More JazzFest Musical Memories Saturday, May 2 2020 

Realizing it’s truly an impossible task — sharing my “favorite” JazzFest musical moments that is — I’ve decided to take a different tack for this last take on JazzFest for this year.

Because, I love it all. Even the days when I can hear umpteen different performers and none really grab on and don’t let go.

As I always say, that’s why I keep coming back. From day to day. From year to year. Even now in 2020, when I can only experience the event via WWOZ’s JazzFesting in Place.

So, here’s some quick mentions of some regulars, and I’ll give it up for this time around.

 * * * * *

Have I mentioned how much I cherish Allen Toussaint?

Duh, like only a gazillion times.

But I’d be remiss if I didn’t start with He Who Is My Favorite New Orleans Musical Icon, my favorite musical icon period.

When still alive, Toussaint, except maybe way back in the day, never had a regular band that gigged together all the time, that toured. He was, until Katrina for sure, mostly a writer, producer, arranger. But a sometimes performer.

So, at his annual JazzFest sets, his ensemble was always a put together outfit. The upper echelon of NO players, of course, Men and women who have played with him through the decades. But, not playing regularly, the groups were often not as tight as one might hope.

Plus, his singing voice, never anything truly special, diminished over time.

But ya know, it was always Allen Toussaint with his incredible presence that bridged the gap between dapper and dazzle, and his sweet persona, and his amazing songs and charts.

So I tracked down this snippet of one of his endearing performances from a few years back.

(His 2009 set, which WWOZ aired Saturday as part of JazzFesting in Place, was seriously hot. Toussaint and band were hot hot hot. Unfortunately I couldn’t track down any video of that gig. Sigh.)

 * * * * *

The Gospel Tent is, well, the ultimate testament to feeling the spirit.

I’ve been there on an Easter Sunday, when I swear it was levitating.

I remember walking in once in the middle of a set by the mass choir from a church in Dallas, and so powerful was their sound and energy, it literally slowed my pace. Like walking into a strong wind.

And I’ve been in there, when a group just wouldn’t fire, or the crowd wasn’t ready.

Just a few examples here to give you a sense.

The first video of the Electrifying Crown Seekers is choppy — you’ll see — but a great example of just how out of control the place and performers can get.

Then there are gospel singers most of us have never heard of that make you think, “Why aren’t these people famous?”

Like Cynthia Girtley.

Or, a choir that just gets it on.

 * * * * *

I’m a sucker for cover songs.

I’ve always been fascinated at every concert anywhere by what song of someone else the artist or band might perform.

If it’s an oldie, I’m rarely not smitten.

Like when rising blues star, a recent New Orleans emigrant, Samantha Fish opened her first appearance ever at the Fest in the Blues Tent with Barbara Lewis’s sultry, “Hello Stranger.”

This isn’t from JazzFest, but I have to share anyway.

 * * * * *

Another personal peculiarity I mention often about my many annual treks to Fest, it’s rarely about the Big Name Acts.

With some exceptions.

Like Springsteen with his Seeger Sessions Band, at their first gig, at the first JF just eight months after Katrina.

As I’ve often written before of his so damn good so damn appropriate opening tune, he had me at Oh.

 * * * * *

OK, one more and I’ll get outta here.

Had to give a tip of the hat to Dr. John, New Orleans through and through.

His best gig at JazzFest might be his set from ’06. Sadly I couldn’t find a video from that one. (Track it down if you can, the audio might be in the archives.)

So I’ll just bid you my adieu with this New Orleans classic from Mac Rebennack:

— c d kaplan

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My Favorite JazzFest Musical Memories, Part Deux Sunday, Apr 26 2020 

Oh my, the power of suggestion.

As I write this Saturday afternoon, I’m listening to old JazzFest classic sets at, which the station will be streaming again Sunday the 26th, and next Thursday through Sunday, noon to 8:00 EDT.

Today’s sumptuous slate opened with Bonerama, which as I write I am confirming to myself might be my favorite of the current New Orleans fusion maestros. (I’d like to more definitive, but, my ears are easily turned, faves change on a whim.)

You know Bonerama’s like funk and rock and some second line Longhairish rumba, all fronted by — Ready for it? — a trio of trombones. Which they play straight up or synthesized.

I mean, ya know, it’s New Orleans. Where else?

And, listening to them open today with “Big Chief,” reminded me of a favorite JF musical moment I’d forgotten.

At the first Fest after Katrina, a miracle really but so endearing and fun, Bonerama’s set featured a searing version of the Zeppelenized version of Memphis Minnie’s seriously appropriate at that moment, “When the Levee Breaks.”

I couldn’t find a youtube of that particular performance, but here’s the band doing it another time at a different gig:

OK, I assume you now realize that, unlike the first entry in this series, meant to help take my mind off the reality that I’m not actually at JazzFest in 2020, this will not be a podcast.

But it does include music. So, hey, it’s got that goin’ for it, which is nice.

