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JAZZFEST ‘12
Written By: Tish Michel
*Click images below to view larger versions.
JAZZFEST ‘12
Fredy Omar con su Banda opening Jazz Fest act at Congo SquareStage. Note the fabulous background art work of the official Jazz Fest logo.
JAZZFEST ‘12
Big Chief Monk Boudreaux and 101 Runners. Monk is Big Chief of the Golden Eagles Mardi Gras Indians and member of the festival music production staff.
JAZZFEST ‘12
Stanton Moore and Anders Osborne at Louisiana Music Factory, always a favorite stop while visiting the Big Easy.
JAZZFEST ‘12

Editor’s note: article was written while author was in New Orleans

    Oh yes, it’s in the air and everyone in New Orleans is talking about it – yeah – it’s Jazz Fest time!  Jazz Fest Producer Quint Davis was just 22 years old when jazz pianist George Wein who confounded the Newport Jazz Festival in ’54, Newport Folk Festival in ’59 and infamous Monterey and Woodstock festivals in the late 60’s, began the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and hired Quint and Allison Minor as co-producers.  
    The greatest festival perhaps in the world celebrates its 43rd anniversary with more than 500 acts presenting a most diverse international musical lineup as well as showcasing N’awlins unique culture and cuisine. George Wein continues as Executive Producer and Quint Davis is Producer/Director of the fest.  This dynamic duo has been the heart and soul of the fest for 43 years. Quint’s Dad, Arthur Davis, also played an important part in Jazz Fest history.  Arthur Davis was a famous architect who designed the Superdome as well as many other famous landmarks in the Crescent City.  Arthur Davis came through with needed financial support in the early years of the fest and continued to support Quint and the Jazz & Heritage Foundation the rest of his life.  Arthur Davis died Nov. 30, 2011.
    So what is it about the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival that makes it the best in the U. S. and sets it apart from all the other music festivals? I don’t have words but anyone attending realizes the special feel of the fest. This is my seventh year as a Jazz Fest volunteer – what a great experience!  My long-time friend Mary Rose Whelley also volunteered at Jazz Fest this year and I was so delighted to once again share the Jazz Fest experience with her.
    I guess my biggest complaint about Jazz Fest is that no matter how hard I try, I just can’t catch all the great acts – it’s impossible. In addition to the best food and craft venders I’ve ever seen at a festival, there are ten main music stages plus a kids’ music tent and the Alison Minor Music Heritage stage where interviews are held with local and international favorites.  Want more, you say – throughout the day you can see Mardi Gras Indians and brass band parades throughout the fairgrounds.
    Each stage has five or six acts per day between 11:10am and 7pm. Let me start by telling you some of the acts I missed – Al Green, Cee Lo Green, Ne-Yo, Florence + the Machine, Dr. John, Zebra (Randy Jackson), The Beach Boys, Tom Petty, Feist, Soul Rebels, Cowboy Mouth, Janelle Monae, Marcia Ball, Zac Brown, Little Anthony & The Imperials, Allen Toussaint, Irma Thomas, My Morning Jacket, Foo Fighters, Neville Brothers, Kermit Ruffins. And I missed lots more talented folks, but that’s okay because I’ve either seen them before at Jazz Fest or will catch them sometime in the future.  
    The most well known acts are held at the three largest stages which are all out doors in the hot New Orleans sun. I tolerate the heat less well the older I get and spend most of my time in the tented areas. I did, however, catch some of The Boss – Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band – the first Sunday of Jazz Fest.  Bruce was the main act my friend Mary Rose wanted to see, so we were delighted when she was assigned to proctor the handicap area of the Acura stage during The Boss’s show.
    Let me share some Jazz Fest moments with you. Bruce Springsteen performed the first fest after Katrina in 2006 with the Seeger Sessions Band and gave the performance of a lifetime. I, of course, thought I’d seen him enough on TV and saw the Meters instead.  The Meters gave a great show but for the rest of Jazz Fest ’06, everyone I talked with said how fabulous the Springsteen show was. I mentioned this to a woman I shared a cab with from the Olivier House to the airport last year.  She and her husband returned to the Olivier House this year and she presented me with a copy of the ’06 Springsteen Jazz Fest show.  Wow – and kindness just abounds in the Big Easy!
    Bruce Springsteen was given a two-and-a-half hour slot this year and again wowed the crowd with yet another stellar performance.  This is the E Street’s first tour since the passing of Springsteen’s long time saxophonist, Clarence Clemons. Clarence’s nephew, Jake Clemons is now part of the horn section. Keith Spera is my favorite writer for the Times-Picayune. He reviewed the show and ended his “Boss Rules” article stating “Short of levitating, he could have done no more.” You can watch part of the show in a YouTude video at nola.com/jazzfest.
    Jazz Fest is known for bringing folks the best of Cajun and Zydeco, Mardi Gras Indians, jazz, blues, swamp pop, soul, rock, gospel, hip-hop, bounce, pop, country, funk, alternative and world music.  Jazz Fest is an international event which includes an incredible variety of stellar options. There were many special tribute shows especially to Jazz legends. Stay tuned, y’all, and I’ll tell ya more next time.

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