New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival Blog

Wednesday, May 2

By Alicia

Street Corner Musicians
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Had a very slow start, visited with some pals in the Uptown area, tried to find a free music festival on Frenchmen St. that had Willie Nelson’s imprimatur and a solar-powered stage but the musicians, like us, were beat.  As of mid-way through the festival’s schedule, only 1 band had played.
So K and I actually went home and took a well-deserved nap while Andras prowled the French Quarter for photos.

We attended the free concert in Lafayette Square park – which occurs every Wednesday from April through June.
Marcia Ball traditionally plays one of the Wednesdays during Jazzfest and that’s who we got.  I’ve seen her enough that she doesn’t do much for me anymore.  But the scene at the Square is great – arts and food and beer and daquiris and lots of people seeing each other for the first time in a year – it’s kind of a reunion spot.

The absolute highlight of the day was the Ponderosa Stomp.
This mini-festival celebrates relatively obscure roots rock, blues, R&B, rockabilly and other Americana.  It was started by Dr. Ike Padnos six years ago as a way to celebrate and highlight some of the people who’ve been pioneers of American music  (for more on this, » listen to a story on NPR’s All Things Considered on May 2).

The Stomp was held at House of Blues this year (having moved from Rock N Bowl).  For $40, you got about 25 acts playing on three stages throughout the club. It’s a real hipster scene with music geeks and lots of musicians – I ran into several I knew who weren’t playing or who had a side gig, including sax player Derek Huston, band leader Paul Cebar, and Jon Cleary, who blew ‘em all away twice at the festival last weekend – once on his own at the Acura Stage and once as part of his regular gig with Bonnie Raitt.

Little Jimmy Scott - Ponderosa Stomp
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Some highlights for me were Little Jimmy Scott, an 83-year-old soprano and traditional jazz vocalist who got his start back in the 1940s and sang with Lionel Hampton, Charlie Parker, and Ray Charles.  He faded into obscurity in the 1960s and was rediscovered, working as a janitor.
There have been books and a documentary about him and he’s a favorite of David Lynch’s, who has included Jimmy Scott singing on some of his films’ soundtracks.

Kenny Brown & Bobby Rush
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Dan Penn also appeared.  He has written hits for Percy Sledge, Solomon Burke, Bobby Womack, Aretha Franklin, Bobby Bare, Charlie Rich, Otis Redding, Conway Twitty.  Etc etc.
Many of you may know “the Dark End of the Street,” which I think was on the Commitments soundtrack, or “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man,” by Aretha.  Anyway, it was just him on guitar and Dave Emmons on keyboards (played the keys for Elvis Presley and others).

Roky EricksonI was not terribly impressed with Roky Erickson, the critics’ darling who used to front the obscure 13th Floor Elevators.  It was good and the packed house was enraptured with the psychedelic-punk-abilly.  Rockie Charles was great (a blues vocalist who sounds a bit like Al Green).  Chicago dirty bluesman and storyteller Bobby Rush was fantastic! As was Little Freddie King, New Orleans’ own boogie-chillun bluesman.  I missed Dale Hawkins (Suzy Q was his big hit) backed by surf-a-billy guitarist extraordinaire Deke Dickerson.

The evening ended on a high note for us as we threw down to the funky sounds of Willie Tee on Hammond B-3, backed by a powerful horn section, and by Buckwheat Zydeco on piano, and Alfred Uganda Roberts on drums.  My very expert friend English Chris tells me that Roberts is the last living true link to Cuba here.

The mixing pot of New Orleans and Louisiana was alive and well at the Stomp!

Al Johnson
» Click HERE to view image interactively - Al Johnson



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