 * * * * *

So, as I’ve mentioned a trillion times, my first JazzFest was in ’76. My first experience was not actually at the Fest during the day, but an evening show on the Riverboat President. Allen Toussaint. Professor Longhair. Gatemouth Brown.

Pretty overwhelming actually. Joyously so. To be brutally honest, mea culpa, I’m pretty sure I’d never heard of any of them at age 31, despite my addiction to rock & roll and all its permutations.

Chuckie had some catchin’ up to do. A task not the least bit onerous.

That was a Friday night. The following Sunday, Longhair closed the first weekend of Fest.

It remains to this day, thousands of concerts before and after, my favorite set of music E.V.E.R..

I could go on and on about the situation. I’ll just say I was swallowed whole by it.

Longhair could, as they say, tickle the ivories. In a manner as unique as any in the history of music.

Here’s a grainy video of Fess at another gig:

And, yes, in case you’re wondering, that’s the same Earl King-penned “Big Chief” tune Bonerama covered at the outset of their set today.

 * * * * *

For years, until some time in 90s, the whole daily Fest was contained within the infield of the Fairgrounds Race Track. All the stage, concessions, porta potties, crafts.

It was getting crowded.

But, before the Fest spread out all over the grounds, the Congo Square stage was jammed along the backstretch between the Jazz Tent and maybe Fais Do Do, if that stage was called that back then.

Anyway, Congo Square was bumper to bumper that afternoon. When I experienced the dancingest music I’d ever heard, an enthralling set of tuneage that made me seek out contemporary African music at every opportunity.

I shvitzed through my clothes so much did I dance. Blisters on my toes.

For Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens.

Urgent. Primal. Invigorating. Have I mentioned, I and everybody else at the stage could not not dance? The whole time?

A sample of their stuff. Again, not from JF.

 * * * * *

Two of my favorite musical memories actually came back to back on the same day in ’94.

My buddy Mark joined me down there after returning from a visit to India. He was so spiritually light, we put some weights around his ankles. At any rate . . .

. . . we were wandering around the grounds, as one is wont to do, and by chance and dumb luck came upon Ry Cooder and Ali Farka Touré.

From Mississippi to Mali.

From Timbuktu to Tunica.

A merger of the Delta blues and the rhythms of the Sidasso.

We were transfixed. We stopped meandering and let the sublime sounds soak in.

After that laid us low, with the skies turning ominous, we strolled over to the Gentilly Stage, where one time New Orleanian Randy Newman was weaving his sardonic magic.

My memory is that Newman was singing “I Love L A,” when the clouds opened and poured forth. With those kind of softball sized raindrops one can get drenched with in the Crescent City.

Newman stopped in the middle of the song, and broke into his iconic “Louisiana 1927.”

It was a transcendent JazzFest moment, which many performers in years hence when covering the song would reference.

Here’s a different live rendition, one which can’t quite capture how special that moment in the downpour was, but as good a way to end this portion of the proceedings.

I’ll be back with more in a day or two or three.

— c d kaplan

My JazzFest Musical Memories: Podcast, Part I Thursday, Apr 23 2020 

I have made it through the first day of what should have been JazzFest without JazzFest, my first time not being there since . . . 1991.

Thanks to WWOZ, New Orleans’ amazing public radio music channel, I spent the day listening to streaming of sets from past decades.

Like from 1973, Ella Fitzgerald dueting with Stevie Wonder on “You Are The Sunshine of My Life.”

Or Tab Benoit’s sweet cover of Toussaint McCall’s “Nothing Takes The Place of You.”

So, I’m a bit calmer now than I was previously this week, while suffering severe withdrawal symptoms.

Anyway, here’s the first podcast of several (I hope) sharing my favorite JazzFest musical moments through the decades.


Knowing What It Means To Miss New Orleans Sunday, Apr 19 2020 

Already consumed with the stark reality that my upcoming week was going to be considerably different than planned, I did not need a reminder.

There it was nonetheless when I sat down at my computer Sunday morning.

The Reminder: JazzFest tomorrow.


Not that my favorite thing to do in life, the gravitational pull of my year, started Monday. The festival wouldn’t have begun until 11:00 in the morning Thursday.

Just sayin’. Hearing some hot New Orleans outfit, like, say, Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes, or Flow Tribe, before noon on a workday, while savoring a frozen latte, is among life’s most endearing pleasures.

But Monday’s the day I start the trek down. At least since I’ve been driving instead of flying. No matter to explain, but I’ve got my reasons, and it works for me.

Stay overnight along the way in Mississippi. Get to the Crescent City around noon Tuesday. Check in and let the burg’s quintessential vibe wash over me. Take a jog through the Quarter. Dine with long time pals that night at, say, Clancy’s or GW Fins.

Spend Wednesday hanging out in the Vieux Carré, listening to in stores at Louisiana Music Factory, where I always hook up with similarly minded friends I’ve made through the years. Make a stop at Meyer the Hatter on St. Charles. Maybe drive up Magazine for more gratuitous shopping.

