Jazz Fest Focus: Johnny Sansone

Johnny Sansone. Jazz Fest Focus. Photo by Greg Miles.

Johnny Sansone. Photo by Greg Miles.

If New Orleans is home to a new renaissance, Johnny Sansone is ready to be its Da Vinci.

“I think there’s a renaissance period coming and I’m really happy to be in this generation at this time,” says the New Orleans- based multi-instrumentalist who is known for maintaining a full and diverse musical schedule. He’ll be playing Jazz Fest because, well, it’s his home and he always plays Jazz Fest, but also to help promote a new album made with Anders Osborne on guitar (and production) and Galactic’s Stanton Moore drumming.

But Jazz Fest remains a family reunion of sorts, and Sansone would be playing it regardless of what else was going on.

“We do festivals all over the world and this is like being at a family reunion,” he says, mentioning the feeling when he looks into the crowd to see his friends and family dancing there. “These are people you were hanging out with the night before. Being in your home town and being able to play at a festival that’s right up the street from your house is different [from playing anywhere else in the world].”

And his feelings don’t stop at having his friends and family watch him; Sansone also revels in the joy of being in the audience at Jazz Fest.

“It’s amazing to watch some of my friends onstage and know the great feeling that they’re having, like I have myself. I’d pick Jazz Fest over anything else, whatever it is,” and it seems true as he’s passing up an opportunity to attend the Blues Music Awards where he’s nominated (for the first time) for, he laughs, “an instrument other than the accordion.”

But it makes sense: Sansone sees the city growing—his city for the past 19 or so years—and he’s not about to miss being an integral part of it.

“I think we’re back on the map,” he says of New Orleans. “I see a lot of people down on Frenchmen Street and I don’t know where they’re coming from, but I think they’re flocking in here.”

Because of this, he thinks New Orleans is going be more influential, at least musically, than it already is. And he plans to be a part of that influence, harmonica—among other instruments—in hand.