Crawfish Fest 2012
" Crawfish Fest June 1, 2 & 3, 2012 "
Augusta, New Jersey

This year's edition of Michael Arnone's Crawfish Fest continued to evolve to attract a wider audience, and increased attendance figures. Featured performers included the son of Aaron Neville, Ivan Neville, who brings in his funk band, Dumpstaphunk. Dave Malone of the Radiators and his brother Tommy Malone of the Subdudes played two sets with their new band, The Malone Brothers. A relatively new group, The New Orleans Suspects, made their Crawfish Fest debut, featuring Mean Willie Green from the Neville Brothers, Reggie Scanlan of the Radiators, Kevin Harris of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, the recently departed from the Dirty Dozen guitarist Jake Eckert, and C.R. Gruver of Outformation. Brass fans were happy to see Bonerama return, as well as New Orleans' legends the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. Grammy-winner Marcia Ball played two sets. Alexis P. Suter, nominated for Best Blues Soul Female Artist at the Blues Music Awards, brought her eight-piece band in on Friday night. For some jazzy funk, blues, and R&B Walter "Wolfman" Washington and his Roadmasters are always a joy. Plus thre was Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes and the Stanton Moore Trio. Last, and certainly not least, the great Dr. John had Jon Cleary sitting in with his band. Additionally, the Crawfish Fest has long featured a Gospel band to open the main stage on Sunday mornings. Tony Smith and the You Know How We Do Crew took us to the jazzy church. By the way, Tony Smith also hosts a Gospel-Jazz show on WFDU in New York. One other new feature of this year's festival was several musicians' workshops each day, featuring drummer Stanton Moore of Galactic and several members of Feufollet. The lineup for this year's Crawfish Fest continued to set new standards. My favorite performances were by Dr. John, Walter "Wolfman" Washington, and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band.

Speaking of Dr. John, man, he was on his game, especially with his vocals. He also played stinging guitar leads. Yes, guitar, but I would have liked to have heard more piano playing from Mac. His band was pretty good, but not up to the standards of previous bands he toured with in the past. But the dynamic drummer Raymond Weber (ex of the New Orleans Social Club) was propulsive working the Crescent City grooves and pounded his butt off. I was originally excited that Jon Cleary was added to the good Doctor's unit, but he wasn't given much space to solo on piano and (other than some background vocal chores and keyboard fills) he was mostly just along for ride. Too bad. Needless to say, Cleary didn't sing any tunes from his excellent Occapella CD, which is a tribute to the brilliant and great Allen Toussaint. I hadn't seen Walter "Wolfman" Washington with his Roadmasters for quite some time and it was great to see them reunited, especially with his co-author/bassist Jack Cruz. They started their set in a pretty breezy and jazzy mood, opening with Miles Davis' "All Blues" and segued into Horace Silver's "Song For My Father," instrumentally of course. Eventually their set became bluesy (a terrific cover of "Marianne") and it was no surprise to see this fine unit turn up the funk as well; funk was definitely in the house! They also tell me that they're working on a new album - good!

Closing out Saturday night, the Dirty Dozen once again dazzled. Their set was of the highest magnitude. As always, the horns ruled with complex horn arrangements and abundant on-the-fly horn chart surprises. Note: there's been several changes in the band as they no longer have a guitarist, have added a keyboard player, and have also supplemented the front horns with a new sax player, nonetheless these changes are all for the better and a good time was had by all, including the band! The core unit of Roger Lewis (baritone), Efrem Towns (trumpet, flugelhorn, and vocals), Gregory Davis (trumpet and vocals), Kevin Harris (saxophone), Kirk Joseph (sousaphone), and Terrence Higgins (drums) fortunately remains unchanged. For further authenticity and proof, checkout their latest disc, Twenty Dozen, recently released on the Savoy Jazz Label.

Michael Arnone is a Louisiana native, and is the founder and producer of the Crawfish Fest. Arnone recommends ordering a King Cake and Mardi Gras beads from a traditional New Orleans bakery such as Haydel's Bakery or Gambino's Bakery. Arnone's Jambalaya Mix can be ordered in the Crawfish Fest Online Store and is the next best thing to Arnone's (made-from-scratch) jambalaya served at the Crawfish Fest. As Arnone annually opines, now that this year's Crawfish Fest is behind us, the main thing he looks forward to is planning next year's Fest. Keep checking their site at for updates. Yeah, you right.

Bob Putignano: