Saturday, April 26, the weather forecast was for showers midday and while the rains came midway and shortened the performances that day, some of the best performances I saw were before the showers. My day began in Economy Hall where I saw several numbers by a fine traditional cornet player, Connie Jones who has a marvelous new CD on Arbors with pianist Tom McDermott. On the way to the Blues and Jazz tents I stopped for a bit of The Black Seminoles Mardi Gras Indians with there chants, songs and dancing. Rockie Charles, a fine singer with a touch of Al Green in his delivery impres me with his soulful blues style. He had an excellent album on Orleans Records a decade ago that is worth searching out. I had not seen the exuberant contemporary cajun sounds of Wayne Toups and the Zydecajun who rocked the Acura Stage with their strong music. Then a chance to see Carol Fran whose recording career stretches back to the sixties and who made two really memorable recordings for Black Top with her late husband Clarence Holliman. She suffered a stroke a few years ago, but that did not stop her from even sitting at the piano and weaving her spell on the audience. She remains a marvelous singer, although one limitation is that a good portion of her set was standards. Still it was wonderful to see her sound so vibrant. From her set I drifted to the jazz Tent to finally see Germaine Bazzle, one of New Orleans most beloved jazz singers and she did not disappoint me with her song selection and her marvelous singing. The charm and joy of Economy Hall beckoned for Greg Stafford’s Young Tuxedo Brass Band which had the crowd, including a sizable contingent from Lillestrøm, Norway, to second line in the tent.
Legendary honker Big Jay McNeely celebrated his 80th Birthday a bit over a year ago, but his performance in the Blues Tent showed the tenor saxophonist with the vitality of someone much younger as he wailed on sax and sang fairly strongly. After several excellent numbers by him I headed to Congo Square where Walter ‘Wolfman’ Washington and the Roadmasters were holding forth with his solid funky blues including a couple numbers from his new Zoho release, “Doin’ the Funky Thing.’ With long-time bassist Jack Cruz and saxophonist Jimmy Carpenter, the Wolfman has one of the tightest bands that can really kick the groove around. After several numbers I headed to the Fais Do Do stage to catch Eddie Bo, New Orleans legendary pianist and songwriter (His ‘I’m Wise’ was a hit for Little Richard as “Slippin’ and Slidin.’” In exuberant form he led his band through some solid performances. As he was performing, the rain started getting heavier and I returned to the Blues Tent to meet my wife. I had been hoping to catch Astral Project in the Jazz tent and Dr. John on the Acura stage, but with the rain I settled in for the entire set by James Cotton and his excellent band marked by the terrific guitarists Tom Holland and Slam Allen, with his longtime bassist Noel Neal anchoring things. Allen warmed the tent audience up with several strong vocals and both guitarists are marvelous players. Cotton finally came up, and while he doesn’t sing anymore, Mr. Superharp was wailing on the Mississippi saxophone. He does not fail to satisfy. With the heavy rain, we caught a bus back to the hotel, Billy Joel cut his two-hour set early at 6:15 I understand, but I would have passed on him. I caught on WWOZ a broadcast of the Ponderosa Stomp Revue and the Count Basie Band was in the jazz Tent, but weather shortened all the closing sets. While the weather limited who I had the opportunity to watch, it was an exhilarating afternoon.
That night, my wife and I went to the Palm Court to have dinner and hopefully see 95-odd year old cornet player Lionel Ferbos and the Palm Court Jazz Band. We trekked in the very rainy streets till we reached there and stayed to hear the band even though Mr. Ferbos was unable to get out of his home because of flooded streets. The Palm Court has marvelous food and offers terrific traditional jazz nightly and the band, most of whom would play with Ferbos at the Festival on Sunday, were excellent. After dinner and the music we headed back to our hotel, although stopping at Margaritaville to catch some lively blues & R&B by veteran New Orleans guitarist Irving Bannister, who have a regular no cover gig at Jimmy Buffett’s New Orleans establishment.