The Highlight Reel: Jazz Fest 2011

SuperJam | The Parish Room | Friday May 6th

In an effort to compress everything that went down this week in the Crescent City, here is my 10 favorite late night gigs of the Fest…

10. | The Blue Nile | Sunday May 1st

If there is any group out there that deserves this absurd name – it is this rowdy quartet. Composed of the never ending drums of Adam Deitch, the double organ attack of and Robert Walter, and the saxaphonic squonking of my main man Skerik himself. Worship My Organ is two sets of pure improvisation, touching on the both the weirdness that Skerik is known for as well as the get-down break beats that Deitch has mastered in his stints with Lettuce and Pretty Lights (see: 5:20 in the following video). The crowd at Blue Nile roared in appreciation at every twist and turn in the music, and the band absolutely deserved every ounce of praise that they recieved. Sunday nights are always my favorite night of Jazz Fest too, after getting blown away by two sets of WMO, we stumbled out onto Frenchmen to see what was happening on the streets. Got to see Shamarr Allen do a few tunes at Spotted Cat, Papa Grows Funk KILL the end of their gig at dba, and then trucked it over to the Maple Leaf for the sunrise show with Lindell and his gang. Quite the evening.

9. Colin Lake Trio | dba | Thursday April 28th

One of the best things about Jazz Fest (or New Orleans in general…) is that you can just be stumbling along, minding your own business – and come across a band that just blows your mind out of the blue, for free. Finding Colin Lake was sort of like that… a young bluesman with scorching chops on both the electric and slide guitar – this guy is absolutely the real deal. Not much info about his trio is out there, but his bass player just rips through his runs and the man behind the kit is rock solid as well. Good news for you, is that Colin and his trio will be playing Le Bon Temps at 11:00pm this Friday. I’m goin’ down…

Colin Lake Trio | dba | April 27th 2011

8. Lotus | The Howlin’ Wolf | Thursday April 28th

Lotus always brings a great show to New Orleans when they manage to get down here, and this one was no different. Sandwiched in between an Eskmo DJ set and a Nadis Warriors late night, Lotus brought the heat for around two and a half hours with no breaks – just the deep bass riffs and souring guitar work that they have become known for. I skipped out on the Stanton/Anders gig at the Blue Nile so I was going to have a good time no matter what, but they more than made up for the move to The Wolf.

7. Ivan, George, June, & Johnny | The Maple Leaf | Wednesday May 4th

The only reason this show sits in the 7 spot is because we only caught the tail end of it. Deciding to make a late night scoot to The Leaf after Karl Denson and Spyboy (Dan Caro WHAT!? – look him up. Amazing.) finished up at Le Bon Temps. If there are four men who completely embody the local funk scene in New Orleans, this is them. The Leaf was packed with heads trying to catch a glimpse of the foursome in action, and they were about as on point as it gets. After the second set finished, and the band made an attempt to leave the stage – the front row put up such a fight to keep them up there that they decided to stay. As soon as I heard June hammering out the “Just Kissed My Baby” riff I knew that place was going to explode. About 15 minutes later, they were done – and one of the finest funk foursomes exited the building to try and get a little sleep before weekend #2 began the next day.

6. The San Francisco Free For All | The Rusty Nail | Tuesday May 3rd

The headlining act for the first evening of The Rusty Nail’s “Daze Between Festival” was a evolving group of San Franciscan’s all in town for the festival. Featuring Josh, Trevor and Reed from Tea Leaf Green and LEBO, Dave and Steve from ALO all in a bar that holds about 100 people… an under the radar Tuesday night for sure. Josh is one of the best guitar players in the jamband scene right now, the guy is a complete monster when he takes off on his fretboard. Add the haunting slide work of Dan Lebowitz of ALO and you have a party worth crashing right there. Highlights included: “Take A Walk On The Wild Side” by Lou Reed and a soaring “The Garden Pt. 3” that had the bar spinning on its side for a second. As soon as Josh launched into an appropriate “Wet Spot” the place was in full on get down mode. Then through the crowd walks guitar juggernaught Eric McFadden to help with the jam in the middle. We probably could have called it a night right there, but The Whip! called us out to Frenchman to finish the evening strong.

Josh Clark & Eric McFadden | The Rusty Nail

5. | One Eyed Jacks | Saturday May 7th

Fresh off the release of the new album “Always Be Happy, But Stay Evil”, the band launched through a series of shows in New Orleans to make sure anyone who wanted to see GAT would have the opportunity. In my opinion, One Eyed Jacks in the perfect location for a show such as this one – the tall ceilings let the sound travel all the way to the back and vampy velvet walls are perfect for the unclassifiable Trois. They can be laying down a solid groove from Stanton’s kit, and then all of a sudden – Mike D has his shirt off and he is rolling around on the ground and you are at a full on punk rock show. This band is a beast right now.

