Jazz Fest Day 4: Too Much Bliss?

A beautiful day with such good vibes that everybody, bands included, seemed a little blissed out. Do we need a little threatening weather or oppressive heat to generate some urgency?

Cedric Watson and Bijou Creole felt urgent, not just in their performance but conceptually. His exploration of his Creole roots not only includes music from south of I-10 but south of the Gulf of Mexico. The addition of a clarinet player gave his zydeco a more worldly reach.

Cyndi Lauper with Charlie Musselwhite by Golden Richard III

Treme may have been shooting Lucinda Williams’ set yesterday, but they didn’t capture anything like the set she did in 2007, when she was chatty and off the wall and engaged (see Cree McCree’s account here). Whatever the reason, the set started with her closer to the Lucinda from pre-Car Wheels days when her anxiety onstage was palpable. Then again, death haunted the early parts of the set with “Pineola” and “Drunken Angel” back to back. Summertime fun time stuff.

– I admired Galactic for cutting a live album then not playing it live. After recording The Other Side of Midnight with Cyril Neville as the principal vocalist, they brought out Living Colour’s Corey Glover as singer du jour. His intensity was perfectly suited to their wrecking ball version of Swamp Dogg’s “Total Destruction to Your Mind,” which gave me my best five minutes of the festival yesterday.

– At the tribute to James Booker in the Blues Tent, Tom McDermott chose to emulate Booker’s approach rather than his songbook, and allowed his musicianship and imagination to flow over changes that eventually revealed themselves to be the Beach Boys’ “Fun, Fun, Fun” and the Beatles’ “Ticket to Ride” and “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” Not only was the approach intelligent, but it also the moment more personal, McDermott being a big Beatles fan.

Maceo Parker by Golden Richard III

– No band Nels Cline’s in can completely lack edge, but Wilco was almost too comfortable yesterday. There were touches that kept the show fresh such as the addition of a gentle boogie groove to “Handshake Drugs,” but more often the songs moved gracefully through the changes that give drama and danger. Because of it, the band sounded more natural than ever – the question is, is that a good thing?

– A Jazz Fest spent following the old boys sounds like an exercise in nostalgia, but a Jazz Fest that doesn’t include a visit to a few of the old boys is an opportunity missed. I could tick off  the parts of the Maceo Parker set that didn’t move me, but once he kicked into James Brown funk for the last 15 minutes, the quibbles seemed nitpicky.

– And in the “How Adorable is That?” Department, Christian Scott proposed to his girlfriend onstage – on one knee – during a very hot set in the Jazz Tent.

By Golden Richard III