2010 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival
Speaking of Allen Toussaint, he kept very busy this year...he guested with such diverse artists as Helm and Elvis Costello, and played his own sets; one was straight rhythm and blues classics, and the other culled from his Grammy-nominated jazz recording, The Bright Mississippi. All of his shows exuded excellent musicianship and a fertile palette of rich melodies, both old and new, tried and true. One of the great things about New Orleans is that the music is non-stop; over forty venues around town have performances when the evening sun goes down at jazzfest; it is not unusual to take in more music until the wee hours of the morning. Offbeat places like bowling alleys, coffeehouses, and even laundromats turn into honky tonks when the neon begins to burn. Toussaint participated in one of the more moving and memorable performances...at the Jazz Shabbat service at Touro synagogue. Upon the conclusion of the religious Friday night service (with musical accompaniment from the Panorama Jazz Band), Toussaint played elegantly in this sacred setting, tickling the ivories on a medley of Professor Longhair-inspired tunes, singing passionately on "The City Of New Orleans" and Paul Simon's "An American Tune," and capped the evening with musical accompaniment from David Letterman's bandleader, Paul Shaffer...together, they performed exquisitely on "St. James Infirmary." The crowning moment as a foot-stomping version of "When The Saints Go Marching In," accompanied by the choral group in Hebrew! Only in N'awlins...Mazeltov, y'all!
The jazz tent was great place to seek shelter from the heavy rain, and Maurice Brown made it even more appealing with his steamy set of Hank Mobley-esque soulful jazz and blues. You could get the mud off your shoes by vigorously stomping your feet to the tunes.
Donald Harrison, dubbed a one-man jazz festival, alternately performed as a Mardi Gras Indian and led a straight-ahead jazz band on two separate stages. Another musical stalwart of the Crescent City, Terence Blanchard, played on several stages...he led his own group through moody and inspiring melodies, accompanied by percussion virtuoso, Danny Sadownick. In addition, Payton jammed with The Preservation Hall Jazz Band, and most memorably, added a carnival-like ending to Simon and Garfunkel's "Cecilia" at the end of their set...the song also included guest accompaniment from Dr. Michael White on clarinet, and Dwayne Dopsie on accordion, which put a New Orleans spin on the whole affair.
Delfeayo Marsalis and his Sweet Thunder Octet brought a nostalgic ambiance to songs composed by Basie and Ellington. Horace Silver's "Sister Sadie" was particularly rollicking, driven by Fats Domino's baritone saxman, Roger Lewis. Brother Jason Marsalis hit the skins with consistency and assurance.
Local tuba and sousaphonists, Kirk Joseph and Matt Perrine, performed wonderfully, tapping into the second-line style on several compositions, and inflating a full sound on Chuck Berry's "Maybellene," and other funky tunes.
Chicago-bred trumpeter, Mario Abney, proved his sense of timing beyond his years. His youthful, yet well-versed band played scorching bebop and blues. In the original "Water Sweet Water," "Dedicated To His Mother," Abney performed with exquisite precision. He is one to watch in the future.
In a misty rain, Van Morrison bridged the gap between jazz, R & B, and pop music; his honeyed voice was strong, and he added a spiritual feeling to many of his songs. On "Brown-Eyed Girl," he even played an admirable saxophone.
Dee Dee Bridgewater looked stunning, and performed magic on Billie Holiday's tunes, most notably "Lover Man." The arrangements were captivating, and her charisma charmed the overflowing crowd.
Joe Lovano and Us Five brought bebop in high style to the jazz tent. There was a beautiful Marcus Miller tribute to Miles Davis's album, Tutu, and a guitar woodshed featuring Steve Masakowski (from Astral Project), Jake Eckert (from Dirty Dozen Brass Band), and Todd Duke (accompanist for a lot of local bands). The guitar woodshed featured greasy versions of "Back At The Chicken Shack" and "Flood In Franklin Park." These guitar impresarios had fingers flying across the fretboards like lightning.
For a change of pace, comedian Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers, performed eloquent bluegrass from his recent Grammy-award winning album. Even the encore, "King Tut," sounded sweet in a countrified version. Musical chameleon Elvis Costello, worked with his current band, The Sugarcanes, and also put an Appalachian spin on his music, including a gorgeous version of "Alison." The ever-present Allen Toussaint joined Elvis on an acoustic, yet rocking, version of "Leave My Kitten Alone."