New Orleans & Jazzfest Recap (Part 2)
Our second day in New Orleans brought our first day at the Jazz & Heritage Festival and much more…While briefly concerning to wake up to even more rain, it stopped by late morning and we grabbed a cab to the fest. It was overcast and chilly by New Orleans standards (50’s) and the week’s rains made the fairgrounds quite muddy in places, making the paved & covered stages much more appealing. Regardless, the crowd was in good spirits. Our plan was to familiarize ourselves with the lay of the land by doing a loop of the grounds. We started with beignets and cafe aulait from the Cafe Du Monde stand, listening to David Egan in the Blues Tent. With an ambitious appetite I also grabbed a pheasant, quail, & andouille gumbo from Prejeans – it was absolutely amazing. As we ate we were treated to a parade of the 21st Century Brass Band passing by – a nice surprise.
We briefly stopped at the Gentilly stage to hear a little bit of The Iguanas. From there we decided to check out the grandstand to catch our breath and check out a little bit of a cooking demonstration by a woman who touted herself as a Veggie Ho – interesting… Not letting our stomachs or ears rest we grabbed a couple of DiMartino’s Famous New Orleans Muffelettas (excellent) and settled in to check out Jamil Sharif‘s set at the Economy Hall Tent, up close.I’ve got one of Jamil’s CD’s but had never seen him in person before. This band was great – they were impeccable and fun!
We then stopped by the Jazz Tent for the first time, catching a bit of Nicholas Payton with the legendary Lenny White on drums. Moving on, we caught the beginning of Irma Thomas‘s annual tribute to Mahalia Jackson in the Gospel Tent – a powerful and consummate voice carrying on the message of a cultural icon. I get chills just watching this video. Then we decided to brave the mud and get up close for the White Cloud Hunters Mardi Gras Indians at the Jazz & Heritage Stage. With the festival starting to wind down for the day (and since it had been at least an hour since I’d eaten) I picked up some fried chicken and we headed to see Jimmy Cliff closing the Congo Square Stage – a real warm vibe. Our last stop was back to the Gentilly Stage to see Willie Nelson wrap up the festival’s Friday schedule. Willie’s got such an extensive repertoire of truly great American songwriting that he’s able to fill a whole show with short renditions of gem after classic gem – good times. On the way out the gate I grabbed a tasty Cuban Sandwich from Canseco’s 🙂
With crowds spilling out of the fairgrounds under the sun setting we lucked into a rogue cabbie who got us back to our hotel quickly. We caught some downtime to re-energize ourselves for the Bourbon Street experience that was to come. While we were aware that there are plenty of less touristy and more authentic experiences we figured we’d check out the Bourbon spectacle to mark it off our list. Though there were plenty of rowdies (as expected) we were happily surprised to find a solid variety of quality music. We surveyed our options by checking out random groups – a horn band, a zydeco band, a roadhouse-type country band. Then we settled into Fritzel’s European Jazz Club to see a banjo player, Wolfgang Friedrich, and his band. This was some nice traditional jazz in a small room with an classic & classy feel.
Walking back down Bourbon we passed Jamil Sharif finishing up a set and we took a moment to thank him for his afternoon performance at the fest. Then we returned to the horn band from earlier (trumpet, trombone, sax, guitar, bass, & drums) at The Famous Door. I never actually caught the name of the band but they were a lot of fun and a great way to end a long day of great music. We headed back to the hotel for some much needed sleep to be ready for another big day. Stay tuned for Part 3…