As promised in last month's column, this column will complete our report of the spring festival scene in the city. There's much to take note of, so let's get right at it.
Thunderstorms and rain had an effect on this year's Jazzfest, most notably on the first Saturday (April 26) when the last act in the Economy Hall tent (the Harlem Blues and Jazz Band with Gunhild Carlin) had to be called off. After that, the weather was steamy and the grounds muddy. Nevertheless, it didn't keep nearly 400,000 souls from attending the seven-day event, the highest total since before Katrina.
Of those performances I was able to attend, there were a number of local and visiting groups that stood out. Connie Jones assembled an excellent nine-piece band for the festival. It included himself and Jimmy Weber on trumpets; Rick Trolsen and John Mahoney, trombones; Tim Laughlin and Otis Bazoon, reeds; David Boeddinghaus, piano; Ed Wise, bass and Richard Taylor, drums. Opening with their version of "Potato Head Blues," the group featured all new arrangements of traditional standards. Clarinetists Michael White, Tommy Sancton and Sammy Rimington got back together for a tribute to George Lewis, celebrating the 40th anniversary of the latter's death. The three first appeared at Jazzfest in 2000 in honor of the 100th anniversary of Lewis' birth. And there were two more tribute performances by local musicians. The Turbinton brothers were remembered by a fine group consisting of Alonzo Bowens, saxophones; David Torkanowsky, piano; Steve Masakowski, guitar; James Singleton, bass, and Ricky Sebastian, drums. And three of the city's top drummers -- Herlin Riley, Shannon Powell and Jason Marsalis -- got together for a tribute to the late Max Roach. If you are into percussion instruments, you would have enjoyed this performance featuring the principals on everything from kettle drums to congas and vibes.
Among the many out-of-towners who impressed were well-known pianist Diana Krall and her quartet and another young female pianist, Amina Figarova. The latter was born in Azerbaijan, trained at Berklee in Boston and is now living in Rotterdam. She appeared with her sextet both at the fest and at Snug Harbor during her brief stay in the city. The tight Count Basie Orchestra led by Bill Hughes always makes a good impression. A huge crowd favorite was vivacious vocalist Tricia Boutté (now living in Norway), who performed with her favorite Norwegian band, the Ytre Suloens Jass Ensemble (YSJE), led by fine young trumpeter Kaare Nymark. They concluded the set with several numbers from their recent CD Oh, Mahalia, which had Jennifer and Paul Longstreth and T. C. Hawkins backing up Tricia on the vocals.
Despite the inclement weather, Jazzfest 2008 had to be considered a big success.
The church always has its own mini-jazzfest during the time of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Fest, often featuring groups that also appeared at the "main event," and this year was no exception. Among the latter was the excellent 12-piece band Kustbandet from Stockholm, Sweden, which appeared in concert on April 23; Swedish trombonist Gunhild Carling, who performed (along with her clarinet-playing brother Max) with the New Orleans Jazz Vipers for the annual "Crawjam" on April 26; and Tricia Boutté and YSJE on April 28.
Other performances included the Norwegian band, Gronnes Bad og Jazz (April 27); Lars Edegran and his Triolian String Band (with Tom Fischer) for the ever-popular "Jazz and Dessert" evening (May 1); and clarinetist Chris Burke and Norwegian pianist Jan Engebritsen for a jazz service (May 4). Edegran was back with a brass band that included Clive Wilson, trumpet; Christian Winther, tenor sax; Rick Trolsen, trombone; Tommy Sancton, clarinet, and Lawrence Batiste, bass drum, to celebrate Norwegian National Day on May 17; and clarinetist Orange Kellin, with Larry Scala, banjo/guitar; Mark Brooks, bass/vocals, and Shannon Powell, drums, was on hand for a barbecue on Memorial Day (May 26).
The music season at the church takes a break for the summer, but it will resume Sept. 4 with a jazz service featuring the Tom Fischer Trio.