b r e a t h i n g   r o o m

26 Apr 98

Arriving at nearly 1, we squeezed through the crush and I got another soft-shell crab po'boy (w/ extra pickles but no hot sauce), while B got a large mandarin orange tea for us to share. There were no lines. We sat and ate listening to the end of T-Model Ford & Spam's set of delta blues, and then put on some sunblock. It's a lot cloudier today, some of the clouds are threatening, and Steve said it rained for about 30 seconds this morning before we woke.

We bought a small granita and then pushed our way to the jazz tent (where we haven't gone all Fest yet) against the flow of people still streaming in, and grabbed so-so seats (to be upgraded later) for Astral Project, New Orleans' premier progressive jazz group, according to the press.

Have to concentrate to hear the band over the nattering from the audience. Annoyed, we finally moved from the left-side seats to the right side, where there was less foot traffic, although the middle is clearly the best place to be. Around 2, some people cleared out, probably to see the Meters, whom B and I decided to skip this time, to avoid the Ray Ban stage scene. We'll see them at the Fillmore next month anyway (we thought, at the time).

Stand-up bass player James Singleton (we saw him a couple of combos last time) has a real nice touch on his solos. They finished up with two of his compositions. Last one: Bongo Joe. I start moving up but B finds me OK.

We move up at the end of the set to second row, stage left, near the speakers, and I go out to secretly buy B a bead necklace she coveted yesterday but decided she couldn't afford, then I head briefly to the infield, hearing a few minute of the funky Meters (sounding as hot as usual) before veering over to buy a large seafood gumbo and a large rosemint tea. No time to find a bathroom (and the lines are now prohibitively ong - in fact people are still swarming in and the lines for softshell crab are now as long and doubled as I would have expected).

I make it back just before Donald Harrison Jr. Quartet. starts and B tells me "these are really good seats." We're surrounded by aficionadoes and some haird-dyed sideburned 70s sunglass sporting droopy-pants types.

Harrison's set rocks the house, frankly erasing memories of the Astral Project. (B says he makes them sound like they were just noodling.) His standup bass player we recognize from Terence Blanchard's band. His drummer is a former hip-hop deejay full of funk and swing. After four or so tunes (long workouts) he brings on stage his fifteen-year old nephew, Christian Scott, to solo on trumpet. They end the song in unison and the crowd response is overwhelming. For their last tune, he cajoles onstage a past master of sax, Benny Golsen, for It Don't Mean a Thing if It Ain't Got That Swing. Harrison sings, raps along about his jazz/funk concoction: nouveau swing. "This is how we do it, when we're getting down with jazz."

"next time you come on my bandstand,
don't be cleaner than me."
--Donald Harrison, to Christian Scott

About to burst, I moseyed over to the grandstand and up to the second floor for the real bathroom. The line for the men's was long, but not half as long as the women's (of course, when will the architects learn?). On the way back, I bought a small crawfish quiche and a poached-pear tart (with custard, almond paste, and a thin layer of raspberry jam). Whoever first thought of poaching a pear in wine deserves a medal.

When I got back to the jazz tent, the Ellis Marsalis trio was finishing up Green Dolphin Street as a warmup for Ernestine Anderson's set. THe audience was very supportive and she got looser as she went along, ending her set with a series of blues workouts. (B mentioned how it was nice to hear Ellis playing honkytonk.)

I may be full, but I'm hankering for some crawfish monica. So I sent out B on a mission of mercy. Not sure what she'll bring back and hoping she doesn't get hung up and end up missing the beginning of the Jazz Messengers/ Art Blakey Legacy tribute that caps off the program today here in the jazz tent.

Bought some peanuts while the bass was tuning up and the drums soundchecking. A woman at the end of my row is jotting (set lists? observations?) in a notebook much like this one. I wonder if hers is running with sweat and humidity as mine has started to do? My first peanut is a lucky one with three peas. Never did find the popcorn shrimp this time around.

B came through with the monica and the rosemint but had to give up on the can. Curtis Fuller on trombone wrote the first song, Arabia. Louis Nash on drums (toughseat to fill, Blakey's itself). Peter Washington on bass "from California by way of New York." Jeff Kezar (sp?) on piano from Eau Claire via New York, from Art's last group. (Curtis Fuller is from Detroit.) On Trumpet, Terence Blanchard (from New Orleans, also writes music, such as scores for Spike Lee's movies). Next, Plexus by former Messenger pianist Cedar Walton (audience cheers his name - sounds like a lot of old Jazz Messenger fans; in a way, this reminds me of the Phil Less & Friends shows I've been seeing, in the sense of a band carrying on [a pickup band, that is] playing a repertoire honed under the aegis of a departed master, even mentor).

B says Blanchard, taking the first solo, is starting to look like Dizzy. Terence's Oh, By the Way is next. As anticipated, Donald Harrison sits in and takes a hot solo. 1958-59 era tune (Golsen's time): Along Came Betty (as in Betty Carter). Also from '58, a march (something of Art's very own): Blues March. Harrison, still sitting in, sounds like the man of the moment. Final tune, same era, Bobby Timmons et al.: Moanin', a real crowd pleaser, with people clapping along, cheering the changes, and giving out a whoop when Terence starts the first solo.

Exquisite! The attention to dynamics is part of the tribute to, the legacy of, Art Blakey.

yester morrow
day one
first lines

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