FOMS was in full effect. The Black
Crowes played to a sold-out Mahalia Jackson Theatre, sight of the mammoth annual Gov’t Mule gig a night earlier. However, on
Second Saturday, the scene down on Frenchman Street is like no other. People fill the streets and party extremely
hard, while amazing music fills the clubs that line the blocks. We hustled down to the Blue Nile for The Royal
Potato Family All Stars early on Saturday night. The band’s basic crew consisted of Marco Benevento,
Robert Walter, Skerik, Mike Dillon, Reed Mathis, and John Speice. Hearing Spiece’s drums
and Mathis’ bass in tandem was a real treat; they flirted between psychedelic and punk with an effortless
elation, as Skerik egged them on with nontoxic evil. Earlier that day, news of the death of Slayer
guitarist Jeff Hanneman spread, so far be it from this squad to send off the blond Slaytanic axe-ripper with
a thrashing tribute to the original speed metal masterpiece Reign in Blood. Later, the band dipped into the catalogues
of Walter and Benevento, each taking unique angles on material well established, as the music
and aura got as avant-garde as the Blue Nile was prepared to contain.
McConnell and The Meter Men
One must make mention of the sold-out Meter Men show that featured Phish keyboard maven
Page McConnell. Reports had it hot as
can be in the Republic, as this fearsome foursome stormed through the Meters catalogue with a reconditioned motor,
shared admirations abound. Robert Walter’s 20th Congress went late night on Frenchman Street, digging
backward for unforgettable tracks like “2% Body Fat” and “Volcanic Acne”, Grant Green’s tremendous “Flood in
Franklin Park”, and killin’ numbers found on Walter’s brand new record.
Meanwhile, at the Soul’d Out/Disco Donnie party at the Sugar Mill, Robert Glasper Experimentwas
consecrating a luscious take on “No Church in the Wild” from Watch The Throne. Few musicians channel the spirit of
the illustrious Detroit-based producer, the late, great James “J-Dilla” Yancey as beautifully as
Glasper and his band; a special nod to the unique talents of one Casey Benjamin. Next, Yasin Bey (formerly the artist known
formerly as Mos Def), alternated between utilizing a band and DJ as he tore thru his solo catalogue while riffing on
“Umi Says”, a few well-known NOLA bounce classics, and a bit of Andre 3000-type schizophrenia.
Believe it or not, if you were to ask this writer what was THE BEST single set/show of the entire five plus days, I would
immediately answer Erykah Badu’s
Saturday late night séance at the Sugar Mill. Not for nothing, it was fucking masterful! I’m nearly at a loss to speak to
the sorcery she wielded for nearly two hours, taking the stage just before 2am and blessing the integrated crowd of
Jazzfesters and the local Black community with the kind of experience that leaves you bewildered by the artistic
merits on display. Her meticulous band followed her every hand signal, twerk, jerk and move with a panache and
swag that was just gangster. Badu is a bandleader, a singer, and a purveyor of mysticism of a musical kind,
all of which were in top form as the hour grew later. Shouting out the 3rd Ward with a DJ Jubilee classic,
burrowing into “Danger”, then segueing into her own magnum opus “Mama’s Gun”, Badu owned the Crescent City.
For a lengthy encore, she invited out pianist/opener Robert Glasper for an enchanted, thrilling take on the chestnut
“Afro Blue” from Glasper’s Grammy-winning album Black Radio. The phenomenal performance is put to
bed by Durand Bernarr – the Youtube soul sensation turned Badu protégé, who took a verse on
“Afro-Blue” and was literally DODGING PANTIES by the end of his turn. Then to conclude this testimony of Baduizm,
Empress Erykah soared toward the heavens with the always-extraordinary “Soldier”, and had us humming
“Yessirree” all the way to…
…Tipitina’s Uptown, where we walked into the rage at exactly the right moment, catching the end of Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe’s Ray
Charles tribute featuring Zach
Deputy and Jon Cleary. The two
guests stayed onstage as the clock hit 4am and KDTU charged into ninety more minutes of that patented,
sexy-funk groove only they can lay down. “Bag of Funk” detonated the place, and from there, Tip’s temperature
levels began to rise and rise to epic proportions. Most impressive was Deputy’s fierce and inspired guitar
work, as was pianist ,Cleary’s traditional NOLA boogie, both of which gave a renewed life to the
KDTU bangers like the seminal “Mighty Mouse” and “Cool is Back”, the latter a big, rotund boogaloo joint
that featured dynamite work from Chris Littlefield on trumpet and flugelhorn. Jeremy Steig's
"Howlin' for Judy" which morphed into its latter incarnation of the Beastie Boys’ “Sure Shot”, rapping
provided by Slightly Stoopid’s De La
who also chipped in on saxophone. This was a joyous reminder of losing Adam ‘MCA’ Yauch> a year ago to
the day, a crushing blow of Jazzfest 2012. The The White Stripes “Seven Nation Army” shook Tip’s
to its veritable core as the remaining revelers bounced and shook rumps with aggression. A slow start with the
Ray Charles tribute was saved and sprayed with fire; and by sunrise, this was yet another classic
KDTU party on Second Saturday Uptown, one of the many fine Jazzfest traditions we treasure so dearly.
Sunday evening brought the final festivities, after a delightful day at the Fairgrounds. Dumpstaphunk
hosted their annual Fess Jazztival closing party at Tipitina’s Uptown, debuting new tunes “Raise the House” and “I
Wish You Would” from their brand new album Dirty Word. The NOLA ambassadors were ably assisted by members of
the Royal Family, Skerik on sax, Jennifer Hartswick on trumpet, and Natalie Cressman
on trombone. A rollicking cover of the P-Funk jam “One Nation Under a Groove” brought the house down for an
encore, as drummer/Jazzfest MVP Nikki Glaspie took a well-earned bow. Fiyawerx Productions final show
welcomed the members of Living Colour and a slew of guests including Galactic bassist Robert Mercurio,
to the Howlin Wolf for a 25th Anniversary celebration of their groundbreaking debut Vivid. Vernon Reid was
his usual mesmeric self on guitar, but as was the case at several gigs all week, it was bassist Doug
Wimbash whose skills and presence dropped jaws to the ground.
For this writer, Second Sunday ends with the same party every year, down on Frenchman St. at d.b.a. After a smooth
opening gig from the Stanton Moore Trio, the drummer, cohorts Robert Walter (keys), Will
Bernard (guitar) geared up for the big finale. Along with bassist Robert Mercurio, the foursome plus
Big Chief/sax master/NOLA legend Donald Harrison came together once again as the unparalleled
Frequinox. The set was as expected: utterly spellbinding! The backing band laced a joyous, teeming crowd with their
distinctive blend of funky rare-groove, hip-hop breaks, Indian chants with call/response workouts; each song
blessed by magnificent Harrison sax leads gushing and soaring above the thunder-funk. Highlights ran the
gamut far and wide, old-school Coolin’ Off Galactic-funk juxtaposed with traditional Indian themes like
“Big Chief”. This krewe even ripped a Judas Priest rocker “You Got Another Thing Comin’”,
Walter’s B3 handling the Rob Halford howl.
Monday morning arrived, and (some of us) awoke to another Jazzfest in the books. Despite my employing over three
thousand words, one cannot sum up in a few paragraphs the monumental experience that is Jazzfest in New Orleans.
It is all things to all people, music and culture in massive doses, a celebration like no other. While there are many
mighty fun music festivals, there is only one Jazzfest. And from where I dance, that’s exactly how it should be. See
y’all next year, and every damn year after that!
Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans?