The 1993 Jazz Fest may prove to be the best in years. Organizers have finally gotten wise to the weekend crush and have scheduled an unusual number of marquee names on the Thursday and Friday dates. A few picks…
Friday, April 23. Although Bonnie Raitt gets a lot more publicity, for my money, Marcia Ball is the great blue-eyed soul sister of her day, and an incredible pianist to boot. A Jazz Fest without her is a Jazz Fest in vain. Nathan & the Zydeco Cha Chas will sizzle your buns like andouille sausages with their red-hot rhythms. Chill out with some comfy country and rockabilly with the under-publicized Swingin’ Haymakers, featuring delightfully plaintive vocals by Kim Davis. John Rankin manipulates his guitar strings superbly in a flurry of styles from folk to blues.
Saturday, April 24. Wanda Rouzan is one of the great soulful vocalists in New Orleans, though she is seldom recognized. Expect a rousing show. The Wild Magnolias are the modern day epitome of the type of original New Orleans street funk rhythms that led to jazz and R&B.
Sunday, April 25. Fats Domino (see below). As evidenced by their new live album, the Boogie Kings have put on the type of burning soul revue for over three decades that the Commitments tried vainly to recapture. The Hooligans feature the vocals and songs of local stalwart Cajun-R&B rocker Bruce MacDonald and Shad Weathersby. (The Hooligans appearance from 1:25 to 2:40 at the Lagniappe Tent may not be on every schedule).
Thursday, April 29. File’ is a rockin’ little Cajun band whose rhythms are dance-defying. Guitarist and funk phenom Snooks Eaglin has had more good gigs locally in the last year at the wonderful Mid-City Bowling Lanes than in several years past. The key to a great Snooks gig is lots of happy, grooving people having a good time and yelling at him, and vice versa. Don’t miss an opportunity to see one of the great vocal stylists in Nina Simone, whose smoky, exotic sounds drowned many a tear.
Friday, April 30. You’ll thank God for this Friday, which has a lineup stronger than many Saturdays and Sundays of the past. The Dirty Dozen Brass Band should be saved for the Jazz Tent on Sunday, because they always tear the roof off the sucker. With three albums out this year, R&B icon Tommy Ridgley, who started recording shortly before Fats Domino in 1949, should be in his glory. For that matter, R&B fans are in their element with Dr. John, the Meters, Earl King, Bobby Marchan, Al Johnson, Roland Stone and the great lead singer of the Spiders, Chuck Carbo. Not to mention Lloyd Price (see below). The jazz group that played on many R&B sessions in the early 1960s, the AFO Combo, is also playing a reunion gig with original vocalist Tammy Lynn.
Saturday, May 1. Hard-charging blues is the ticket today with Buddy Guy, Lynn August & the Hot August Knights, Walter “Wolfman” Washington, Willie Lockett and J. Monque’D. Katie Webster is a one-woman volcanic eruption of rockin’ blues piano, south Louisiana style. Guitar-loving Deacon John always plays immaculately entertaining blues, soul and rock & roll. Eddie Bo upholds the New Orleans R&B tradition proudly. Chill out again with sweet old-time country from the Evening Star String Band.
Sunday, May 2. There are too many favorites today, but if you have never seen Marva Wright, for god sakes run now. The power of her voice and spirit is unforgettable. Sherman Washington & the Zion Harmonizers likewise are a New Orleans institution not to be missed. On the other hand, Mari Serpas is one of the finest young singers in New Orleans, who will be heard from a lot in the future.
Fats Domino will be playing at the Fair Grounds for the first time in several years, and it’s about time. Fats, who just turned 65, is still going strong.
If you thought his pairing with Huey Lewis at the Municipal Auditorium was strange, you may have felt likewise about his show with the Beach Boys at the Endymion Ball at the Superdome in February. However, as an observer backstage, I can tell you it was like an old time rock & roll reunion, with the California guys paying homage to the man they worshipped in high school, but—amazingly—had never met. The shows were great, too, with the Boys’ bikini-clad cheerleaders a highlight. Just before the Jazz Fest, Fats was honored by the Archdiocese of New Orleans for his help to the local Catholic Church.
Don’t be surprised if Paul McCartney (in town for his April 24th show at the Superdome) isn’t seen with Fats or Allen Toussaint during the weekend. McCartney has always loved Fats (he recorded three of his songs on his Back in the U.S.S.R. album) and has met him from time to time, starting with the Beatles’ gig here in 1964 at City Park. When McCartney was down here in 1974, he recorded with Toussaint at Sea-Saint Studios on his Venus and Mars album.
“Mr. Personality,” Lloyd Price, will be making his first appearance here since 1986, when he put on a masterful show at the Black Heritage Festival in Kenner with old friend Tommy Ridgley’s band (his last show in New Orleans proper was 1960 at the Municipal Auditorium with Dick Clark, Connie Francis and Fabian). Price, who was born in Kenner, was overwhelmed by the loving reaction from the predominantly black audience in his hometown, calling it “one of the highlights in my life.”
He also showed, in discussing the placement of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, that his civic pride had not waned over the years: “New Orleans built rock & roll. I mean, there shouldn’t be no question about it. I don’t think that the Hall of Fame should be in Cleveland, Ohio! That’s like saying the Grand Ole Opry should be in Brooklyn. It’s ridiculous.”