A Little More Pep in Their Steps

Music aficionados traveled from all over to world to attend the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Fest

By Ricky Ricardo
Published on LatinoLA: May 2, 2012

A Little More Pep in Their Steps

Spring is here. The days are getting longer,warmer and brighter. It is also a time for renewal and rejuvenation. This also means JazzFest in New Orleans. You probably wondered why your neighbors were dusting off their dancing shoes,walking around with a little more pep in their steps.They were likely to join millions heading to the Crescent City for the Nw Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival presented by Shell, for the sights, sounds and taste I look forward to indulge, or might I say, over indulge in Louisiana cuisine while in the city.

This year also marks the Bicentennial of Louisiana statehood.Celebrations are taking place all over the state.

I jump started my enjoyment of JazzFest with a free concert in Congo Square in Louis Armstrong Park. This is a great way for me to enjoy the city and JazzFest by partaking in a concert,where music was created and that gave birth to jazz and many other forms of music. People United for Armstrong Park presented the first annual Jazz in the Park-"Treme Music Series" produced by NOSACONN in partnership with Beaucoup Entertainment & Loisirs Lit.

I was able to attend the concert on April 26, featuring David Baptiste and Sons and Kermit Ruffins. The show got under way with the funky grooves of The Baptiste Family with Russell Baptiste on drums keeping time.He invited two special guest onstage for a funkier set of tunes.The guests included Leo Nocentelli-guitar and Bill "The Buddha" Dickens-featured on bass.The show continued with a song by the "Soulman of Bourbon Street"-Lionel Talbert singing "Soulman".Trumpeter Kermit Ruffins closed out the show as only Kermit can do. The crowd and I left the park looking forward to a wonderful JazzFest.

I kicked off JazzFest by attending the 5th Annual Sync-Up Conference.This year's edition kicked it up a notch by adding several movies to the conference.Conference attendees and I were once again educated during the informative seminars,engaged during the Q&A section and entertained with the movies selected that were screened at the New Orleans Museum of Art after the first weekend of JazzFest.

I was able to only attend the first weekend of JazzFest.Each year, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival presented by Shell serve up an eclectic plethora of music for a diverse crowd of music aficionados who travel from over the world to be in New Orleans.


Conga Square Stage featured a diverse line-up of World Music. Fredy Omar Con Su Band got the engines in motion with their high-octane set of Latin tunes, salsa, cha-cha-cha,boleros and merengue. Fredy Omar (pictured) from Honduras has been crowned "Latin King of Frenchmen Street". His set got the dancers in motion. Their set featured the tunes "La Vampirita," "El Tren," "Ojos Verdes," and concluded with "Como Tu Ritmo;No Hay Dos."

Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 is currently touring in support of his latest CD From African With Fury:Rise.The band turned the Congo Square stage into the famous Shrine,a popular club frequented by his father. Seun is making a huge name and leaving a larger impression on everyone on his successful tour.He is leading Egypt 80,a band fronted by his dad, FELA. Seun came out blazing on his saxophone with plenty of intensity and passion. His lyrics are social,and conscious raising addressing injustices in Nigeria and the world. He performed "Zombie" a tune performed by his father, "Mr.Big Chief," "The Good Leaf," and "You Can Run." that worked the crowd into a dance frenzy.

Ivoire Spectacle featuring Seguenon Kone from Senegal took the crowd and I on a musical journey thru West Africa. The dancers were vibrant and colorful and the syncopated rhythms were pulsating and infectious. This lively set took place on the Jazz Heritage Stage.

Los Angeles based conguero Poncho Sanchez and Terence Blanchard continued our musical adventure to the Tropicana Club in Cuba in the Zatarain's WWOZ Jazz Tent. Cubano Be,Cubano Bop paid homage to Dizzy Gillespie and Chano Pozo. The band laid down some simmering Latin grooves that make your body move.

Traditional Dance by Asociacion de Peruanos en Louisiana were another delight to enjoy in the Kid's Tent. They performed the following dances:Carnaval de Arequipa, Pittita-celebration of life performed by kids,Peru Zumba,Valicha,and a Dynamic Finale.

Cheikh Lo of Senegal alternating between guitar and timbales played a high voltage set of original tunes from his lates CD.Steel Pulse followed with an enormously entertaining set of grooven reggae. Their lyrics also address injustices and raises the consciousness of the public.

Los PoBoy Citos set the Gentilly Stage abuzz with a soulful set of boogaloo drenched in tabasco sauce. This tight band from New Oleans recently was awarded The Best Latin Band Award at the Big Easy Awards Show. The band consist of Dave Greengold-vocals and congas, Jason Brettel-drums, Gabriel Velasco-timbales/bongos, Dan Cutler-bass, Matt Sakekenny-guitar, Jack Pritchell-trumpet, Luke Hudleston-trombone, Jacob Leland-sax. I was fortunate to listen to their crowd pleasing set that featured the tunes "Dollar Bill," "Migaella" by Tito Rodriguez, Fat Mama; Come Dance with Me" with a few bars of "Mother-in-Law," "Dance With Me(Bailar Conmigo), and a tune which I considered summarizes their set "Their Cooking."

