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Jazz Fest Second Weekend Picks

29th April 2013   ·   0 Comments

By Geraldine Wyckoff
Contributing Writer

This weekend’s four-day musical marathon that’s known as the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival (Thursday, May 2, through Sunday, May 5) takes some endurance, decision making and most importantly a sense of fun. Here are some hot picks at the Fair Grounds.

Thursday, May 2, 2013
National Fav: Roy Ayers, Jazz Tent, 5:40 p.m.
Roy Ayers, 72, brought the vibraphone to a new arena and audience when in the 1970s he moved from the jazz world to the R&B/funk fusion planet. Hit after hit like “Everybody Loves the Sunshine” filled the radio airwaves and the vibraphonist st and vocalist’s sound made its way into movie theaters when he wrote the music for 1973’s Coffy. As a musician and vocalist Ayers remains jazz-wise, smooth and funky.

Local Fav: McDonogh 35 High School Gospel Choir, Gospel Tent, 2:40 p.m. Through the years, the students change but this popular choir remains strong and spirited. It starts with an energetic leader and continues with the powerful soloists who step out from the ensemble. Innovative vocal arrangement and choreography make this a don’t-miss Gospel Tent set.

Local Fav: Fi Yi Yi & the Mandingo Warriors, Jazz & Heritage Stage, 2:50 p.m. Here’s a little lagniappe heads-up. Chief Victor Harris, the Spirit of Fi Yi Yi leads the Mandingo Warriors in traditional Mardi Gras Indian style for the opening of this set. Then the gang will be joined by some of this city’s finest jazzers including trombonist Delfeayo Marsalis, saxophonist Calvin Johnson, bassist David Pulphus and keyboardist Ronald Markham. It represents a taste of what can be heard on Fi Yi Yi’s just released EP.

Personal Fav: Kidd Jordan & the Improvisational Arts Quintet, Jazz Tent, 1:25 p.m. There’s always a gaping hole in the schedule when, like last year, Kidd Jordan isn’t booked at Jazz Fest. The highly regarded saxophonist and educator renowned around the world for his energized creative jazz blowing, lifts the tent with his imagination and intensity. He was recently recognized for his contributions by the Jazz Journalist Association’s Jazz Hero award.

Friday, May 3, 2013
National Fav: Jimmy Cliff, Congo Square, 5:40 p.m. Many people were introduced to reggae music by the 1972 film and/or soundtrack album, The Harder They Come. The tune, now one of many reggae anthems penned by Cliff, put the him squarely on the international scene. With his distinctive voice, Cliff delivered his classics like “Many Rivers to Cross,“ “You Can Get It If You Really Want” and many, many more. The legend continues as Cliff won a Grammy for his 2012 CD, Rebirth, that includes a remake of another of his smash hits, “World Is Turning Around.”

Local Fav: Irma Thomas, Gospel Tent, 4:40 p.m. The Soul Queen of New Orleans pays tribute to the Queen of Gospel, the late great Mahalia Jackson. Both, of course, were born in New Orleans and influenced by this city’s musical styles. It has been said that Thomas cites Jackson as one of her influences. Jackson always told folks that she got her heartfelt, “jazzy” style from her hometown.

Personal Fav: The Cookers, Jazz Tent 5:45 p.m. This is jazz performed by some of the most influential and involved musicians in the post-bop era. The names resonate like thunder in the jazz world – drummer Billy Hart, who worked with greats like Miles Davis, Eddie Harris and Herbie Hancock, the supremely influential bassist Cecil McBee, trumpeter Eddie Henderson, whose work as a leader and with Herbie Hancock excels, pianist George Cables who laid down the solid base for artists like Sonny Rollins and Freddie Hubbard, the forward thinking tenorist Billy Harper who added his brilliance to the piano of Randy Weston and trumpeter David Weiss the youngest of the group yet also extremely experienced on the scene. The Cooker’s second CD, Cast the First Stone, was released earlier this month. Wow!

