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Halloween at Voodoo Fest – A Local View of Voodoo

26th October 2015   ·   0 Comments

By Geraldine Wyckoff
Contributing Writer

“My kids are getting excited about me being on the show there,” says Grammy-winning, New Orleans trumpeter and composer Terence Blanchard. Primarily considered a jazz artist, Blanchard has never played nor attended the Voodoo Music +Arts Experience, commonly known as Voodoo Fest (October 30 – November 1, 2015). His appearance at Voodoo at 4:15 pm on Saturday, October 31, which features his electrified E-Collective ensemble, could certainly be considered the most unexpected addition to this year’s line-up. Throughout its history, the event has relied, to a great extent, on popular electronic, jam, punk rock, hip hop, alternative and heavy metal groups to draw young audiences to its City Park festival locale.

“A lot of people are probably surprised I’m playing Voodoo Fest,” Blanchard says with a laugh.

“Voodoo Fest will be the first,” Blanchard says as he looks ahead to perform at other such alternative events. “I’m excited because it marks a shift musically and professionally.”

Blanchard and E-Collective will perform music from the trumpeter’s latest Blue Note album, Breathless. It was inspired in part by the “I Can’t Breathe” campaign that began following the strangling of Eric Garner by a New York City police officer. The trumpeter composed many of these works to express his frustration and anger at the treatment, abuse and death of Black people at the hands of the police.

For this outing, the Collective will include New Orleans bassist Donald Ramsey and drummer Oscar Seaton, both of whom are heard on the disc, and keyboardist Taylor Eigsti and another New Orleans native, guitarist Davey Mooney.

Though Blanchard may find himself a stranger in a strange land at Voodoo Fest, much of the music from the stylistically multi-faceted, electronically enhanced music from Breathless should find an appreciative audience.

Blanchard has mentioned that his work with E-Collective on Breathless has been compared to trumpet legend Miles Davis’ influential album Bitches Brew as well as hard core rockers, Nirvana.

Though Breathless does offer some quieter moments, Blanchard expects that – because this is Voodoo Fest after all—the band will only offer only one of its beautiful ballads. Unfortunately, New Orleans own vocalist PJ Morton, who contributes greatly to the CD, won’t be joining the group as he’s busy with his solo career.

“I’m looking forward to playing Voodoo Fest because it’s at City Park,” says Blanchard. “I think the last time I played a concert in the park was during the JVC Jazz Festival years.”

Mike Dillon Mallets and More Mania

Vibraphonist, drummer, composer and vocalist Mike Dillon is no stranger to Voodoo Fest. The eclectic musician, who moved to New Orleans in 2006, performed at the fall event with a long list of artists including a group with saxophonists Kidd Jordan and Skerik, bassist George Porter and drummer Johnny Vidacovich. Though he’s acted as a sideman at Voodoo with the Karl Denizon’s Tiny Universe band, vocalist Teresa Anderson, the Revivalists, reedman Clint Maedgen and many more, on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. he’ll lead his own, wildly named group, Mike Dillon’s Punk Rock Percussion Consortium.

The 18-piece ensemble, which works mainly on Dillon’s compositions – taking it beyond a “drum circle” realm – is made up of some of the cream of New Orleans’ mallet- and stick-wielding rhythm masters. It includes percussionists such as Stanton Moore, Simon Lott, Brian Coogan, Doug Belote, Paul Thibodeaux, Otto Schrang, Michael Gourdon, Helen Gillet, Erin Walker, Steven Montago and Aria Zurich (the sole steel pan player) plus coming in from Berlin, is noted vibes/drummer Earl Harbin.

This is only the fourth performance by the Consortium that gave audiences a taste of the concept during Dillon’s residency at uptown’s Gasa Gasa club. The ensemble made its first, full-blown, knock-out appearance at last spring’s Bayou Boogaloo. Recently, the group journeyed across the lake to shake up those on the north shore.

“Now that we’ve done it, people are coming out of the woodwork wanting to join the band,” Dillon declares.

“The cool thing about this festival is that it is in City Park,” says Dillon, echoing Blanchard’s sentiments. He laments that the event no longer enjoys the distance between stages that its former site behind the Museum of Art provided before the festival moved, in 2013, to the parks newly installed Festival Grounds.

“Now is now and I’m glad they kept it goin’,” he comments philosophically. “I’m still looking forward to really getting out there and see if they’ve corrected some of the bleed problems. All festivals have bleed, we just got spoiled when they had everything spread out.”

“It’s still City Park, it’s still New Orleans and it’s a city festival. You don’t have to camp out and be all grotty like at Bonnaroo where it’s a full commitment.”

“It’s still one of my favorite festivals. I still believe in it—Halloween in New Orleans!” he adds with his usual enthusiasm.

“Bring people to percussion!” is Mike Dillon’s goal. “The focus is still high-energy, Mike Dillon’s music.”

“Prepare to have your jaws be sore from smiling,” he advises. “There’s a lot of joy on stage. The Consortium is really the sum of its parts.”

This article originally published in the October 26, 2015 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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