Crescent City Blues & BBQ Festival
October 16 and 17, 2010 "
New Orleans Takes It Downtown
The Crescent Blues & BBQ Festival featured a mixture of musical styles, both local and distant, including Taj Mahal,Ruthie Foster, Barbara Lynn, Shannon McNally, Otis Taylor, Stanton Moore with Anders Osborne, Luther Kent & Trick Bag, Corey Harris, Henry Gray, Mem Shannon, Jon Cleary, Little Freddie King, The Joe Krown Trio with Walter "Wolfman" Washington and Russell Batiste, Li'l Ed and the Blues Imperials, and more.
This wonderful event takes place in downtown New Orleans, is easily accessible, and has a cool mix of craft vendors and a myriad of barbeque delicacies. It's all free and put on by the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation, producers of the world renowned New Orleans Jazz Fest.
Two stages run seamlessly with no musical downtime. As one artist/group concludes their performance at either the Dancehall Stage or the Juke Joint Stage, within seconds another concert ensues.
This was my first visit to this festival, but it won't be my last. I had a blast and enjoyed the perfect weather that made this event extra special. The humidity was low and the temperatures comfortable all weekend.
The fabulous drummer Stanton Moore's trio including Anders Osborne was the high point of Saturday. This group is all about high energy and easily fits into to the jam band genre. Otis Taylor's set with Don Vappie jammed hard and featured a ferocious, great band including the solid guitar playing of Alvin Youngblood Hart, who added much color to this mesmerizing set. Luther Kent was once again on his game barreling through songs that have made him a living legend in Louisiana. His hard-driving band included a seven-piece horn section, guitar, bass, keyboards, and drums. Kent tells me that he is hard at work on a new studio recording called Blues After Midnight and says that it should be available early in 2011. For further details check out www.LutherKent.com.
Taj Mahal's "trio" set is always entertaining, but I sure would prefer seeing Taj fronting a larger band, specifically the "Phantom Blues Band".
New Orleans' own Mem Shannon kicked off Sunday with a powerful set of blues and Crescent City funk. Duly noted was Mem's excellent drummer, and of course Shannon's strong vocal prowess and his superb guitar playing.
[Editor's note: I recently brought Mem and his band the Membership to upstate New York to play at my stepdaughter's wedding. Not only did they thrill me with their playing, but they so blew away Tanneal's jam band friends that the whole wedding party was walking on air, figuratively and in reality. The guys in the band are Gene Harding on drums, Rik Fletcher on keyboards, and Bill Repholtz on bass.
Earlier this year I wrote about the Joe Krown Trio from their set at the Pocono Blues Festival and thought that they were one of my favorite shows of that festival. They did it again here. Joe Krown's unit offers many dynamics, not an easy chore for a trio to radiate. Along with Krown's solid grooves and lead solos, the bombastic drumming of the great Russell Batiste and the ever-youthful Walter "Wolfman" Washington, this band jams mightily, roars with intelligence, and funks out with the best of them. I would like to add that I feel that Mr. Washington is playing some of his best guitar I have ever seen. Kudos go to Krown for bringing the best out of the Wolfman.
By the time you read this, Krown's trio will have a new disc out, Triple Threat, and the trio is scheduled to go on the road backing up the great Allen Toussaint with the fine trumpeter Nicholas Payton. Called the New Orleans Nights, they will be touring parts of the Northeast and Canada throughout November. For a show near you go to:www.JoeKrown.com.
Li'l and his Blues Imperials smiled and grinned throughout their set, and once again proved they are one of the finest festival bands on the planet. Unfortunately, Jon Cleary's trio set did little to impress me, though it was nice to see theDirty Dozen Brass Band's Terence Higgins pounding away on the drums.
Barbara Lynn's set was amazing and her band is a top-shelf collection of well seasoned veterans who really knew how to put on a dynamite show. Her bass player, Lee Allen Zeno, was out of this world and very solid. It was also great to see Lil' Buck Sinegal, who burned away on guitar. Miss Lynn was in outstanding vocal form, as she wailed left-handed on guitar. Lynn not only blew me away, she also stole my heart with her very fine concert. Fans and festival promoters take note: Lynn's band generated some of the mightiest applauses and garnered big time smiles from the crowd.
Lynn's set was a hard act to follow, but Ruthie Foster did not let anyone down, Foster's another crowd pleaser that charmed the Big Easy crowd with a solid set.
The Crescent City Blues & BBQ Festival is more than worth the trek down to Louisiana. I was very impressed with many that performed and the production work that the entire Jazz Fest staff provided. So much so that, God willing, I will be back there next year. For updates go to www.CrescentCityBluesFest.com.
By the way, it was great to see festival promoters Michael Cloeren (Vermont Blues Fest & Pocono Blues Fest) and Michael Arnone (Crawfish Fest) in attendance checking out the talent, plus blues-L Zellers Jimmy Jacobs and KBA winning photographer Jef Jaisun. Even a couple from the South Florida Blues Society supporters were around enjoying this cool scene. Always a kick to see the transplanted New Orleans resident Michael O'Donahue of New York's famous and now defunct Tramps nightclub who fondly reminisced about the great mostly instrumental third set performances by Otis Rush at Tramps, a great flashback for sure.
Last, but not least, special thanks to stage manager Andy who made my backstage experience ever so special. Andy also works at The Howlin' Wolf Artist Management, The Howlin' Wolf Music Club, and The Howlin' Wolf Productions. More details can be found at: thehowlinwolf.com.
See you back in New Orleans.
Bob Putignano a senior contributing editor at BluesWax. He is also the heart of Sounds of Blues at www.SoundsofBlue.com. Bob maybe contacted at: email@example.com
Bob Putignano: www.SoundsofBlue.com