Saturday, May 4, 2013
National Fav: Frank Ocean, Congo Square Stage, 5:25 p.m. Born in New Orleans, the vocalist first drew attention for his songwriting skills. He’s penned material for significant artists like Beyoncé and John Legend. Ocean, who moved to Los Angeles following Katrina, hit it big at the Grammys this year collecting the top award in the Best Urban Contemporary Album for his 2012 chart-topper, Orange Channel plus gaining a nomination for the tune, “Thinkin Bout You” from the CD.

Local Fav: The Johnson Extension, 5:05 p.m. followed by Rev. Jermaine Landrum & the Abundant Praise Revival Choir, 6 p.m. It’s all in the family for the final two sets in the Gospel Tent today. The Johnson Extension, led by New Orleans gospel mover and shaker Lois Dejean includes four generations from her clan. Next up, her grandson, Jermaine Landrum, directs the always stunning Abundant Praise Revival Choir – look for some more relatives among the vocalists.

Personal Fav: Terence Blanchard, Jazz Tent, 3:35 p.m. The trumpeter, composer, bandleader, educator and film scorer, who gained further prominence as director Spike Lee’s go-to man for providing the music for epics such as Malcolm X and When the Levees Broke, Blanchard continues to be a consummate jazz artist at heart. He’ll be blowing with the group heard on his brilliant latest release, Magnetic, on the Blue Note label. He teams with longtime collaborators saxophonist Brice Winston and the dynamic drummer Kendrick Scott and again with Cuban-born pianist Fabian Almazan, who debuted with Blanchard’s band on the trumpeter’s Grammy winning album, A Tale of God’s Will, plus newcomer, 21-year-old bassist Joshua Crumbly.

Sunday, May 5
National Fav: Maze featuring Frankie Beverly, Congo Square Stage, 5:20. New Orleans has had a love affair with Maze dating back to at least since 1980 when the R&B group recorded its album, Live in New Orleans, at the Saenger Theater. The rapture was rekindled when the band, led by the talented and unpretentious Beverly, would annually close the Essence Festival. Jazz Fest was quick to pick Maze up when that gig ended and now Maze caps off the music at Congo Square to close the event with endless line dancing to their classic “Joy and Pain.” Yes, it’s a “Golden Time of Day.”

Local Fav: Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, Acura Stage, 5:45 p.m. New Orleanians have watched Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews grow up physically and musically. Many still remember him carrying his ‘bone that seemed larger than the young kid himself. Through great support of his family, friends and fellow musicians, Shorty was able to combine his street sounds with a solid education at the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts (NOCCA) that helped land him at the coveted spot of closing out the festival on the Acura (Fess) Stage on the last day of Jazz Fest. Go Shorty.

Personal Fav: Aaron Neville, Gentilly Stage, 6 p.m. No longer a member of the Neville Brothers band that traditionally closed the Acura Stage on the Fest’s final Sunday, this year, Aaron performs at the other end of the Fair Grounds. He’ll undoubtedly apply his incredible voice to material from his wonderfully doo-wop drenched album, 2012’s My True Story, backed by a tight combo that includes his brother saxophonist Charles Neville.

Captured on CDs
Davell Crawford

My Gift to You
(Basin Street Records)

Davell Crawford hadn’t recorded an album in 14 years. That the vocalist and keyboardist begins this long-awaited CD so triumphantly with his self-penned anthem, “Creole Man,” makes an extremely strong statement. It says that he, a son of New Orleans and Louisiana, never left us. He’s been among us with his love and talent. It is a grandiose, celebratory song with immaculate arrangements and production that beckons one to rejoice and dance whether the day is sunny or gray.

Crawford finds so many different ways to pay tribute to his past, including time spent in southwest Louisiana, his present, that includes the yearning and the heartbreak that continues to prevail among the people following Katrina and the future that speaks of hope as heard on the medley of Allen Toussaint’s “Southern Nights” combined with Jimmy Cliff’s “Many Rivers to Cross.”