Bill Summers and Jazalsa raised the temperatures on the Jazz Heritage Stage with a spicy set of salsa which got the crowd dancing for the next 45 minutes. The crowd were dancing to the following tunes "Stop Watch," "Manteca" by Dizzy Gillespie,"Oye Como Va," "El Quarto de Tula," "Foforro," and concluded their set with a bang with "Sin Control."

Debo Band Ethiopian Collective Groove Collective propelled the Jazz Heritage Stage even more so with their tight set which featured the following tunes "Gedawo," "Belomi Benna," "And Lay," "Ney Ney Weleba," from a soon to be CD and "Lantchi Biye." The group rushed over to see Bruce Springsteen on the Acura Stage after their set.


With respect to Willie Dixon, Little Milton and Joe Bonamassa and BluesAlholics,etc. Thousands patiently gathered in the cavernous Blues Tent for their hourly timed released dose of blues. This is just what the good doctor ordered.Since their is no cure, nor recovery, blues aficionados have realized that the blues is a fact of life,they also know the meaning of the blues. When the blues comes knocking; they have learned to open the door and let them in.

Pianist Henry Gray & the Cats played a wonderful set in the Blues Tent. Mr. Gray is a veteran pianist of Muddy Waters group from back in the day.I was fortunate to see and hear Brother Tyrone as he delivered a soulful set of blues for the crowd and I.Their amazing set featured the tunes "New Millenium Blues," "If You Ain't Cheating;You Ain't Trying,"When It is Gone; It is Gone," "Love Brought Me Back," and "I'm a Blues Man."

Vocalist, guitarist and harmonica player Bobby Rush set was fun,entertaining and engaging with a huge dose of double entendre lyrics and complimented with some mutually appealing dancers.

Grammy Award winning group Carolina Chocolate Drops continues to mesmerize audiences at each and every venue that they perform in.This group could easily have played in the Blues Tent or all over the festival for their sensational sounds of blues, bluegrass, folk music and old time spirituals.This was easily the highlight of jazzfest as they played material of the North Carolina Piedmont area.Their set featured "Black Annie," "Don't Get Trouble in your Mind," "Boodle de Bum Bum," "No Man's Mama," and "Going Down the Road Feeling Bad." Check out their latest CD Leaving Eden and the other CD's in their catalog.

Blues lovers and I were thoroughly entertained by Jeremy Lyons and Members of Morphine, Ernie Vincent & The Top Notes, Corey Harris and Phil Wiggins (another one of my favorites sets, Iron Board Sam and a scorching set by Gary Clark Jr. who set the Blues Tent ablaze.


The Gospel Tent and Congo Square Stage found the audience cheering with gladness,singing praises and giving thanks for the Lord's goodness.Gospel vocalist Yolanda Adams delivered an inspiring set of tunes of encouragement and empowernmen on the Congo Square Stage.Israel Houghton and New Breed had the crowd up on the feet rejoicing in the Gospel Tent.


The Blue Eyes Soul Revue backed up some New Orleans R&B,Soul legends on the Acura Stage.They warmed up the crowd with some popular tunes by other legends with "Who Shot the LA LA," "I've Done Got Over You," "Groove With Me Baby," and "Mother-in-Law." The stars of the show came out to showcased their hits.
Al "Carnaval Time" Johnson sang "Over and Over," "The Hoochie Coo," "Mardi Gras," "Ain't That A Shame and closed out with "Carnaval Time."

Robert "Barefootin' Parker took the stage next to perform "They Call Mr.Beauty Parlor," "Do The Funky Chicken," "Country Side Life," "Let's Go Where The Action Is," "I Want Security," and concluded with "Barefootin."

Frankie Ford capped off an awesome show with some of his classic tunes with an equal share of hilarious jokes in between tunes.

Cee Lo Green took a break from his duties on The Voice to share his unique vocal stylings on the tunes "Let's Dance," "Crazy," and "Forget You," on the Congo Square Stage.Vocalist Janelle Monae brought the house down during her thrilling set on the Gentilly Stage.Al Green brought some timeless hits from Memphis to share wit the crowd on "Let's Get Married," "I Can't Get Next To You," and "Let's Stay Together.

It was appropriate to conclude my visit to the Crescent City of New Orleans celebrating International Jazz Day in a sunrise concert at Congo Square in Louis Armstrong Park,in historic Faubourg Treme.The All-Star concert featured performances by Herbie Hancock, Terence Blanchard, Stephanie Jordan, Ellis Marsalis, Kermit Ruffins, Treme Brass Band, Jeff "Tain" Watts, and Dr.Michael White.

About Ricky Ricardo:
Ricky Ricardo is a Southern California based writer, music reviewer and photographer who writes about Latin and World Music.
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