Monday, May 2. On The Streets Of New Orleans

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May 032011
 

New Orleans is a wonderful city. It is beautiful. It has life, charm, great people, wonderful food, and the music …

It’s a city with a heart, and a soul. I love cities with character. Where you can walk the streets, and the buildings talk to you. They whisper their stories to you.

New Orleans is such a city.

This afternoon I went for a walk. I’m staying at the Clarion Suites on Canal St, so that’s where I started. Down Canal, left onto Royal, right onto St Peters for a block and then right again onto Chartres.

Continued along Chartres for a little way, as far as Laura’s Candies. I was good, and did not even enter the store. I may do that tomorrow though.

So I doubled back on Chartres, turned right onto Conti, and left onto Decatur. Stopped on Decatur for a bite to eat, then a visit to the New Orleans Cigar Factory, before turning back to my hotel.

Along the way, on Royal, I paused to enjoy a few of the many antiques shops, as well as some of the performances of the street musicians who were out plying their trade, as it were.

 

Street Musicians on Royal St, New Orleans
Street Musicians on Royal St, New Orleans

Of course, not all of the musicians play all of the time. The day was very warm and humid, and sometimes one needs to take a bit of a break.

 

Taking A Break

Taking A Break

The Monday following the first weekend of jazzfest, there’s traditionally a couple of truly great gigs on in town. At the House of Blues on Decatur St, WWOZ hold their annual Piano Night, and as I passed by the House of Blues, their broadcast van was outside, setting up the evening.

At the other end of town, there’s another benefit, being held at Tipintina’s. This is the “Instruments A Comin’ 2011 Benefit Concert”, from which the proceeds go towards helping school children acquire musical instruments.

Both of these are very worthy causes, and each of them boasts a stellar line-up. Like pretty much everything else related to Jazzfest, choosing which event to attend is a tough call, and it comes down to choosing who to not see.

All photos are copyright (c) 2011, Gary Stark. Do not use without authorisation

 

Sunday May 1: Arlo Guthrie in the Jazzfest 2011 Blues Tent

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May 032011
 

One of the things about Jazzfest is that it’s very easy to pick who you want to see.

The difficulty arises when you look at the array of artists available, and realise that there will inevitably be some clashes within your preferred list of artists you must see, and you must therefore choose who to not see.

Arlo Guthrie

Arlo Guthrie

And so it was for the 5 till 7 p.m. timeslot at Jazzfest. Tom Jones. John Mellancamp. Kenny G. (yes, I know). Arlo Guthrie. And very many more!

Some true legends, and great talents were on the list, and I needed to see at least one of them.

Ever since I first heard Alice’s Restaurant I was enamoured with Arlo’s work, and it was a true thrill to find that he was on this year’s Jazzfest lineup. And thus, with the history that is Arlo – his dad’s work, as well as his own, I decided to forego the others and take in the Blues Tent’s fare to close out the day. I was not disappointed.

Is he a storyteller, or a musician? Who knows? He’s been around, playing and singing, and talking, for a very long time.

With no formal introduction, he just wandered onto the stage, with a keyboard and four guitars ready for his playing.

Those of you who are familiar with his Alice’s Restaurant story telling style will be immediately familiar with what followed. Interspersed with his music came numerous stories of his life: his times with his dad, with Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, Pete Seeger, Huddie Leadbetter, and many others., whom he described as his extended family.

What a family to be a part of; this was American music at its finest; legends all the way, and a pedigree that could not be beaten.

And it continues, too: on stage with Arlo was his son Ed.

 

Arlo Guthrie with Ed, his son

Arlo Guthrie with Ed, his son

The audience was very appreciative of the works he performed, including some very old works, both from his own pen, as well as that of his dad and his extended family. I certainly loved it, and despite being an Australian, the thrill of hearing him perform his dad’s “This Land Is Your Land” tore my heart away. For me, it was truly an amazing moment; one that simply found me overcome with joy.

Yes, it was a good set, and a good day.

All photos are copyright (c) 2011, Gary Stark. Do not use without authorisation

 

Glen David Andrews at Jazzfest 2011

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May 032011
 

Sunday at jazzfest was a great day. I spent a fair bit of my time meeting with different people and just hanging out. And why not? Jazzfest is about people and culture as well as the music.

So eventually I wandered over to the blues tent to camp as best I could for the afternoon, and to see Glen David Andrews. Who apparently is a cousin of Troy – Trombone Shorty. There were, however, no doubts in the mind of the audience as to who Glen was; the tent was packed, and basically turned into a jazzfest moshpit for the whole duration of the set.

 

Blues Tent Crowd

Blues Tent Crowd

But there was a great reason for the crowd’s exuberance too. On stage were some players that are very well known among the New Orleans musicians’ A list. Amanda Shaw was on fiddle, and Marcia Ball was on keys. Finally, towards the end of the set, Glen announced that he had one other special guest, and invited Troy Andrews, (Trombone Shorty) up to join them for a few numbers.

