Patti LaBelle, The Meters, Maze & More Highlights from Day 7 of the New Orleans Jazz Festival
"I’m not a musician, I’m a physician,” was how eminent percussionist Bill Summers put it during his Sunday afternoon set -- and with a week (or in some cases, two) of Jazz Fest behind them, the crowd certainly needed a cure. Or at the very least, a couple Advil.
To no one’s surprise, Summers and the rest of the New Orleans Jazz Fest’s seventh day of music (May 7) had the perfect prescription for fatigue and sore feet: lots of funk. From Trombone Shorty to The Meters to every brass band you can imagine, it was impossible not to grab a cool beverage and dance as the festival came to a close -- here are some of the highlights of Day 7 of the New Orleans Jazz Fest.
11:20 a.m.: It may have been before noon on a Sunday after most of Jazz Fest had just spent the past 48 to 72 hours doing New Orleans (and all the po-boys and daiquiris that entails), but Daymé Arocena wasn't going to let quiet her mood -- after being introduced by a vocoder riff from her pianist, she led the audience through an irresistible mix of jammy jazz and traditional Cuban songs. Her voice, rich and powerful, worked better than coffee.
1:07 p.m.: The litmus test of whether your friends’ New Orleans recommendations are good is easy: whether or not they mention the T.B.C. Brass Band. The group has a few weekly gigs around the city, and yet somehow every set and every song sounds like the most raucous and jubilant celebration you can imagine. Their performance at the festival was no different: joined by a couple brass players who appeared to be under five years old and wearing shirts to honor the late Deb Cotton -- a local writer and cultural advocate who died last week -- the group gave new meaning to the phrase joyful noise. Even Wendell Pierce was in the crowd dancing as the band played the classic hymn (and brass band favorite) “I’ll Fly Away.”
1:52 p.m.: The vibe was as cool as the mist coming from the ceiling during Ellis Marsalis' set (yes, that Marsalis -- father of Wynton, Branford, Delfeayo, and Jason) as he offered a mix of standards and slick originals that popped thanks to local young talent like saxophonist Derek Douget and trumpet player Ashlin Parker.
2:43 p.m.: Parker, as well as trumpet player Maurice Brown, headed over to the Jazz and Heritage stage for Bill Summers’ set -- their version of standard “A Night in Tunisia” came with about four different rhythmic variations, featured a dancer performing traditional African choreography, and ended with a four way brass duel -- great music that was also ridiculously fun.
3:26 p.m.: Drummer Jamison Ross, performing at the Jazz Tent, would have been an equally good fit over at the Gospel stage. His ridiculous drum chops aside, Ross has a beautiful voice -- his rendition of “We Shall Overcome” got a standing ovation.
3:50 p.m.: “Celine Dion did this, but don't get it twisted -- Patti did it first,” said the inimitable Patti LaBelle before performing her 1989 single “If You Asked Me To.” With an onstage chaise lounge, and while sporting a red sequined ensemble with matching red fan, LaBelle looked every part the diva (as is her right!). “Love, Need and Want You” got the same treatment: “Outkast did it, Kelly Rowland did it, but don’t get it twisted -- Patti did it first.”
4:30 p.m.: Lest you feel like festival sets are too impersonal, 80-year-old Buddy Guy has a solution: take the music to the people. On his song “Someone Else is Steppin' In (Slippin' Out, Slippin' In),” Guy paraded through the crowd shredding and singing in turn, before returning to the stage to play a guitar solo with his butt (really). Having the blues definitely doesn’t mean Guy also doesn’t know how to have a good time.
5:50 p.m.: The Meters, a bedrock band of funk, spotlighted legendary drummer Zigaboo Modeliste’s rolling shuffle -- the group’s extended jams formed the perfect spacey backdrop to the sound of about a thousand lighters flicking on various smokable substances. With Modeliste, each bar seems to take an hour and yet remains perfectly in time.
6:50 p.m.: There is only really one way to close out a festival in New Orleans, and the massive crowd at Maze featuring Frankie Beverly knew exactly what that was: “Before I Let Go,” two-step anthem and local favorite, which had thousands of people (many in white, like Frankie and the band), moving in time. Frankie’s voice may no longer exactly match the record, but with the whole crowd singing backup the sound was as sweet as ever.