2004 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival
Jazzfest is much more than long days of music at the historic Fair Grounds racetrack. For me, it's a family reunion, touching base with friends made over the years, visits to favorite restaurants and clubs and exploring new ones, hanging out at the record stores that offer live music on festival off-days. It's a stroll along the Mississippi, a trolley ride on the new Canal Street line, an evening lull watching the moon's reflection dance on the bayou while frogs and alligators call out to mates. It's 10 days to absorb as much of the wonderful vibe that is ever-thrumming in this magical place.
It's Piano Night, with Mac Rebennack, Eddie Bo, Marcia Ball et al, reaching ecstatic heights, capping off a marathon of keyboard wizardry. It's the Ponderosa Stomp, two nights of r&b by lost legends jamming at the Rock'n'Bowl. It's serendipity, as in a tow truck driver letting me ""off the hook'' when I unwittingly parked illegally and telling me, "This is your lucky day, pal." Or as in the strangers at a nearby table insisting that we all join them in a tequila toast to wish someone a happy birthday.
Jazzfest is jazz in its birthplace, New Orleans, the best place on the planet to be come late April-early May.