Months of preparation and anticipation, and just like that, the first weekend of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival is done.
Derek Douget's first set as a bandleader--
I first saw Derek play with Ellis Marsalis, then watched him come into his own as Maurice Brown's right hand man. His original material has some strong Ornette Coleman influence, but there's no getting around the New Orleans in his blood.
To describe Miss Bazzle as a New Orleans version of Sarah Vaughan or Ella Fitzgerald would be selling her short. You must experience her live to appreciate the whole package. She can break your heart with a smokey ballad like "Every Time We Say Goodbye" then knock you out with a scat-filled version of "When You're Smiling." This is all done with elegance, grace and a whole lotta New Orleans zing.
Mumford & Sons--
It was near impossible to get anywhere near the Gentilly Stage to see these very un-New Orleans guys from England. But, the strength of the debut, specifically the brilliant single "Little Lion Man," has turned this band into a phenomenon. From no closer than 300 yards away, I watched a sea of people jump and sway as Mumford & Sons, with their blend of The Pogues-meet-the-E-Street Band style of attack, turn the Fairgrounds into a giant pub. Sadly, I only had the patience for about 30 minutes of the 80 minute set, as the masses and the heat and the video screens beat me this time out.
Now on their 34th straight Jazz Fest appearance, this premier jazz ensemble featuring Tony Dagradi, Steve Masakowski, James Singleton, and drummer-extraordinaire John Vidacovich, never fail to bring the Jazz Tent to its feet with their completely original sound. Singleton is a martian on the bass. I don't think I have ever seen a player quite as original and unique.
What can I say about the Gospel Tent? You don't have to be a believer to be moved by the line-up of local talent, testifying and singing to the heavens. From solo singers, to choirs as large as 40 members deep, the performers can and often do, bring an entire audience to a fever pitch. And where else can you see New Orleans legend James "Sugarboy" Crawford (the man wrote "Iko-Iko," for Pete's sake) sing a hymn.