Jazz Fest At Night | 4.30-5.04 | NOLA
Jazz Fest At Night | 04.3008 – 05.04.08 | New Orleans, LA
After a lengthy drive from Florida’s First Coast in the early morning hours of Wednesday, April 29, this writer arrived in Crescent City and made a beeline directly to the French Quarter’s Blue Nile for a unique grouping of NOLA and NYC musicians calling themselves The Quartet. As is the norm at Jazz Fest, these disparate-yet-connected musicians displayed a kinetic kinship. Adam Deitch and Big Sam (of Funky Nation fame) led the charge through an endless songbook of funk headnodders. Ian Neville (Dumpstaphunk) joined in on the fun, along with Neville Brothers bassist/NOLA stalwart Nick Daniels, making their respective presences felt throughout this extended weekend of musical gluttony. The Quartet’s slamming, nonchalant performance was filled with classic funk jams, Deitch’s lead bass pedal driving things. Big Sam was his usual humorous self, rocking trombone solos and swaying his considerable mojo around the room.
The grimy Quartet funk jam was followed by another of the weekend’s breakout stories, The New Mastersounds. This throwback group of Englishman had their rare groove down tight, and invited Karl Denson to sit in for the majority of the set. They were also joined by a pair of bicoastal guitarists, NYC’s Eric Krasno (Soulive) on “Its Your Thing” and the Bay Area’s Will Bernard on “Fireater.” Denson seemed right at home in this relaxed, uninhibited situation.
Following the natural progression done many times before from Jacquimo’s corn bread and alligator cheesecake straight to cocktails at The Leaf, it was a night of “Mean” Willie Green, Brian Stoltz, Tony Hall and Michael Burkart, aka The Never-Wuz Bros. Such outfits truly make the locals proud, and the “just another night in New Orleans” vibe makes the visitors contemplate relocating. Out from the Neville umbrella, Stoltz, Green and Hall were doing that thing that many New Orleans funk bands do – layering ultra-funky melodies and grooves that work your thigh muscles to create a laidback jam over a super-tight rhythmic backbone. From the “Mean Willie Green Pit” (indicated by neon signage), the drums were always a micro-second ahead of the gang so things didn’t get boring. Burkhart was at his finest. His ingredients were like a good Creole roux, adding just the right thickness behind Stoltz’ melodies. Notables from the first set included Hall’s “Let’s Jam,” Stoltz’ “Norman’s House,” a contemporary southern funk version of Donny Hathaway’s “Voices Inside” and a Led Zeppelin medley.
Darted back to the Quarter for Soulive at One Eyed Jacks. A throwback to glory days of this once-great band, the Soulive Revue was in full swing a la half a decade ago. Sam Kininger, Ryan Zoidis and Rashawn Ross back in the mix, this performance saw the reemergence of keyboardist Neal Evans as de facto bandleader. Highlights included a breakout sit-in from trumpeter Christian Scott, and many older originals, as Soulive kept it mostly instrumental, smooth and damn sexy. Ivan Neville guested on vocals for a climatic “The Message.”
Jazz Fest 2008 by Zach Denis
On the other hand, I would use “haphazard and maybe “unruly” to describe Garage a Trois in 2008. Now utilizing the multiple talents of Benevento (in lieu of original member Charlie Hunter), GAT has progressed into a sinister, demonic collective whose intentions are a far cry from their signature performance eight years ago at the Saenger Theatre (where they blew a much-hyped Oysterhead debut right off the stage). On this evening, the cacophonous sonics and sheer terror within the music made for an eerie, almost fearsome foursome. Relying heavily on chunky newer material, as well as electrified versions of tracks from Outre Mer and a free-jazz ethos that recalled the likes of Pharoah Sanders and Ornette Coleman, GAT drove home a punishing point.
It starts and ends with drummer Adam Deitch, whose resume is too long to list and whose reputation precedes him. Going out on a limb, Deitch is the best in the game. The drummer led them through Lettuce joints, several JB’s numbers, and the highlight of the weekend, Nigel Hall’s rendition of the Curtis Mayfield classic “Move On Up.” Although the band calls upon R&B sensation Dwele on their recorded version, Hall made the song his own, getting up from behind the Rhodes to play the energetic frontman. This being his virgin trip to New Orleans, he was clearly a pimp possessed. His stage presence and dynamics added part of what was missing from this band in years past – sexiness and sultriness that transforms them from a Headhunters workout tape (tight as hell, but mechanical) to collar-poppin’, pimp struttin’ swagger. Ironically, it seemed no matter the venue, when guests were called onstage, members of Lettuce were in full effect to throw down. E.D. Coomes, aka Jesus, erstwhile bass player and resident funk yogi, held down the bottom end with Deitch with a boom-bap precision that was simply hard to believe. When Soulive later took the stage, the difference was evident. The torch has clearly been passed.