Heartfelt is a simple, yet apt word to describe the music and deep feelings delivered by Crawford on this album and there’s a surprise around every corner. “Junco Partner,” the James Booker classic, is totally revamped (thus the addition to the title, “Cud’in Joe) in a way that gives it entirely new feeling. It’s slowed down so much from the original upbeat version that it gains great empathy for the sorry state of the drug abuser. Crawford’s tremendous vocal reach adds an eerie aspect as do his oh, so New Orleans piano trills.

Crawford, the grandson of the late great James “Sugar Boy” Crawford, spent many days of his youth in southwest Louisiana. He has rarely shown those roots but does here on his self-penned, soulful waltz, “Don’t Ever Be Blue,” that includes the fiddle of noted Cajun accordionist and fiddler Steve Riley. Like many a good country-western tune, it pulls on the heartstrings.

That can be said for several of the songs on My Gift to You, an album that does not shy away from emotion. Whether Crawford is expressing a longing for a lover or a place, as heard on the ballad “Stranger in My Hometown, that builds to an impressive crescendo or the lovely “Until I See You In Awhile,” as a vocalist and instrumentalist he brings passion to every note, every word, every song.

Surrounded by family, including his cousin the remarkable Joe Dyson on drums and longtime friends and collaborators including bassist Mark Brooks, guitarist Detroit Brooks, percussionist Bill Summers and guests including vocalist/keyboardist Dr. John, saxophonist Donald Harrison Jr. and trumpeter Nicholas Payton, Crawford is and sounds like he is at home. It’s a place, particularly on the local Basin Street Records label, where he can relax, funk it up, elaborate and as always bring his gospel roots with him.

Davell Crawford’s My Gift to You is exactly that.
Davell Crawford performs at Congo Square on Saturday, May 4 at 3:40 p.m.
Disclosure: Geraldine Wyckoff wrote liner notes for this album.

Wayne Shorter
Without a Net
(Blue Note)

Jazz giant, Wayne Shorter put together this all-star dream team – pianist Danilo Perez, bassist John Patitucci and drummer Brian Blade – almost a dozen years ago. We were lucky enough to experience this ensemble at Jazz Fest 2010 and on Without a Net, an album recorded live during a 2011 European tour, the strength and magic continues.

Shorter, who turns 80 in August, relies on his golden pen and the trust between him and his musicians to accomplish feats of musical mastery that can stun and startle. He turns back the hands of time to open the disc with his tune, “Orbits,” that he recorded with the legendary Miles Davis Quintet on the trumpeter’s 1967 album Miles Smiles. Still so amazingly fresh, it tells a story of darkness and light with repeated flurries from Shorter’s soprano sax echoed by everyone involved.

“How do we rehearse the unexpected?” the renowned saxophonist rhetorically asked in a recent interview. He is determined to keep it in the moment and the moment is now. That sense brings a certain edgy anticipation to the music as heard on the group’s collaborated composition “Zero Gravity to the 10th Power.” Here Shorter picks up the tenor, the instrument he was most associated with through his earlier career until utilizing the soprano more often as co-leader of the jazz fusion band Weather Report. The song begins safely enough with the warm bass of Patitucci, the Latin-tinged interjections of Perez and Blade’s superbly intelligent and tasty drum work and then it just takes off – wham bam! Now that’s, as the title says, working Without a Net.

As a bit of a respite perhaps, the music become wonderfully breezy on “Flying Down to Rio,” a tune from the 1933 film. Much happiness prevails on this fanciful journey plus a sense of romance, intrigue and even danger. The huge talents of all involved make this so.

Without a Net is simply a superbly exciting album

Wayne Shorter with Danilo Perez, John Patitucci and Brian Blade will perform in the Jazz Tent on Sunday, May 5 at 4:05 p.m.

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