Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Return to Jazz Fest POST

Back in the late 80s and early 90s, I was a regular at Jazz Fest in New Orleans. Although it didn't seem like it at the time, it was kind of like the tail end of a golden age or something.

You took it for granted that you were going to see Ernie K. Doe, and Jessie Hill, and Johnny Adams. You thought nothing of the fact that Tommy Ridgley was giving Popeye lessons at Tipitina's in between weekends, or that Rockin' Dopsie and Boozoo Chavis were in town... or that Pops Staples was in the Gospel Tent.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not pulling a 'back in my day' kinda thing, I'm just saying that it all seems to go so fast, you know?

Anyway, after I got married, and had kids and everything, my Jazz Fest attendance dropped off dramatically... but, I'm going back. After Katrina and all of that, I just feel like I owe it to my most favorite of American cities... the town that's given all of us so much...

Here's a few examples of that latter day golden age I'm talking about to hold you over while I'm away. There's just one thing, these are (gasp!) ALBUM TRACKS! ("oh my god", you say, "don't tell me this lunatic is gonna start yet ANOTHER of these blog things just for album cuts!") Not to worry. I'm not. These are just songs that were heavy in the rotation at the time, and were never released as singles:

I'm Gonna Hold You To Your Promise
Here's Irma Thomas from 1988's The Way I Feel. Her legendary band, The Professionals, included Herman Ernest III at this point and is just crankin' away on this great Paul Kelly tune. There were those (I was one of them) who groused about Scott Billington's too white production of Rounder's "Modern New Orleans Masters" series, but in hindsight, I'm just grateful he was there.

Stand By
Johnny Adams' Rounder stuff is phenomenal as well, as witnessed by this cookin' take on 'poet of the blues' Percy Mayfield's payback tune from 1989's Walkin' On A Tightrope. That's Duke Robillard on the guitar, and a young Jon Cleary on piano.

Lovely Day
Walter "Wolfman" Washington was also signed by Rounder at around this time, but his Hep' Me material was still readily available in one form or another. This is my all time favorite song by him, and is pulled from a 1987 Maison de Soul package called "Rainin' In My Life". It was produced by Senator Jones, with horn charts by Sam Henry, Jr.. As far as I can tell, it was never released as a single. It should have been, man!

British labels like Ace and Kent and Charly had also acquired the rights to so much great New Orleans music by this time, and were re-releasing some classic stuff. This way cool instrumental (lovin' the acoustic guitar...) was originally released on a long out of print Scepter LP from 1970, but became widely available again on Kent's From A Whisper To A Scream in 1985.

Drive It Home
Then, of course, there's my all-time guitar hero Snooks Eaglin. When I saw him perform for the first time at Jazz Fest I couldn't believe how great he was. He's still like the undiscovered gem of New Orleans music... the Professor Longhair of the guitar! This incredible tune comes from a GNP Crescendo album I actually bought AT the Fest. It's called The Legacy Of The Blues, Vol. 2, and is now apparently out of print.

So, take what you need here, folks, because (just like last time I went away on ya) I'm gonna take this post down when I get back, sometime after Mother's Day... maybe.

Long live New Orleans!


Blogger DZONDZON said...

How true, your perceptions on those golden days.So many great musicians graced those years. But the same can be said about all the years of New Orlean's musical history. The poiniancy of Katrina has made the memories more bittersweet. The golden days will never really end for N.O. as long as people keep loving and the music keeps playing.

11:28 PM  
Blogger Rob Whatman said...

I especially enjoyed the Allen Toussaint track.

5:51 PM  
Blogger Juan Duque said...


thanks for the tunes. I lived in NOLA from 95 to 97 and will always cherish it and my memories of my time there, and specially all of the great bands i got to see and meet there. Snooks Eaglin at the Rock n Bowl, Klezmer Allstars at the Dragon s Den, The Blasters at Checkpoint Charlie, etc etc. I will go back someday, I know. I can t wait. Have a Poboy in my name. Bye and thanks again, from Medellin, COLOMBIA.

10:25 PM  
Blogger Clay S. Conrad said...

I went to Jazzfest the first time the first weekend of 2006, mainly to show support for the musicians and the city. It was an incredible experience - I was stunned at how professionally it was done. The performances were first-grade. The sound systems were very good (although the Jazz Tent tended to be wayyyy too loud).

I didn't go see any of the national acts. I didn't come to New Orleans to hear Dave Matthews or Bob Dylan. I wanted to see some brass bands, some mardi gras indians, Steve Riley and Beau Soleil, etc. While local acts in similarly sized cities are often amateurish and clumsy, the New Orleans local acts can surpass most New York or LA national acts hands down.

12:36 PM  

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