By Allison Murphy
Mike Gordon was all over the place at Jazz Fest. During the Russell Batiste And Friends gig at the Howlin’ Wolf, Gordon joined a gang of musicians onstage for a lengthy segment. The show also served as a reunion of sorts for Gordon’s former Phish bandmate Page McConnell joining Batiste and Oteil Burbridge on Vida Blue’s “Most Events Aren’t Planned.”
I shuffled over to the annual Bayou Rendezvous at Howlin’ Wolf, an annual event that takes a new shape each and every year. In essence, it’s an unrehearsed “super-jam” of sorts, where killer players from all over come together for some Cajun ragin’ at the Wolf. This year, Russell Batiste led a troupe of heavy hitters including guitarists Eric Krasno (dude was everywhere), NOLA’s own Leo Nocentelli (The Meters) and others.
A difficult act to follow, relative newcomers Global Noize took the stage with some star power of their own. Taking a break-beat/down-tempo turn, Global Noize set a euphoric tone with a demonstrative performance. Their distinctive sound was enhanced by the turntable tactics of DJ Logic, the classically trained piano virtuosity of Uri Caine, the sax combo of Karl Denson and Topaz (with Denson also on flute) and Mike Dillon’s exotic, erotic vibraphonics. The diversity of Jazz Fest was on full display at the Bayou Rendezvous as Global Noize slithered their way through a snake charming set.
I followed Denson over to the House of Blues for the first of three Greyboy Allstars shows over the weekend. The Thursday HOB late night for KDTU was indeed “the place to be” for the majority of the past decade. Always the scene of the ultimate throwdown, on this night the situation was far different. Only two-thirds full, with the formerly rollicking balcony now closed, GBA ran thru a set of standard fare. There was little in the way of fireworks, dynamic jams or shot-in-the-dark guest spots, and it was hard to tell this was a Jazz Fest show. Many walked away somewhat disappointed well before 5 a.m.
Friday and Saturday
“That was the most exciting, and gratifying 75-minutes of music I’ve played in as long as I can remember,” said Wuest. “We drove 26 hours, 13 each way, for a 75-minute set. It’s an honor to play in New Orleans at Jazz Fest, especially to an audience who loves music on the level that we do.”
By Zach Denis
“To me, Jazz Fest is a spiritual rage,” commented Nigel Hall. “It is spiritual above all else, but it is also a rage. This is my first trip to New Orleans, my first Jazz Fest. I’ve been hearing about this since I was three years old growing up in D.C. It’s an absolute honor to get onstage with these cats, to play this music to these people in this incredible city. I am a long ways from Bangor (Maine, where he lives). This is important to me on a deep, deep level. Seeing Stevie Wonder, for me was like [he trails off, lost for words].” Even for the performers, being part of Jazz Fest is humbling and a potentially otherworldly experience.
Running across the street, I ran into guitarist Brian Jordan, who had played with Particle at Jazz Fest. He explained to me how the new batch of Particle material had diverse guitar parts, and he enjoyed adding his flair to their self-proclaimed “porn-funk.” On this night, however, Jordan was on his way to The Parish to sit in with The New Mastersounds. Deitch, Krasno and others would also join in the Englishmen’s hoedown well into the morning hours.
Jazz Fest 2008 by Allison Murphy
It is hard to believe that it has been five years since the mammoth Gov’t Mule “Deepest End” concert at Jazz Fest 2003, and it has become an annual Mule celebration of sorts when the boys hit Jazz Fest. This year saw numerous guests join the band on both Friday and Saturday nights at the Contemporary Arts Center. Mike Gordon teamed up with Particle’s Steve Molitz for a huge “Loser” > “Terrapin Station Jam” > “Loser” sandwich during Friday’s second set. Umphrey’s Jake Cinninger got a head start on his own late night festivities by joining in on “Dear Prudence.” New Orleans got in on the fun when the Dirty Dozen Brass Band appeared, as did Henry Butler and Roosevelt Collier. Opener Grace Potter helped on covers of Ike & Tina’s “Nutbush City Limits” and Zep’s “Whole Lotta Love.” Walter ‘Wolfman’ Washington, Ivan Neville and Papa Mali got in on the act, too, and Cyril Neville closed out the numerous sit-ins on night one.
The second night of the Mule was just as electrifying, as the parade of guests and stellar playing continued. George Porter Jr. and Ivan Neville joined the band for several songs including “Fortunate Son.” Owen Biddle and Capt. Kirk Douglas of the legendary Roots crew, fresh off their blistering Fairgrounds performance (with Ludacris!), got their Zeppelin on with “When the Levee Breaks” (a poignant song choice in these parts). Sonny Landreth, Eric McFadden and Grace Potter got involved as well. The second set on Saturday night was one of those legendary NOLA Mule sets, beginning with “Africa” featuring Cyrille and Ivan Neville, Eric Krasno and Stanton Moore. Henry Butler, as well as Kofi Burbridge, amongst others, also made their way into the Mule stew. Appropriately, it was the core four Mule brethren onstage for the final number, the quintessential “Soulshine.” Not enough can ever be said for the beauty, integrity and sheer eloquence that Warren Haynes, Danny Louis, Andy Hess and Matt Abts bring to a NOLA stage.
