I was the first one up after obtaining maybe five hours of sleep, and I quickly rushed back off to the fairgrounds. It would have been nice to get more sleep, but I didn't want to miss Delfayo Marsalis. The skies were still overcast and threatening rain, and it misted throughout the day. But, in a great gift from the music gods, it didn't actually rain until about 20 minutes after the end of the festival.
The tent was packed for this 1:35 pm set and rightfully so, as the trombone ace from New Orleans' first family of jazz led a 15-piece horn section through a set of swinging jazz numbers with a classic and classy vibe. Younger brother Jason Marsalis played drums and the set featured one crowd-pleasing number after another, with round after round of applause. This was the best jazz set of the weekend in this reporter's view.
Pianist Ellis Marsalis followed his son's group with his own quartet for another great set, again featuring Jason Marsalis on drums. The songs were a little more subdued than Delfayo's set, but the playing continued to sparkle. Jason delivered a stellar drum solo during one tune that won a huge round of applause, while all the band members soloed with great skill on a superb reading of “My Favorite Things.” It's too bad that Wynton and Branford couldn't be summoned for an all-Marsalis family jam, but getting to see Delfayo and Ellis in succession with Jason was another great Jazzfest treat.
Jack White led his new group on drums in a hot set before a big crowd in the mist at the Gentilly Stage. White is a snappy drummer and every project he's involved in oozes the blues, but the Dead Weather mix that old school blues vibe with a heavy indie rock sound that is just plain tantalizing thanks to lead vocalist Allison Mosshart. The former singer of the Kills appeared as some sort of dark, avenging angel, and she captivated the crowd on every tune. The new “Hustle and Cuss” featured a groovy syncopation that went over well. The set peaked with “Treat Me Like Your Mother” from the band's first album, a flat-out bad-ass rocker that saw the energy soar as Mosshart owned the stage. White also played guitar on one tune, treating fans to some of his bluesy shredding, before he and Mosshart sang a duet on a slow, dark simmering blues to end the set in haunting yet breathtaking fashion.
I never would have found this hidden gem of a stage inside the racetrack concourse if a friend hadn't pointed it out, and I was glad he did. It's one of the most intimate stages, but easy to miss if you don't venture into the concourse. It's got a little courtyard with the stage in the center and Los Po-Boy-Citos were funking it up in a big way. You could take advantage of seats to relax, or dance in the middle of the courtyard as many fans did.
This was a highly anticipated set for anyone who is a fan of the sax legend's seminal work with Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers and with Miles Davis on several mid-‘60s classic albums like and . It was a tough call for funk fans since the Neville Brothers were on the main stage at the same time in the festival's final time slot, but I'd never seen Shorter before so I had to check some of this out. The quartet features Brian Blade, John Patitucci and Danilo Perez, and is surely a great unit. But it seemed liked it was taking them a while to warm up, as the first 20 minutes of the set were of a slow, ambient variety. If this had been in another time slot I probably would have stayed. But I was still feeling energized from the epic Galactic show the night before and felt like some high-energy music was necessary to close out the fest. I also wanted to see Cyrille Neville again, so I made my way over to the main stage.
The New Orleans legends were funking it up to a big crowd on the classic “Iko-Iko” when I arrived, with Cyril Neville leading the way on vocals and percussion. “Hey Pocky Way” and “Fiyo on the Bayou” kept the funky good times rolling, as the band of brothers did their best to pump up the crowd on what was now becoming a dreary day. The band was rocking, although they definitely were not approaching the energy that Galactic had been putting out. These guys are all over 60, however, and their voices still sound great. But I definitely felt blessed to have caught Cyril Neville doing his thing with a backing band like Galactic the night before.
A friend advised that I catch some of the Wild Magnolias at the smaller stage that had featured brass bands all weekend, saying that the group was a great one to close out the festival with. After a while I decided to take a look.
This band of Mardis Gras Indians was funking it up big time with a high energy sound that had the crowd moving and grooving. With their elaborate costumes and funky sounds, it was plain to see why this group is considered a local classic. It was amazing to think that all this music was going on at the same time – not just Wayne Shorter, the Neville Brothers and Wild Magnolias, but also the Radiators, B.B. King and Richie Havens as well. So much music, so little time.
I'd been to New Orleans before, but never for Jazzfest, which caused me to fall in love with the Big Easy all over again. There's no doubt that Jazzfest is one of the greatest music events in the world, at least comparable with any other festival. Many would argue that Jazzfest is the greatest festival of all and it's definitely something that any serious music fan should make a point to experience. Viva New Orleans!