New Orleans Jazz Fest: Guilty Pleasures in a Surreal Setting
More feel-good music and Katrina survival stories were shared in weekend two. The Brooks Family showed off their new instruments that replaced ones lost in the flood, and introduced a founder of the Katrina Piano Fund, whose mission is to help bereft musicians get new tools of their trade.
Johnny Vidacovich, the charismatic drummer for Astral Project, made about the 23rd "thank you, audience, for helping get our city back on its feet" speech I had heard witnessed, but broke things up with: "And you're brave people... I don't see anyone wearing a life preserver!"
Pianist Eddie Palmieri's incendiary playing backing saxophonists Donald "Big Chief" Harrison Jr. and George Coleman reveled in a quintessential New Orleans happening, as Big Chief summoned a tribe of Mardi Gras Indians to dance on stage while he sang. Two of the dancing Indians were adorned in yards and yards of feathers and beads. The soulful singer John Boutte covered Randy Newman's "Louisiana 1927," about the great flood that brought President Coolidge down for an inspection visit. He updated it with some lyrics about President Bush and the "great job" FEMA did. But Boutte did it too upbeat to dwell too long on the negative.
"The people all around the world showed us such love, it's incredible," he said of post-Katrina relief. "The people did," he stressed.
An unfortunate auto accident kept trumpeter Nicholas Payton from his scheduled festival-closing set in the Jazz Tent. Instead, Dirty Dozen Brass Band leader Gregory Davis pulled together an ever-growing cast of locals for an old-fashioned jam session that quickly became a rowdy, raucous party. The message clearly was: "New Orleans is back, we're ready to party, so go home and tell people to come on down," said trumpeter James Andrews.
So to pass on their message, see y'all next year, if not sooner.