and all that Jazz …

The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival celebrated 39 years this past month and returned to its normal seven days of music and entertainment lineup – a first since Katrina and a very big deal to the locals. 

The Festival is the source of $300 million dollars to the city’s economy, as jazz enthusiasts travel from all corners of the globe to attend this two week celebration. People bring with them a rich appreciation for community and a love for music that transcends the festival’s fairgrounds.

I knew very little about what to expect when I arrived; for a first timer, I was a bit naive. But when I walked onto the grounds, I brought with me a genuine love for live music, and at a festival like this … that’s all that matters.

May 2, 2008 

Throngs of jovial musics lovers (enough to populate a small city) crowded the entrance gates. Storm clouds overhead threatened to dump on this day of the second weekend yet no one seemed to care. The ominous forecast didn’t stand in anyone’s way of having a grand ole’ time, even if it meant tracking through sticky grass and wet mud. 

Soon after my ticket stub was counted, I stumbled into one of the Festival’s many side attractions — a parade featuring the Scene Booster and Old N Nu Fellas Social Aid and Pleasure Club. Crazy booty shaking and dancing ensued. I couldn’t believe how fast some of the dancers could move their bodies. It looked unreal. 

With my Festival guide and map in hand, I navigated to the Jazz and Heritage stage where the Pinette’s, an all female brass band, were taking to the stage. The lead singer/ trumpeter addressed the crowd and shared a story about how one club owner once gave them grief. “We … all … women!” she said. “Does that make a difference?!?” 

The crowd shouted an emphatic “NO!” at the same time Ms. Pinette lead the group in to what seemed like an endless jam session. They pumped the crowd, blew their horns and got everyone moving! 

It wasn’t long before I found the AIG Gospel Tent where a seat in the front row called out my name. Literally, I believe God opened up the front row for a reason. I don’t attend church on a regular basis, but something about Gospel music speaks to the very center my spirit.

On today’s line up was The Greater Antioch Full Gospel Baptist Church Music Ministry. Before long, this choir had me shouting Halleljuah’s left and right. I praised Jesus; I caught their Holy Spirit, and I looked on as the choir didn’t stop. They belted song after song after song with energy, passion and emotion. All members seemed to exhaust their vocal chords but then managed to become energized for the next verse and song.

Near the end of their set, they began a version of Alicia Key’s “No One,”  which I always thought was a song about her love for some guy. The choir’s pastor brought new meaning to the song when he revealed the lyrics to be about her relationship with God. (You can imagine what kind of “A-Ha!” moment I had! Looord!)

Stevie Wonder closed the day’s festivities, and naturally he drew the largest crowd. Hundreds of thousands of people crammed into an open field in front of the stage and then thousands more behind that. Flags blew in the wind as Stevie began the show and the rain began to fall.

I didn’t fear anything bad happening. “Not today,” I thought. “Because when the rain is pouring down, and my heart is hurting, you will always be around. This I know for certain.”

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12 thoughts on “and all that Jazz …

  1. Sigh… I missed Jazz Fest this year. My sister in New Orleans called daily with updates. Nothing is like being swept away in the Gospel tent. Or dancing in the mud while the flags fly. Thanks for taking me back there!

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  2. “Booty shakin” you say, handsome? I’m picturing that fine booty of yours shakin and it’s gettin all tingly down there.

    Keep on truckin, my fine booty boy.

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  3. Thanks for another entry. The images you conjured with the Gospel tent were great! I can’t imagine anyone not wanting to experience that after reading about your personal experience.

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  4. “Because when the rain is pouring down, and my heart is hurting, you will always be around. This I know for certain.”
    Beautiful

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  5. And all that JAZZZZZZZZZ. stuck in my head now, thanks a lot! 🙂

    do you mind if i link to you from my blog, so my friends can check this out?

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  6. Oh My God! I could almost smell the Crawfish Bread & the gumbo after reading your post!

    My first Jazz Fest was in 1990. I attended every year until Katrina struck and forced me to move to Houston.

    The gospel tent was one of my favorites too! A great place to sit & cool off and enjoy a spiritual experience with a cold one! (Gotta love New Orleans…)

    The biggest highlight for me every year was seeing The Neville Brothers close the festival on the last Sunday evening. They are pure magic on stage and I’m proud to call them frends. Hope you got to see them, since they played the Jazz Fest for the first time since Katrina – it was a BIG deal.

    I miss Jazz Fest. The music…the mud…the people…the food…the feeling I’d get in my gut when we’d make our way into the gates…..I miss that. All the locals have shoes for particular occasions: the French Quarter/Mardi Gras shoes; the Jazz Fest shoes; and your regular shoes. Now you know why.

    So glad you had a chance to experience Jazz Fest. Now, go and book your reservations for next year!

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  7. Now THAT’s the Ryan I knew from Ross’s blogs. I have to admit I was a tad turned off by the tone of some of those first posts. Not by the observations (you saw those people, and you observed their appearances and their mannerisms, that was real) but the tone that came across as you described them. Based on many of the comments I read, many others agreed, or had the same reaction that I did. I have to hope that your intention was to share what you saw with some kind of humor? It truly displays the power of the written word, right? And the way you can soften those words with vocal inflections, facial expressions, etc… But those aren’t available when reading your blog so I’m guessing we may have missed something in the translation. HOWEVER, your descriptions of what you saw in New Orleans are wonderful. I’ve never had the privilige of visiting that great city, but through you, your words, and the images you posted I feel like I’ve got an idea of what it might be like to walk down those city streets. Bravo, Ryan! My faith has been restored, and I’ll definitely be back for more.

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  8. Glory Glory. I have been swept up in the energy of a gospel tent. I was throwing my arms up in the air as if I didn’t care. Thanks for bringing back those memories. Keep on Bloggin’, Ryan. You rock.

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