Guy Garners Cheers in N'awlins
" by Robert Putignano"

Kenny Neal opened the festivities in the Blues Tent on my favorite day of the festival, with a tight set followed by Alligator Records' Eric Lindell, who also delivered a strong set. The aforementioned Luther Kent brought up the legendary Wardell Quezergue to lead the smoking horn section just like he did on his latest recording, The Bobby Bland Songbook. Kent's set consisted of several tunes from the current CD, as they tore into "Wouldn't Treat a Dog" as their opener. It's no wonder that Big Luther is considered one of the best vocalist and bandleaders in the Crescent City, as the band was tighter than an old pair of jeans.

Near the end of their set, heavy rains fell from the skies. Not a problem as everyone was under cover. But what it did do was completely fill the already near-capacity room further as people ran for cover from the ensuing storm. Seizing the moment, Kent and his band roared into a rousing version of "Hey Pockey Way" and closed their set with an amazing "Flip, Flop and Fly." I have seen the Kent Big Band four or five times at Jazz Fest, but I have to report that this was their strongest response that they ever received from this particularly kind audience that was left breathless!

Since 1970 the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival has captured the majesty of New Orleans' culture in all its glory. Regarded as one of world's most unique and most loved music festivals, this famous event becomes the heart and soul of the Crescent city for two magnificent weekends. Where else can you side such a wide range of performances?

On the second weekend of Jazz Fest acts included genre-busting artists such as Ben Harper, Solomon Burke, Nicholas Payton, Doc Watson, Randy Brecker, Bucky Pizzarelli, Deacon John, and New Birth. For variety there was Tony Bennett, Bonnie Raitt, Marcia Ball, Rebirth, Etta James, Earth Wind & Fire, Robert Cray, Mavis Staples, Hugh Masekela, Bobby Blue Bland, and Dave Matthews. Then there were local favorites like Dr. John, The Meter Men (Porter, Nocentelli, and Zigaboo sans Art Neville), Aaron Neville, John Scofield (with Porter, John Cleary, and others), the Neville Brothers, Kermit Ruffins, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, and Allen Toussaint.

Let's not forget about the great food, too. The locals pointed me at the best fresh oysters to be found at Pascal's Manale on Napoleon Avenue! Plus each and every night the Big Easy bristles with club entertainment that virtually goes non-stop into the wee hours. On this particular visit I was treated to a performance at Harrah's "Joint's Jumpin'" featuring an all-star band of Louisiana's finest musicians with frontline vocalists GinaBrown, Danon Smith, Tereasa Betts, Tony Owens, Johnny Vidigni, and Big Luther Kent.

Under the musical direction of pianist Larry Sieberth, "Joint's Jumpin'" is an outstanding walk down New Orleans' musical memory lane and should not be missed if you are fortunate enough to catch this magical performance. The large horn section roars throughout, and of particular note are sax ace Brian "Breeze" Cayolle and trumpeter Bobby Campo. Rounding out the rhythm section is the sensational drummer Bernard "Bunchy" Johnson (Irma Thomas, Johnnie Taylor, Dr. John, Jean Knight, and countless others), who pounded it out and coagulated brilliantly with bassist Donald Ramsey's creative bass lines, plus Anthony Brown's sweet yet sparse guitar phrases and solos.

So, another year at Jazz Fest, and yet another great time at their astounding fortieth celebration. On my flight back to the Big Apple, all I kept thinking was attending Jazz Fest number 41. Until then keep checking for 2010 updates, and 2009 performance downloads, too!

Bob Putignano is a senior contributing editor at BluesWax.