JAZZ FEST OH-FIVE: TILL THE BREAK A DAWN

Some would say this was the year Jazz Fest reached the masses, the year "everyone" came, the year the word got out. But many would also point to the "Superfly during Jazzfest Series" that has been going strong for eight years as the catalyst for more and more folks to flock to NOLA. Regardless of how or why, in 2005 the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival blossomed into an enormous, energetic Second Weekend. A combination of a behemoth lineup, both by day and by night, and three headlining titans of the jam scene brought standard tour types to party alongside the seasoned Jazz Festers. Second Weekend was the highest profile event for the Phish community since its demise in Coventry last August. Certainly different than when Phish was invited to play the Fairgrounds in 1996, but of almost as much interest to the Phanatical Phan base. In addition to Trey, the second weekend boasted a rejuvenated return of Widespread Panic, the massive allure of the Dave Matthews Band, and the superfly Isaac Hayes. Not to mention the added strength of the still sweatin' Ike Turner, the indie-rock hero Elvis Costello, and the London irie-vibes of Steel Pulse, all of whom added strength to a superb, soul-filled second weekend.

MONDAY :: APRIL 25TH


Ceux Qui Marchent Debout :: Jazz Fest 2005 by Zack Smith
Early in the week, the talk was about a couple of Monday shows that featured jazz and jam giants, back to the essence, to the root, and it begins at the ivory eighty eight. A heavenly piano night featuring Alan Toussaint, Marcia Ball, Dr. John, and a host of others wowed the Crescent City faithful well into the late hours with a constant rotation of boogie-woogie blues, big brassy bottom end, and the pungent stench of the Quarter. Meanwhile, deeper in the Quarter at the Blue Nile, Blue Note organ maven/breakbeat grandmaster Dr. Lonnie Smith was leading a troupe of today's stalwarts through the book. The group featured seasoned six-string torchbearers, from both the Big Apple (Soulive's Eric Krasno) and the Bay (Will Bernard). Both the Van Gelder and D&D Studios' golden eras were fully represented as the good Dr. sweat medicinal magic from his urban turban, washing bop melody atop his Hammond B-3. Smith would be a springboard for these guitarists, commanding them to lay it down all week long. While these cats mined the cherished preserves and yesterday's passion fruit, the kids were getting down over the river. Levitating within the walls of the Old Point Bar were The Dead Kenny Gs, including JFJO's Brian Haas and slaytanic saxophonist Skerik. Along with the indescribable, all-percussive guru Mike Dillon, the new conglomerate were a modern day Lewis, Clark, and Smithers, as they waded and waltzed unto unclaimed lands of progressive mayhem and sonic orgy.

TUESDAY :: APRIL 26TH


Jazz Fest 2005 by Dino Perrucci
Tuesday night was just as thorough, with scattered gems thrown down in some of the cooler little rooms throughout the Crescent City. White-hot local warhorse Brotherhood of Groove continued to sizzle thru their most impressive Jazz Fest to date. On the heels of a cooking Sprint Stage performance, the BOG invited a slew of guests throughout the second week. This evening's performance at One Eyed Jacks would feature both baritone maven Henly Douglas (Boston Horns) and KDTU's Brian Jordan on guitar. The Brandon Tarricone/Brian Jordan guitar duels ("Windjammer") were lightsabers playing capoeira, channeling the spirit of Grant Green; the brass and reeds of Douglas, BOG mainstays Geoff Vidal, Slammin' Sam Kininger, and the incredible Jeff Watkins pumping the funk to a bulbous range. Drummer John Massing, a veteran of second lines galore, has really pushed the BOG's backbone to soaring levels. Later in the week, performances at Le Bon Temps Roule, and again all night Saturday at One Eyed Jacks, further embedded the BOG in Jazz Fest's collective conscience. This inflated version included the welcome additions of Dave Grippo on alto sax, and Michael Ray on trumpet, pushing the sonic gumbo even further towards the stratosphere. The weekend throwdowns, choc full of spirited originals like the brand new "Ready to Roll" and the title track to BOG Style, also mixed in obscure covers from Frank Zappa and Outkast, as well as a bouncing, brassy "Shakedown Street." The BOG could also be found outside of the fairgrounds in the backyard of a neighboring house, throwing a party for revelers leaving the fest Saturday.

The House of Blues hosted a Tuesday evening of pop/punk featuring Unwritten Law's bassist proposal to his girlfriend just before Sum 41 took the stage. Truly a TRL moment. Robert Walter, ably assisted by saxophonist Cheme Gastelum and RW20 veteran drummer George Sluppick, held things down with boogaloo grooves at D.B.A., setting the tone for a week of phenomenal performances, both from Walter and at D.B.A. (The bar also has one of the best drink menus I have ever seen!) Signifying the true arrival of Second Weekend, Skerik and a revolving door of heavy hitters (including Watkins, Dillon, Kininger, Krasno, Haas, etc) drove a'hundred miles an hour in the middle of the road down a one-way street screaming obscenities, rocking and rolling well into the night at the Dragon's Den. Musician and fan mingled about, welcoming the stretch run.


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