Jazz Fest 2008 by Allison Murphy
After a Radiators early show, Tipitina’s Uptown was the sight of another raucous Galactic sunrise show. They are clearly in a different form when in this room, and there was a special occasion this evening. Stanton Moore’s fiancé was having her bachelorette party at the show! Lots of ladies with crazy wigs and attire milled about, and the platform was set for an outrageous and atypically bizarre performance. With the help of Chali 2na (Jurassic 5) and a hype man, the storied NOLA funk ‘n’ punk faction brought out the artillery. They reached back to Crazyhorse Mongoose, dropped many of the hip-hop oriented joints on recent records, and threw in a little taste of everything in between. A crushing, deafening “Immigrant Song” pushed the boundaries of full-on bedlam as Tip’s rocked and shook from the foundation to the rafters. Bassist Rob Mercurio pounded his neck and head-banged while Jeff Raines‘ patented distorted twang rang out through the tubes. Moore shared his kit and pounced on cymbals while Rich Vogel held things down in outer space, his synth lines and keyboard flourishes filling the colors in the void. This was Galactic at its frenetic, throbbing best, equal parts groove, punk and all things NOLA.
We decided to step out of the box a little bit for the ?uestlove and M.I.A. gig at 619 Frenchmen. The wait for ?uestlove was fun but it was hard not to wonder what live music was going on outside at Blue Nile, Howlin’ Wolf or Tip’s on the last Saturday of Fest ’08. ?uestlove kept it busy with a ferocious, danceable DJ set that seemed to go on for hours, mixing the right amounts of golden-era hip-hop, Afrobeat and Michael Jackson. At 2:45 a.m., M.I.A. finally showed up, looking like a decked-out little hornet in a shiny yellow getup complete with Left Eye-style pimp cap. It felt like the funky Good Witch of the East had arrived via bubble and was spreadin’ booty shakin’ love with the whole town. After the long, hot, sweaty wait, M.I.A. played for 45 minutes. If it weren’t for the refreshing feel of her distinctive sound – which is unlike any other jazz, funk, hip-hop or reggae act I’d seen yet during the week – I’d probably have felt more gypped. But, it was only disappointing because she was so damn good, bouncing around and owning each track like the Sri Lankan champion she so obviously is. She did around ten songs; about half from her 2005 release, Arular, including “Bucky Done Gun,” “Ba-na-na Skit” and college radio hit “Galang;” and a few from her latest release, Kala, like “Bamboo Banga,” “Bird Flu,” “Boyz” and her last song after a quick break, “Paper Planes,” which wrapped up around 3:30 a.m. She also did a cover of The Pixies’ “Where Is My Mind?” which has been done by others but nowhere near like by Miss M.I.A.
During the ?uestlove/M.I.A. mania, down the block U-Melt and DJ Logic collaborated for the first time at the Blue Nile. Logic dropped a tasty DJ set, and then shortly after that U-Melt got onstage and made their way into the now classic Logic original “French Quarter.” As the night wore on, the foursome-plus-one segued in and out of a number of U-Melt originals, burning down the house with “The Eternal Groove.”
Elsewhere, Deitch and Big Sam’s Quartet grew into nearly a dectet at times, with the punishing riddims and sheer bombast at full throttle. This NYC/NOLA musical mob, which enlisted most of Lettuce, Dumpstaphunk and whoever else was nearby, was ready and willing and one of the most thrilling parts of the weekend. No matter where you turned, their was Deitch, Ivan Neville and the rest of their respective crews.
For this writer, there was no better place to finish the marathon than at Tipitina’s Uptown, where Ivan Neville and Dumpstaphunk closed out a hectic Jazz Fest weekend with a guest-heavy jam. Several artists in town for their own gigs stopped by for a final jam including George Porter, Jr., June Yamaguchi, Matt Grondin, Cyril Neville, Eric Krasno, Adam Deitch, E.D. Coomes, Nigel Hall, Terence Blanchard, Efrem Townes and Warren Haynes, who showed up after playing with PBS at the Howlin’ Wolf earlier.
The material was all over the map, including a smoky, bluesy cover of The Rolling Stones’ classic “Miss You.” Haynes lent his strum to a cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son.” As the end drew near, it was fitting that the same NOLA/NYC mob was onstage slamming for one last time. Ivan asked, “Is Deitch too drunk to play?” After a few seconds, 40 oz in hand, the Jedi appeared, swaying tipsy but in full effect. No matter how imbibed, a lead foot is a lead foot, and Deitch put it down. A Herbie Hancock workout ensued, circa Thrust, tight as can be. We skanked our way toward the dawn and back into the normal woodwork of life, at least until next year.
JamBase | New Orleans
Go See Live Music!