contributed to the Meters' unique sound. He made a point of stating that he was here to play music from his new recording and did not intend to revisit any of the Meters material. After a little over half an hour of more mainstream contemporary R&B than I would have expected from such a percussion innovator, I wandered by South African Johnny Clegg's closing segment, including his hit from some years back, "Cool Crazy Beautiful World." Due to threatening weather, Steve Winwood's set began early. His band, including multi-instrumentalist Randall Bramlett, guitarist Jose Neto, Walfredo Reyes Jr. on drums and percussionist Cafe, covered material from some 40 years of Winwood's recording career, ranging from early work like "Gimme Some Lovin'" through material such as "Ciganos" from his recent SCI album, About Time. Throughout, the ensemble functioned much like a jazz group, stretching out and taking liberties with the material, thus keeping it fresh for the audience and themselves. A deluge brought the first weekend of Jazzfest to an early end.

"DAZE BETWEEN"

The title of this segment is shamelessly stolen from the Pet D'Kat Krewe, a serious band of music fanatics, who, among other things, maintain a cool web site and prepare a grid of all events happening all over town from pre- to post-Jazzfest. One of the great pleasures of the relatively calm days `twixt the first and second weekends is the virtually nonstop live performances taking place in music stores in the French Quarter. The Louisiana Music Factory, Tower Records and Virgin Music all have some of the best musicians in intimate performance settings. Monday afternoon provided a delightful and presumably unintended opportunity to take in the best of the classic New Orleans Jazz sound of the Preservation Hall Jazz Four at the Louisiana Music Factory. Don Vappie on guitar, banjo and vocal, led the band through a set including "St. Louis Blues," "We'll Understand It Better By and By," "Ice Cream," "Ain't She Sweet," and "Last Chance to Dance." For ambiance, picture a long and narrow store with a two-sided bin of CDS running the length, with books, posters and memorabilia on the walls and a tiny stage raised just a few feet from the floor. The luckier members of the audience were not too far from a few lazily swirling overhead fans; the rest just grinned and swayed with the music. Minutes after the Preservation Hall musicians finished, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band took the "stage" a few blocks away at Virgin. The second floor of this megastore is given over primarily to jazz and New Orleans music of all styles; the "stage" was nothing more than a corner area of the floor not far from the cash register. After reaching back to their early days with a rousing version of "Blackbird Special," the DDBB struck a gospel note with "I'll Fly Away." Next up was a medley from their just-released CD, Funeral for a Friend, including a dirge ("Just a Closer Walk with Thee" followed by the strutting "Didn't He Ramble." Staying in the same vein, they next "brassified" the classic Son House gospel song, "John the Revelator," before getting back to "da fonk" with another of their older tunes, "Who Took the Apples." Following the DDBB, guitarist Brian Stoltz, a former member of the Neville Brothers Band and currently with the Funky Meters, did a somewhat Jimi Hendrix-influenced set which concluded with Dr. John's "I Been Hoodooed."

Tuesday afternoon brought an "encore" of sorts for the Ellis Marsalis Trio. Playing to a tightly-packed and reverential crowd at the Louisiana Music Factory, they began with "Twelve's It," a Marsalis original. Most of the remaining songs were pop and jazz standards, including "People" (which featured Jason Marsalis' creative mallet work), "Get Me to the Church on Time," and an unusual arrangement of "The Man I Love," played very deliberately, with an almost martial feel. The blues trio of Jumpin' Johnny Sansone (blues harp), Joe Krown (piano) and Dave Fohl (guitar) raised the intensity with originals such as "Crawfish Hole," and blues standards such as Sonny Boy Williamson's "Elevator Woman" and Jackie Brenston's "Rocket 88."

