If it works here, why not everywhere? Producers of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival have teamed up with San Francisco-based promoter Bill Graham Presents to test the national commercial clout of Louisiana music with a traveling, miniature version of the Jazz Fest.
This Louisiana lollapalooza, titled “Festival New Orleans!”, will tour 18 large outdoor venues across the country, starting in Dallas on June 26. Eight acts will be spread across three stages, with food and craft tents rounding out the parallel Jazz Fest experience. Featured performers include the Radiators, Buckwheat Zydeco, either Beausoleil or Zachary Richard (they are trading off dates), the Famous Rocks of Harmony alternating with the Zion Harmonizers, the subdudes, John Mooney and Bluesiana, Evangeline and the Young Olympia Brass Band.
No word yet if organizers will be trucking in vats of Fair Grounds mud for a truly authentic experience.
THE BEST FEST SOUVENIRS… Speaking of Jazz Fest, the event is an annual watershed for record sales by local artists, easily eclipsing both Mardi Gras and Christmas. Sound Warehouse District Manager Ray Genovese reports that Aaron Neville’s new A&M disc, The Grand Tour, was the big seller at the Record Tent on the Fair Grounds this year. About 1,000 copies were sold (Aaron’s autograph session at the tent on May 1 helped immensely, says Genovese). Other favorites at the tent included the MCA/Margaritaville releases from the Iguanas and Evangeline, Cowboy Mouth’s debut, Word of Mouth, Beausoleil’s new disc on Rhino, and Zachary Richard’s latest on A&M, Snake Bite Love.
Freddi Szilagi of Tower Records says the Iguanas’ disc was the store’s most popular, but that the Dirty Dozen Brass Band’s new Jelly posted strong sales, as did trumpeter Kermit Ruffins’ solo disc, World On A String, and Marva Wright’s new import CD. Releases from locals Woodenhead and New York-based slide guitarist John Campbell disappeared following those acts’ sets at the Fair Grounds.
Kermit Ruffins also did well up Decatur Street from Tower at the Louisiana Music Factory, says co-owner Barry Smith. Houma-based blues guitarist Tab Benoit, a Justice Records label-mate of Ruffins, sold steadily. Local R&B stalwart Tommy Ridgley’s latest project for Modern Blues Records, She Turns Me On, did well, as did Evangeline, Cowboy Mouth (following an in-store appearance), the Iguanas, the Dirty Dozen, the Rebirth Brass Band and catalog items from Professor Longhair and the Meters.
And finally, Record Ron’s Ron Edelstein reports interest in the usual suspects (Dr. John, the Meters), and says Zachary Richard and John Mooney did well, too.
The most requested artist? Rough-and-tumble zydeco artist Terrance Simien. “I guess he put on a helluva show,” says Ron. Those acts without records that retailers say were the subject of the most requests? The Klezmer Allstars (whose set was a big hit with Fest-goers), modern jazz godheads Astral Project, Bruce “Sunpie” Barnes and drummer of the future Jason Marsalis. Maybe next year the appetites will be met.
NBC’S NEW ORLEANS NIGHT… Branford Marsalis hosted the May 14 installment of NBC’s Friday Night Videos, and was joined by Sting, of whose band he was once a member.
Earlier that evening, David Letterman’s guests were actress Sharon Stone and our own Aaron Neville. Aaron not only performed a fine version of his new single, “Don’t Take Away My Heaven,” with Paul Shaffer and the band, but settled in for an amusing chat at Dave’s desk. Aaron, in an unusually talkative mood, graciously accepted Dave’s shower of compliments for both Aaron and the Neville Brothers Band (the Nevilles embark on a three-month U.S. tour on June 11), and managed to elicit a laugh by complimenting his wife Joel’s cooking.
MARSALIS ON THE MOVE… Trombonist Delfeayo Marsalis will be at the center of a very busy month for the Marsalis clan. He is scheduled to record his second album for RCA/Novus in Los Angeles in early June, backed by his quintet. While on the Coast, he will produce a special project for his father, Ellis: a remake of the Monkey Puzzle album, which Ellis cut back in the ’60s. Branford Marsalis’ band will back Ellis on that project for Columbia Records. Also for Columbia, Delfeayo will produce an album by Eric Reed, Wynton Marsalis’ pianist.
BIG SUN RISING… Big Sun songwriter Joe Tullos is finally cleaning out his song closet: the group’s self-titled debut CD features eleven of Mr. Tullos’ radio-friendly compositions. Big Sun celebrates the release at the Howlin’ Wolf on June 5.
PHOTOS EXPLAINED… Photographer William Greiner will be on hand at the Contemporary Arts Center at 3pm on June 6 to give a walk-through tour of his collection of color photographs of Graceland and popular culture icons. Greiner’s work is teamed with that of William Eggleston in the display, which runs through June 27. Cost is free for CAC members, $5 for non-members.
BILOXI MUSIC FEST… The Biloxi Summer Music and Art Fest is scheduled for June 12-13. Headlining the event are New Orleans’ Charmaine Neville, Percussion Inc., lrie Vibrations, Entourage, the Carl LeBlanc Band, Woodenhead and George Porter Jr., plus Delbert McClinton and Gulfport art-rock band Change to Eden (who have just released an expertly-crafted new CD and will be at the Wolf on the 10th).
BLOW YOUR HORN… Attention musicians and music industry professionals: it’s time once again for OffBeat’s spectacular Louisiana Music Directory. Forms are available at music stores around town and from our office. The deadline for submitting the forms and reserving advertising space is July 1. Contact Robin at our office for more information.