Unfortunately, the crowd was such that I was totally unable to get good images of anyone on the stage, and none any at of of Marcia Ball; these will have to suffice.

 

Glen David Andrews. With Amanda Shaw and Troy Andrews (Trombone Shorty)

Glen David Andrews. With Amanda Shaw and Troy Andrews (Trombone Shorty)

The tent was hot, and the music was even hotter, with Glen inviting Marcia to perfrom a few numbers as the lead.

 

 

Glen, Amanda, and Troy

Glen, Amanda, and Troy

 

All photos are copyright (c) 2011, Gary Stark. Do not use without authorisation

The Golden Striker Trio: Ron Carter at Jazzfest 2011

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May 012011
 

Those of you who know me know that I’m a bass player. Or that I pretend to be one.

As a bassist, one of my long time heroes has been Ron Carter; I think I have a book by Ron Carter from when I started learning the upright.

 

Ron Carter with Russell Malone at New Orleans Jazzfest 2011

Ron Carter with Russell Malone at New Orleans Jazzfest 2011

So I was truly thrilled when the Jazzfest 2011 program was announced to see that Ron Carter was a featured performer here at this year’s event, and even moreso when it turned out that he would be appearing on the first weekend – the weekend that I was attending.

Of course, with new Orleans Jazzfest, the primary issue is not deciding who you are going to be seeing; it’s who you decide to not see, such is the vast array of talent on offer. Just to put this into its proper perspective,  decided to not see Tab Benoit, Robert Plant, OTRA, and the New Orleans Nightcrawlers, amongst many others.

 

Mulgrew Miller at New Orleans Jazzfest 2011

Mulgrew Miller at New Orleans Jazzfest 2011

Well, that’s not quite true: I did stick my head into the blues tent and catch a little of Tab’s set while I wended my way across to the jazz tent.

Ron Carter at New Orleans Jazzfest 2011

Ron Carter at New Orleans Jazzfest 2011

But Ron was not alone on this occasion. I’ve long been a fan of Mulgrew Miller, and for jazzfest, Ron was appearing with Mulgrew Miller and Russell Malone as the Golden Striker Trio. So this was a double bonus for me.

I missed the start of their set, but I loved the part that I managed to grab. It’s always a pleasure to watch musicians who are a the top of their class, and class is exactly what these three jazz masters exuded. I think that today, there are few bassists of Carter’s experience and mastery around, and I just sat, listening and enjoying the master do his stuff.

What a great way to end the first day of this year’s New Orleans Jazzfest.

 

All photos are copyright (c) 2011, Gary Stark. Do not use without authorisation

Jazzfest – April 29 2011: Los Hombres Calientes

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May 012011
 

Their name translates as “The Hot Guys”, and hot is probably the best word to describe this band. Led by Irvin Mayfield and Bill Summers, Los Hombres Calientes have been around since the late ’90s, and that’s when I first remember seeing them.

Bill Summers at New Orleans Jazzfest 2011

Bill Summers at New Orleans Jazzfest 2011

Here in New Orleans, even.

It would have probably been at the Funky Butt, a jazz club that used to live, in the days before Katrina hit,  on North Rampart, and yes, even back then they were truly hot.

Over the years they’ve released a number of CDs, most of which I have a copy of, but since the intervention of Katrina, they’ve had to take a break, but now they’re now back.

I was looking forward to seeing them again, and they did not disappoint.

From the opening number, the excitement of the Afro-Cuban rhythms grabbed the audience, and had them ready to party. As if any Jazzfest audience is anything but ready to party

The familiarity and call and response of Fo Fo Firi Foforo really brought them to life though, with everyone singing and dancing along.

Irvin Mayfield at New Orleans Jazzfest 2011

Irvin Mayfield at New Orleans Jazzfest 2011

One of the things I truly loved about this performance was its demonstration of the love and grace that embodies what music can give. The good feelings that everyone had through this performance were evident everywhere that you looked: the musicians were very clearly enjoying working together, and that carried through to the audience, who were broadly grinning from ear to ear.

And then the band brought a small troupe of African (I think) dancers out onto the stage. Colourfully dressed, they joined in the joy of the performance, bringing everything to a wonderful climax.

Finally, after the performance, I was privileged and honoured to be invited backstage to meet and have a short interview with Bill Summers and Irvin Mayfield. I’ll be broadcasting that interview upon my return to Sydney, on radio 2RDJ FM 88.1. Stay tuned for details of when that will be.

Thanks to the management team of Los Hombres Calientes for their assistance in letting me spend a few minutes with Bill and Irvin; I know that theses guys are very busy – especially at Jazzfest – and their willingness to spend a few minutes with me is greatly appreciated.

 

All photos are copyright (c) 2011, Gary Stark. Do not use without authorisation