The big news for Tuesday, though, was the "Make It Funky" concert at the Saenger Theatre, which was filmed as part of a documentary on New Orleans music. My old friends Fran and Bob Simon joined me for a superb evening that lasted into the wee hours of the morning and featured a stellar lineup: The Dirty Dozen Brass Band marching with Irvin Mayfield, Leo Nocentelli, the Blind Boys of Alabama backed by Art Neville on organ, a piano duet featuring Jon Cleary and Allen Toussaint, solo piano by Henry Butler and the return of Allen Toussaint with a full band performing classic New Orleans R&B, aided and abetted by the likes of the Dixie Cups, Lloyd Price and Bonnie Raitt (who truly did justice to Toussaint's "With You in Mind"); mind you, all of this was BEFORE intermission. The "New Orleans All-Stars," including Danny Kortchmar, Walter "Wolfman" Washington, Amadee Castenell, Art Neville, Ivan Neville and others, showcased their own members as well as backing up the likes of Snooks Eaglin, Keith Richards (yes, that Keith Richards) and others. Keith showed off some lead chops on an amusingly sloppy rendition of "Things that I Used To Do." Following another brief intermission, the Mardi Gras Indian tradition was represented by Big Chief Monk Boudreaux and the Golden Eagles, assisted by Cyril Neville. The Neville Brothers themselves followed, anachronistically "opening" for their own precursor band, the Funky Meters. Throughout, there was a sense of joy combined with a sense of purpose: to honor the many great popular music inventions and styles of N'Awlins.

The following night brought Garage a Trois to the famous Tipitina's for a late show, which opened (at 10:30 p.m.) with a set by the Benevento/Russo Duo, consisting of organ and drums in a style reminiscent of early Tony Williams Lifetime. Mike Dillon and Skerik from Garage a Trois added their talents to the set. Garage a Trois, consists of 8-string guitarist Charlie Hunter, drummer Stanton Moore of Galactic, saxophonist and resident madman Skerik from Critters Buggin' and fellow Critter Mike Dillon on a wide variety of percussion instruments. Their first set, beginning at midnight, opened with a song sounding like some twisted exotica which metamorphosed into a deep-in-the-pocket JBs-style funk. A percussion segment led into a bridge of "Iko Iko" before the Eddie Harris classic "Freedom Jazz Dance;" this became a parody of 60s dance tunes entitled "Do the Trois," which then segued into a chant-based piece "Five to Survive." A short percussion piece brought the first set to a close; I would have to wait for a CD trade later in the summer to catch the rest of that night's performance.

THE SECOND WEEKEND

The second "weekend" actually began on Thursday [now that's my kind of weekend] and it started for me on a high note when I finally had the opportunity to hear Michael Ward, a New Orleans violinist who I had managed to miss during prior visits. His playing is more in the style of Jean-Luc Ponty than Stephane Grappelli. As I entered the Jazz Tent, I saw him grinning from ear to ear as he watched a boy playing violin on stage with him.. The smile was borne of fatherly pride, as he introduced his "just turned 15" year old soon to a wildly appreciative audience. His guitarist, Darlene Marino, had been in the house band of "American Idol" (not that I hold that against her) and was superb whether playing accompaniment or taking soaring leads. Among Ward's songs were "Continuum" (the title of his latest album) and "Round My Way," although he threw a curveball with a medley of Charlie Daniels' "Devil Went Down To Georgia" and the throwdown Parliament classic, "Make My Funk the P-funk." Regardless of genre, Ward had the Jazz Tent audience in the palm of his hand throughout.

I took a break from jazz to see folk-blues icon Odetta at the Blues Tent. She was accompanied only by a pianist and offered up personalized renditions of such classic blues songs as W.C. Handy's "Saint Louis Blues" in a medley which began with "Careless Love;" Leadbelly's "Bourgeois Blues," Victoria Spivey's "T. B. Blues," to name but a few. I took a detour on my way back to the Jazz Tent to catch a little of the Steve Miller Band's set. I was hoping to see his special guest, the under-recorded saxophonist John Handy, but my timing was off. Nonetheless, the miniset I caught, including "Swing Town," "Go To New Orleans" (an obvious crowd pleaser) and "Feelin' Good" provided a pleasant interlude, highlighted by the harmonica work of Norton Buffalo.

