Jazz Fest Saturday: Bombino, Steve Earle, MyNameIsJohnMichael

When Rob Cambre and Quint Davis agree on something, the world is coming to an end or it’s something special. In the case of Bombino from Niger, it was one of the best sets of this year’s Jazz Fest. The young Tuareg guitarist led a four-piece band in the Blues Tent in a hypnotic set, exploring a seemingly limited number of notes in each song over a rhythmic pattern that the drummer locked into to such an extent that it became trippy as well as physical. His music’s akin to Hill Country blues if Hill Country blues were freed from blues scales and replaced with Arabic influences. There was a time when the world music offerings would be among Jazz Fest’s highlights, and it’s nice to see that component of the festival return.


Elsewhere at the fest:

Steve Earle introduced “This City” at the Fais Do-Do Stage by explaining that the economy bottoming out helped New Orleans “dodge a bullet” from Disneyfication: “There wasn’t enough money to fuck over the city the way they planned. From here on, it’s all about vigilance.” Words to live by.

– Saturday was Cinco de Mayo, which Jazz Fest celebrated with Paulina Rubio. I was fascinated by her set, but her show and Ne-Yo’s after it lost much of their spectacle in the crushing late afternoon sun. Unlike many Jazz Fest sets, they both seemed inextricably tied to a more show-bizzy presentation than Jazz Fest makes possible.

MyNameIsJohnMichael played a number of songs from his upcoming album during his set at the Gentilly Stage Saturday, and they showed admirable growth. They’re still clearly his songs, but they’re less showy and more self-assured. “Northern Sticks” stands out, and “Orphan” has graduated to set closer with Craig Klein joining his horn section for the occasion. John Michael Rouchell clearly enjoys working with horns and has worked out a new arrangement for the first album‘s “Althea and the Company Store” that gives a song that I’ve always thought a little precious some valuable heft.

The Eagles‘ version of “Take it Easy” was appalling in its lifelessness. The crowd was far more invested in it than the band was.