Annual night before Fest dinner with a varying group of good friends from home and hither and yon at Galatoire’s, or, more recently, Mosca’s on the Westbank for chicken a la grandé.

Thursday through Sunday: Festin’ in the day. Feastin’ in the evening.

That’s been what this coming week in April has been for me.

Every. Year. Since. 1991.

And several years before that, starting with my first Fest in ’76, when I went for a weekend, and ended up staying almost two weeks. Thank you, Marc, for the intro, thank you forgiving bosses, for your forgiving.

 * * * * *

A quick history, with my apologies to those who have been with me for awhile, who have heard the chronology too many times, such is my obsession.

I just need to get it out. I just need to vent.

First time, like I said, ’76. First JazzFest concert on Riverboat President. Allen Toussaint, Professor Longhair, Gatemouth Brown.

Fell in love with the whole deal.

Not sure why I didn’t make it back until ’80. Work obligations. Lack of funds. ??? Stupidity. Getting caught up for some reason with Derby Fever. I dunno.

By then, my life was unraveling a bit. Drugs. Alcohol. Got clean and sober in late ’82. And it took awhile before I felt comfortable returning.

New Orleans is . . . well . . . you know . . . New Orleans.

In ’88, that college chum who first introduced me to the whole thing demanded I return. Little Feat reunion was the hook.

After hearing Aaron Neville sing “Arianne,” I vowed never to miss JazzFest again.

Which I haven’t since ’91. Was there in ’89, and ’90, but was recovering from an accident in spring ’91, and c’est impossible.

(What helped me get through missing that year was a gift from a couple friends, who were working on a series of musician interviews for a Public Radio series. Sometime in the early spring of ’91, they interviewed Aaron Neville and had him tape a personal message for me. Which included a rendition of a song of hope he’d just written. I’ve still got the cassette, but, alas, no cassette player.)

I didn’t like missing it a bit.

I was back in ’92.

This year for obvious reasons I shall not be.

It hurts. It hurts so bad.

 * * * * *

As I write this, I’m somewhat calmer than earlier in the day.

I’m listening to WWOZ online, where the incredible New Orleans public music station is playing past sets from French Quarter Fest, another rave up down there, which always precedes JF by a week or two.

Ellis Marsalis from 2004. Panorama Jazz Band, including the amazing Aurora Nealand on alto sax from ’19. Astral Project with Johnny V on the traps from ’16.

The station will be running a Festing in Place musical cavalcade, during days and hours Fest was scheduled the next two Thursday through Sundays.

It shall have to suffice.

There won’t be any Crawfish Strudel.

There won’t be any of AJ’s sublime chocolate snoballs, to which I have a an addiction. There is no Chocolate Snoballs Anonymous of which I’m aware.

(I do have the memory of my moment there years ago with Allen Toussaint, my favorite musician of forever. That’s him and me in the attached photo.)

I won’t be at Marc and Jill’s next Sunday night for their annual crawfish boil.

But I shall abide.

JazzFest will be back.

The Good Lord willing, and the creek don’t rise, so shall I.

— c d kaplan



Memories make the best gifts: give your family adventures instead of items Friday, Jan 24 2020 

By Madelynn Bland —

Spring semester is in full swing and students are returning to campus with their new gifts and gadgets they acquired over winter break. Any holiday, whether Mother’s Day, a birthday or other personal celebrations, is associated with materialistic gifts.

Although the idea of having all of these items is enjoyable, there are other ways to spend the same amount of money while making memories and bringing happiness that doesn’t run out of battery. 

While material possessions have a huge upside, they’re typically not with us for the long haul. 

The things that you received last birthday may already be stored away and never thought of again until replaced by new gifts that offer the same temporary enjoyment as their predecessors.

Most people argue that the best part of any holiday isn’t even about the gift giving, but the memories and time spent with family. The same people then turn around and fall into the societal trap of materialistic gift giving, unaware that the best gifts of all are not for sale. 

Our memories with friends and family are some of our most prized possessions and are gifts we can enjoy for the rest of our lives. 

For example, go trek up Pike’s Peak to explore the Garden of the Gods Park in Colorado Springs, venture around the French Quarter in New Orleans surrounded by the beauty of nature and the world or sit in the same spot as famous people and revel in the experience. 

“The expectation and demonstration of gift giving was a huge part of the holidays for me growing up. I find now that spending the same amount of money on even a meal together, or a couple of hours together makes for a different kind of gift experience,” said University of Louisville philosophy professor Brian Barnes. “Sometimes it’s great to give that gift that represents something to a loved one, but so often the care that I have for them is the function of time we spend together.”

While new technology or fancy clothes may be fun, the best gifts of all are memories that are made with loved ones. See a movie, venture to a place in your city that you’ve always wanted to visit or do anything as long as it is done surrounded by family and/or friends. The amount of time spent together will be worth way more in the long run than the items on a wish list.

After all, there is no price value on the laughs and memories made with the people you care about.

File Photo // The Louisville Cardinal

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