JAZZ FEST | 04.26 - 05.06 | NEW ORLEANS

Words by: Kayceman

05.06.07 :: SUNDAY

Dwayne Dopsie & The Zydeco Hellraisers
05.06 by Adam McCullough
The final day of JazzFest is always bittersweet, but this year there was extra sadness when the city learned legendary New Orleans clarinet master Alvin Batiste had died in his sleep early Sunday morning. He was 74. Batiste was scheduled to play at the Fairgrounds just hours after his death with both Harry Connick Jr. and one of his students, Branford Marsalis. Ironically, there was even a tribute scheduled to Batiste in the Jazz Tent that would prove to be an emotional celebration of a New Orleans legend. Batiste's death reminds us all just how special New Orleans's culture and tradition is. Unlike most of America, people from the Big Easy don't mourn death. They celebrate life. Sunday at JazzFest would drive this point home, as music and smiles, dancing and sunshine ruled the day.

Jazz Jam :: 05.06 by Adam McCullough
Singer/pianist Allen Toussaint has been a New Orleans staple since the 1950's. One of the premier disciples of Professor Longhair, his set on the giant Acura Stage was the perfect way to slide into Sunday. A true performer, Toussaint led his large ensemble through a number of top-notch selections including a wonderful call-and-response with the massive crowd: "Everybody come home... Everybody come home." Although JazzFest is a time for New Orleans to forget about all her worries for a few hours, it's also critical to remember just how bad things still are. As Toussaint called for the many long lost residents to return we let our bodies dance while our minds drifted towards those who are still suffering.

Steely Dan's Donald Fagan
05.06 by Adam McCullough
How can you not a love band that took their name from a talking dildo? The legendary Steely Dan took the stage under a blazing southern sun. Although the name "Steely Dan" does fit the band's super-tight, shiny sound, they took the moniker from a dildo featured in William Burroughs' novel The Naked Lunch. Considering the band formed in 1972 it was shocking how good they were live. They played every song you wanted to hear including "Kid Charlemagne," "Hey 19," "Do It Again," "Dirty Work," "Green Earrings" and a "Bodhisattva" encore. But, it wasn't just that they played the hits, it was how they played them. Each track was performed perfectly, so tight in fact that they sounded as if a producer was buffing them out live before they came through the huge sound system. From the spot-on backup singers to the technically mesmerizing guitar solos, to Donald Fagan's crazy ass, dirty-mind stories and spectacular piano work, Steely Dan was the best set of Sunday's JazzFest.

As JazzFest 2007 was coming to a close, it was clear it was time to check out some of NOLA's own, namely Big Chief Bo Dollis & The Wild Magnolias. Featuring Japanese guitar shredman June Yamagishi (who had a distinctly Carlos Santana vibe during this set), the Wild Magnolias dug deep into the traditional Mardi Gras fare like "(Big Chief Like Plenty Of) Fire Water," which had the crowd waving arms and singing along.

Harry Connick Jr. :: 05.06 by Adam McCullough
Strolling towards the exit, the sounds of Taj Mahal singing "Corrina" wafted from the Blues Tent. As delighted fans poured out of the Fairgrounds there was no question that JazzFest 2007 was a massive success. Last year's JazzFest was a statement to the world. New Orleans needed to prove that she would overcome Katrina, and the 2006 Fest did just that. 2007 was a bit more like the 36 year's of JazzFest that came before Katrina. That's not to say that the city has healed. There is so much still left to do, but there was the overwhelming sense that we are on the right track. Even though the city was doing much better than a year ago, we need to get residents out of those damn white FEMA trailers and into permanent fixtures. It was astonishing and maddening to see empty government housing. There are homes without people, and people without homes, and no one can answer why this is. It was impossible to not wonder how our government has decided there's enough money to rage wars around the world yet can't seem to find the tiny percentage it would cost to rebuild much of New Orleans. It's nothing new when poor black communities get passed over but it still pisses a man off.

Will New Orleans ever be like Pre-Katrina? Absolutely not. But after spending a magical week in New Orleans it's safe to say that she is absolutely still the epicenter of culture, music and food for America.

Many more JazzFest 2007 images from Adam McCullough available HERE.

Continue reading for Saturday's coverage...

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