Back at the Jazz Tent, Christian McBride was leading saxophonist Ron Blake, drummer Marcus Baylor and keyboard whiz Geoff Keezer through a serpentine piece reminiscent of Herbie Hancock's Mwandishi band (the predecessor to the Headhunters). He switched from acoustic bass to electric bass for the next piece, a Weather Report style ballad which featured solo echoing the brilliant Jaco Pastorius. The next song found McBride switching back to bass fiddle for "The Wizard of Montana," dedicated to vibist Bobby Hutcherson. This was a fast-paced, straightahead number. McBride told the packed house that this was the second time he had played Jazzfest, the first being back in 1994 with then up-and-coming saxophonist Joshua Redman. He stuck with his acoustic bass for the closing song, featuring a heavy second line rhythm ("I hope you don't mind us Northerners playing you this," said McBride; from the overwhelming reception from the Jazz Tent audience, this was most definitely NOT an issue). McBride's arco solo on this was especially noteworthy, sounding like it was played with some sort of phaser. McBride's set concluded at 7 p.m., leaving a few minutes to catch the end of Steve Miller's performance; regrettably, Handy had come and gone.

The next day was rained out, an event which had occurred only twice before in the 35-year history of Jazzfest. Headliners who were rained out included Nicholas Payton and Harry Connick, Jr. That night I joined my good friends and hosts for the Annual Jazz Shabbat service that night at Touro Synagogue in the beautiful Garden District. Trumpeter Jeremy Davenport combined chops with shtick, which seemed just a little out of place for a temple rather than a Chinese restaurant. Davenport began with the Ellington classic "It Don't Mean A Thing," followed it with "The Sunny Side of the Street" ("for the weather" quoth Davenport, just to prove I didn't make up the shtick business as an excuse for attempting a bad pun). He continued in a weather vein (save your groans) with "When You're Smiling" and concluded with the Irving Berlin classic "Blue Skies."

Fortunately, blue skies did indeed follow on Saturday and Jazzfest resumed in all its glory. Dr. Michael White led the Original Liberty Jazz Band through a set of both traditional New Orleans pieces, as well as originals from his just-released Basin Street CD, Dancing in the Sky. Guest trumpeter Nicholas Payton, whose recent Warner Brothers release Sonic Trance visits the electric jazz of Herbie Hancock and Miles Davis, demonstrated his ability to play in the classic early New Orleans style, complementing the clarinet artistry of Dr. White. Highlights of the set included "Algiers Hoodoo Woman" and "The Jambalaya Strut."

From the Economy Hall Tent, dedicated to the classic New Orleans sound, to the Jazz Tent was a short walk but a seemingly lengthy trip in time, from the 1920s to the 1960s and forward, with the Dave Brubeck Quartet. The packed tent gave a wildly enthusiastic reception to the quartet's renditions of tunes including "Sunny Side of the Street," "Margie," and especially for the New Orleans Jazz Festival fans, "Crescent City Stomp," featuring the omnipresent second line syncopation anchored by drummer Randy Jones. Brubeck concluded with the ever-fresh Paul Desmond composition "Take Five."

Rather than remaining for the closing set of the excellent trumpeter Terence Blanchard, I went to the pop stage for Santana. This edition of the Santana Band included stalwart Chester Thompson on keyboards, a horn section and drummer Dennis Chambers, whose lengthy resume includes stints with John Scofield and John McLaughlin. In addition to the obligatory medley of "Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen/Oye Como Va," Carlos Santana paid respects to one of his idols, Miles Davis, with a spine-chilling version of "In a Silent Way," featuring the omnipresent Nicholas Payton doing a guest turn on trumpet.

That night, hometown heroes Galactic were pumped for a show at the State Palace Theatre. Rappers Jurassic 5 opened the show and Galactic did not take the stage until midnight. The performance was magnificent, beginning with the searing blues of "Shibuya," and not letting up for over two hours, with highlights including "Crazyhorse Mongoose," "Doublewide (which seemed to summon up the jamming side of the Jefferson Airplane). For the encore, Ivan Neville was brought out to play keyboards on Bob Dylan's "Rainy day Women #12 and 35" and the classic Meters anthem, "Africa." Throughout, the band showed how to blend the power of rock and funk with the improvisational aspects of jazz.

