The Jazz and Heritage Festival continues in the Crescent City by Andy J Gordon
The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival takes place over two consecutive, long weekends. After several cancellations and delays, the 2022 festival fortunately occured April 29 to May 1 and May 5-8. Once the festival ended each day at about 7PM, the clubs around town filled up for special shows, often one-off all-star jam sessions. The second weekend of nighttime shows continued the pattern that developed during the first weekend – clubs filled up with festers desperate for more live music that filled the air late into the night and early mornings.
We went to several of the most popular nightclub shows during the second Jazz Fest weekend and wore out our dancing shoes as we ignored the need for sleep. Here are the highlights:
- Take Me To The River: New Orleans is a new documentary by Martin Shore who made a similar film about the music of Memphis in 2014. The new film features several of New Orleans’ iconic musicians in an exploration of the history of the area and it’s musical landscape. On May 5, several of those artists got together for a Take Me To The River Allstars show at the local House of Blues.
The Dirty Dozen Brass Band opened the show. They performed a few of their incredible tunes with impeccable brass arrangements as well as the regional standard “Little Liza Jane.” Their short set transitioned into an all-star jam with Dumpstaphunk’s Ivan Neville, Galactic’s Robert Mercurio and Anjelika “Jelly” Joseph, Dr. John’s Joe Ashlar, North Mississippi Allstars’ Luther and Cody Dickinson, The Meters’ George Porter, Jr. and Big Chief Monk Boudreaux. The group played super funky versions of songs that were popularized by New Orleans legends as well as the current artists. Songs like “Firewater,” “Hey Pocky A Way,” “Yes We Can,” “Hercules” and “Take Me To the River” had the crowd dancing and swinging.
- Down by the Mississippi river, inside Harrah’s casino, the modern Fillmore hosted Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe doing a special David Bowie tribute show. Denson has been the Rolling Stones saxophone player since 2014, was with Lenny Kravitz before that and in addition to leading KDTU, he also plays with the Greyboy Allstars. Denson brought along Stones backup singer Bernard Fowler to help out with the Bowie set.
The band did excellent versions of Bowie’s classics like “Ashes To Ashes,” “Fame,” “Station To Station,” “Young Americans” and “Golden Years.” Fowler did a remarkable job of vocalizing like Bowie while Denson handled some of the singing and harmonizing when not belting out funky saxophone and flute solos. Guitarists Ricky Giordano and DJ Williams recreated the Bowie sound with precision.
- We went back to The Fillmore the next night for a monster triple bill. Samantha Fish, Tab Benoit and Devon Allman Project played separate sets of blues, rock and soul tunes. Fish opened the show with “Bulletproof” using her crowd favorite, cigar box guitar. Her powerful vocals and rapid fire solos set the tone for the all too short set. She showed off her finger picking and slide techniques on “Better Be Lonely” and “Watch It Die.”
Tab Benoit followed with a set that started with fast bayou blues and never slowed down. “We Make a Good Gumbo” ripped as did “Nice and Warm.” Benoit threw a curveball on one of his more recent songs called “Medicine.” He usually plays without any foot pedals or effects, but he rearranged the song and added some strikingly distorted guitar solos to his repertoire.
- The Devon Allman Project was the headliner, but you could not tell that from the crowd – many shockingly departed after the Benoit set. They missed out because Allman and his band put on a scorching performance. This show was originally billed as Allman Betts Band doing an Allman Family Revival show, however the Allman Betts Band announced a hiatus in early 2022. Devon Allman reconfigured his Project band for the subsequent tour dates including the one at The Fillmore.
Devon Allman’s “Fired Up,” “Sahara” and “Down To The River” featured his husky vocals along with dynamic interplay between Allman and second guitarist Jackson Stokes. He sang a sweet version of The Spinners’ “I’ll Be Around” before finally satisfying the crowd’s desire for some Allman Brothers classics. The band ended the set with a creative, lengthy and enjoyable version of “Dreams.” For the encore, Allman invited Little Feat’s Paul Tackett to the stage for a raucous version of “Midnight Rider.”
- The last day of Jazz Fest is always a time for reflection, thinking about the shows that have impressed and amazed. That night, the clubs in town try to draw the big crowds before they drive and fly home. Tipitina’s has been booking Dumpstaphunk for that second Sunday after Jazz Fest show for years and the band has always delivered with a monster performance. On May 8, they did not let anyone down.
The band invited Samantha Fish to join them for a few songs but first they had to show why they are the reigning heavy funk band of New Orleans. Ivan Neville led them through “Dancing to the Truth,” “Where Do We Go From Here,” “Do You” and “Livin ina World Gone Mad.” Bassists Tony Hall and Nick Daniels III helped out with the vocals, while their double bass attack had the house vibrating.
Fish joined the band and sang a sultry version of Neil Young’s “Down By the River.” Tony Hall took on one of the verses while Nick Daniels III and Ivan Neville provided sweet harmonies. Fish and Hall ended the song with an extended dual guitar solo. She also led the band on a sizzling version of her song “Faster.” The long night ended with covers of the Buddy Miles trippy blues anthem “United Nations Stomp” and Betty Davis’ “If I’m in Luck, I Might Get Picked Up.”
- The city clears out noticeably on the Monday after the festival ends. For the visitors that stay an extra day or two and those that closely follow the live music scene, a show at The Blue Nile on Frenchmen Street is the place to be that night. The Nth Power has booked their “Last Hoorah” show at the club the night after Jazz Fest ends (except during the pandemic) for about eight years. That irony is not lost on the friends, fellow musicians and in the know hipsters that made it to this year’s show.
They played many of the songs from their current album “Reverence” during the show. Cassarino pulled at everyone’s heart strings when he told the origin story of the song “Never Leave You Alone.” He wrote it while he was at a camp teaching music to underprivileged kids. During the second set, previous band members Courtney Smith and Weedie Braimah joined the trio. Also, one of their musician friends in the audience joined the band for a duet with Cassarino. Shira Elias, from the recently disbanded Turkuaz, showed off her pipes on “Only Love.” That put a cherry on top of the delicious sundae that was our last show in New Orleans.
The live music scene in The Big Easy is always hopping, but during Jazz Fest it goes into overdrive. The shows during the second weekend of the festival were a mix of local talent, out of town stars and creative mash ups. We cannot wait for next year’s festival when new, unique performances will take place at the clubs around the greatest music city in the world.
Photos courtesy of Andy J. Gordon ©2022 FB: andy.j.gordon1 IG: andyjgordon1
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