Beginning of Jazz Fest and other craziness

We are into the second weekend of Jazz Fest, and I still haven’t written anything about the first. Here’s the quick and dirty recap.

Last Thursday night, George Porter Jr and the Runnin’ Pardners kicked things off at Southport Hall. We don’t get to play together too often, but every time we do, it is a real treat. That night was extra special for some reason. Everyone was playing great, and we all had lots of fun. I’ve been playing with that band for 6 years or so now, and still at least once per gig George and Russell do something that is so bad that I have to put my horn down and laugh (or scream or something). It is nights like that, that remind me how lucky I am to do what I do.

Saturday was a totally new experience for me. I volunteered at one of the Jazz Fest beer tents (well they sell soft drinks too, but mostly beer). The Band Booster Club for my step son’s high school band works at this drink tent to raise money for the band. That’s a side of Jazz Fest that I hadn’t imagined, and it was fun. When you are at the Fairgrounds, be nice to those folks, they work hard. While hauling the 40 lb bags of ice was fun, the highlight of my beer tent time was working the station near the Fais Do Do Stage during the Del McCrory Band set. Those guys were SLAMMIN’.

Tuesday night, my quartet played at the Open Ears, and we had a great time. My old buddy Charlie Wooton was there and played a bit. He and I, and the Italian drummer Marcello Bennetti played a nice trio. Of course Ray, Dave, and Tommy sounded fabulous as always on the quartet stuff. There should be audio evidence on the Open Ears site…eventually.

Today, I was at the Fairgrounds, playing the Economy Hall tent with Ronnie Kole. I have to give some props to the sound crew in that tent. The stage sound was excellent, and people told me the front of house sounded good too. That’s not always a given at Jazz Fest, so thanks guys.

I caught a little bit of Kidd Jordan and Clyde Kerr with the Louis Armstrong Summer Jazz Camp Alumni Band. Kidd and Clyde have taught at that camp for years. It would have been cooler if Kidd would have had his own band. I understand that they want to show Kidd enough respect to have him play, and they aren’t brave enough to give him a whole set, but he is so much better in the right setting. He never plays halfway, so to stick him with a group that only halfway goes where he is going is lame. His set 2 years ago with Clyde, Alvin Fielder, William Parker, and Joel Futterman was great. I wish they’d program that again.

After our set, I caught a bit of the George Wein Newport All Stars. Besides Wein on piano, it was Randy Brecker, Anat Cohen, Howard Alden, Esperanza Spaulding, and Jimmy Cobb. They did mostly tunes that were not quite as old 40 years ago at the first jazz fest in New Orleans. I’d never heard Esperanza Spaulding on anything other than her record. She sounded good. Her bass playing was right there, and she sang “Prelude to a Kiss” with an anything but straight delivery. I had heard a lot about Anat Cohen, and heard a few recordings, but today was the first time I heard her live as well. I enjoyed what she played. Despite the safe repertoire, she didn’t stay in the safe spots.

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