The final day of Jazzfest began for your humble and then-weary correspondent with a 2 p.m. set by Hugh Masekela in the Jazz Tent (his ensemble later served as closing act at the Congo Square Stage). According to several friends, I made a serious mistake by skipping a performance by Smokey Robinson. However, Los Hombres Calientes, featuring former Headhunter percussionist Bill Summers and trumpeter Irvin Mayfield, lived up to their name ("The Hot Men") in the Jazz Tent, with songs that had the crowd clapping and dancing. The crowd joined in the chanting refrain of "Foforo Fo Firi," and grooved to the Headhunters-like opening to Dizzy Gillespie's immortal "Night in Tunisia." Some of their energy has been caught on a Basin Street DVD aptly titled Los Hombres Calientes Live, recorded at the New Orleans House of Blues. Having seen the wonderful Neville Brothers many times over the years, I opted to close the day and the Festival with the slightly corny traditional sounds of Pete Fountain and his Half Fast Walking Club. A bit of lagniappes ("lan-yap," an unexpected extra treat, for you non-N'awlinians) was to be found in the rapid painting of Fountain by artist Scramble Campbell. During the course of less than an hour, he filled a larger-than-life sized canvas with an oil painting of Fountain. The clear skies and unusually chilly temperatures made for a bittersweet end to the Festival, as I wandered past the Neville Brothers' closing gospel medley.

Taking the Jazzfest Home

While nothing can truly replace "being there," some of the music and spirit of the Festival can be taken home through the recordings of the artists. Some of the new releases were mentioned above. Several of them were promoting new releases, such as Astral Project's The Legend of Cowboy Bill, as noted above. Other new releases include several from Basin Street Records. In addition to the DVD of Los Hombres Calientes, there is a new Basin Street release by Dr. Michael White, entitled Dancing in the Sky. This disc is especially noteworthy for the way in which Dr. White has evoked the spirit of classic New Orleans jazz without simply recording the same songs which have been the mainstay of the repertoire for almost a century. Instead, this CD is filled with his new compositions which are true to the spirit of the tradition, while expanding it with the introduction of new material.

Another New Orleans tradition, that of the jazz funeral, is splendidly captured in an updated manner by the Dirty Dozen Brass Band's Ropeadope CD entitled Funeral for a Friend. As you may know, a brass band will wind solemnly through the streets from the church to the graveyard, playing mournful hymns and dirges. Following the burial, the band will leave the cemetery and the music changes to happy and jaunty, both affirming the belief that the deceased has gone on to a better life and affirming the joy of this life for the survivors. Funeral for a Friend is dedicated to Tuba Fats, who had passed away prematurely the previous year. The DDBB begins with "Just a Closer Walk with Thee" in suitably staid style, before moving on to "John the Revelator" and "Down by the Riverside," to name but a few. While the DDBB has its roots deep in the tradition of the Olympia Brass band , the Preservation Hall Brass Band and others, it also has carved its own niche by utilizing funk, soul and modern jazz in its music. It brings this blend of traditional and contemporary to this recording.

Ellis Marsalis now has his own label, ELM (for Ellis Louis Marsalis), a label originally started back in 1974 and revived only recently. On the First Occasion was released shortly before the 2004 Jazzfest and captures the understated elegance of the Ellis Marsalis Trio as described above in the concert reviews. Just as at Jazzfest, Ellis is accompanied by his son Jason on drums and Bill Huntington on bass, in a program of sophisticated standards. Ellis opens with a solo stride version of "I Cover the Waterfront," picks up the tempo (and his colleagues) with "Softly as in a Morning Sunrise," and continues for just over an hour of elegant piano trio jazz. In a city such as New Orleans, with its wonderful legacy of Piano Professors and R&B piano players, it is can be all too easy to miss the more subtle and thoroughly modern mainstream jazz of Ellis Marsalis. For more information, his website is www.ellismarsalis.com.