Monday, May 06, 2013

US road trip: perfect final day at Jazz Fest

Yesterday was a beautifully sunny but cool one for the final day of Jazz Fest and the line up was a celebration of most of the remaining New Orleans R and B greats. This may be the last time I go to Jazz Fest and if so I went out on a high.
First, though, to Friday night when we returned to One Eyed Jacks to see soul/funk sensation Lee Fields and the Expressions. The others were dubious, not being great soul fans, but he didn't disappoint, with a dynamic set which got better and better as it went on. This guy is a cross between Otis Redding and James Brown and brings real excitement with his polished act.
Next day it was off to Jazz Fest again, beginning with a few minutes of the king of Cajun music D L Menard. Then it was off to the Gentilly Stage for the classic R and B revue, starting off with Frankie Ford. Frankie looked frail but was dressed to kill in a yellow suit and cap along with his trademark black and white piano key scarf. He did gentle versions of his biggest hits, Roberta and Sea Cruise, along with Rockin' Pneumonia, For Your Love and Whisky Heaven. Great to see him still performing. The same could be said of Al 'Carnival Time' Johnson, who was just released a new album called After Carnival. He was in good voice on half a dozen numbers, including Just Because, Hello Josephine, Hello My Lover and his big hit. Next on was Clarence 'Frogman' Henry, coming on stage with a zimmer frame, who sounded great on But I Do and Ain't Got No Home. Finally, in this set, it was the turn of Robert Parker, aged 83, who looked sharp and sang well on Mr Pitiful, Funky Chicken and his big hit Barefootin'.Later we caught an interview with him and I hadn't realised what a central figure he was in New Orleans R and B, playing sax, for example, on Sea Cruise and Carnival Time.
I stayed at the same stage for another legend, the soul queen of New Orleans Irma Thomas. She never looks a day older and her voice was as strong as ever in a set which included several excellent newer numbers, including Let It Be Me and Your Promise, as well as old favourites such as Don't Mess With My Man, It's Rainin', Done Got Over It and Wish Someone Would Care. Her final number, Forever Young, brought a lump to my throat as I recalled the many times I've seen Irma at the never to be forgotten Lion's Den club.
After a quick look at Jeffrey Osborne, who sounded excellent on On The Wings Of Love, I stopped in to look at Walter Wolfman Washington in the Blues Tent before retuning to the Gentilly Stage for what was the highlight of this or any other Jazz Fest - a solo set by Aaron Neville, backed by his brother Charles' quintet. Aaron has the voice of an angel and his choice of material was superb, ranging from tracks on his new doowop album such as My True Story (the title track), This Magic Moment, Fever, Money and Work With Me Annie, to older tracks such as Bird On A Wire, Everybody Plays The Fool, Hercules (a duet with Jason Neville) and Tell It Like It Is. There was also It's Alright,, a spine-tingling A Change Is Gonna Come, brother Charles on Besame Mucho, culminating in Amazing Grace, Goodnight Sweetheart and even a bit of the Mickey Mouse Club song. Aaron has the greatest voice of anyone alive on the planet and this was one hell of a set. Just fantastic. After that, anything more musically would have been a let down so the evening was spent in the Carrollton Station bar.
It's back home tomorrow, after we meet up with fellow Woodies later today, and there have been many highlights. I've taken loads of photos and will put some of them on the blog and on Facebook when I get back. But we had one piece of bad news yesterday: it seems that the police in Bessemer closed down Gip's Place on Saturday mid-show. The blues world is in uproar and so are we. The place has been going for over 60 years and is the only reason anyone would want to go to Bessemer, Alabama. There is a campaign to have it reopened: join it!
Nick Cobban.


At 3:30 am , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello. And Bye.

At 10:06 pm , Blogger Nick said...

I've been coming to Jazz Fest since 1989. Hopefully I will return some day.


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