4. Soulive & Dr. Klaw | The Creole Queen Riverboat | Friday May 6th

Superfly’s Riverboat experience can be a very hit or miss deal, mainly because the boats low ceilings make sightlines an issue for probably 80% of the people in attendance. But the Soulive cruise (their first) seemed to be fairly undersold, and I was very pleasantly surprised to find that drink prices had been lowered from previous years and there was also some pretty good food on the boat… but I digress. Dr Klaw (Adam Dietch, Nick Daniels, Nigel Hall, Ian Neville) kicked things off and their blend of funk had the boat rocking well before the first turn in the river. As the lights of downtown New Orleans faded into the distance, the band dropped into a knee wobbling cover of P-Funks “Dr. Funkenstein” and the boat was lit up with smiles and dancing folk. Another total bonus of the riverboat cruises is Kirk Joseph and his 504 Brass Band holding down the top deck for when it gets too stuffy down in the cabin. Kirk is one of the premier sousaphone players in the city, a fine addition to the mix. Once Soulive took the stage, it was on – the current Soulive feel is the old school Soulive feel – pure, silky groove. Mix that in with the Beatles stuff they have been doing of late and it is one hell of a show. I’ll definitely be back on a boat cruise next year.

Eric Krasno | The Creole Queen Riverboat

3. Marco Benevento, Reed Mathis & Billy Martin | Le Petite Theatre du Vieux Carre | Friday April 29th

Three incredible improvisors, playing in a theatre tucked inside a Spanish mansion on Jackson Square at 2:00am? Yes. Please. Once we were seated inside the 350 seat theatre, you really got the sense that this was what Jazz Fest week was all about. After some comical banter from Marco, the band blasted off in one of the most awe inspiring sets of the first weekend. Marco is at his best when he posts up at a stand-up piano, equipped with his effects pedals and circuit benders to lavish up it’s traditional tone. Billy and Reed were in top form as well, following up Marco with perfect precision to form a completely dominant sound. They played a whole heap of Marco originals, a few covers (MMJ’s “Golden” comes to mind) and even touched on a few Medeski, Martin, and Wood themes. The end result was a magnificent display of modern jazz power, in one of the most beautiful rooms in the French Quarter. It’s the jacket.

Marco Benevento & Billy Martin | Le Petite Theatre | photo by Rob Chapman

2. Allen Toussaint’s Jazzity Project | Snug Harbor | Thursday May 5th

Snug Harbor has quickly become one of my favorite rooms to hear music in the city, the preshow food and drinks at the bar and the service during the show make this one of the top spots for jazz in the entire world. Toussaint was on the bill with his Jazzity Project, a fine-tuned group consisting of Steve Masakowski on guitar, Roland Guerin (The Pride of Baton Rouge) on bass, and Herman LeBeaux Jr. on the kit. The Jazzity Project is very special to me, as when I heard the “Going Places” album for the first time it immeadiately vaulted into my favorite albums and has stayed in constant rotation since. So when I saw that the quartet was going to be playing at Snug, I pretty much called them everyday until the tickets finally went on sale. The band opened with “Traffic” and weaved through some very sharp jazz before letting Allen do some solo stuff, like “Shrimp Po-boy, Dressed” a reworked Toussaint track from his upcoming solo album and in keeping with the spirit of Fest, he nailed a Longhair medley that had the room swaying.

Allen Toussaint's Jazzity Project | Snug Harbor | Thursday April 5th

1. Superjam feat. Marco Benevento, , Adam Deitch & Brian Stoltz | The Parish Room | Friday May 6th

It really is hard to put into words what went down inside The Parish Room last Friday night. It was completely on another level of communication and playing – each of the four was locked in as tight as it gets, not letting anyone in the room up for air. When the band finally took a moment to breathe, they opted to close the night on a perfect cover of War’s “Why Can’t We Be Friends” and sent the shell shocked crowd out into the French Quarter to take in the early morning air. Cannot wait for a recording to surface of this one.

Marco Benevento, George Porter & Brian Stoltz | The Parish Room

Other highlights: BIGI (Batiste, Ivan, George, Ian) doing “Mojo Hannah -> I’m A Man” with Anders and Johnny Sansone at Tipitina’s Instruments a Comin’ Benefit (VIDEO), Papa Mali and Friends (with Kirk Joseph, Col. Bruce Hampton Ret., and Billy Kruetzmann) doing “Lovelight”for a Rusty Nail packed to the brim with deadheads, Bruce Hornsby’s version of “Lady With A Fan -> Across The River” (VIDEO), seeing Robert Plant and his Band of Joy dropping a huge “Ramble On” during day 1 of the fest (VIDEO – who would also come out with Buddy Miller and Patty Griffin at Preservation Hall later that night), Karl Denson and Spyboy straight up FUNKING out Ginuwine’s “Pony” in the back room of Le Bon Temps (PIC), and catching the middle set of Gravity A’s annual Jazz Fest Bacchanal with Kirk Joseph on sousaphone, Steve Molitz on keys, Simon Lott on drums and Josh Clark on guitar… LONG LIVE FEST 2011!

May 11, 2011 |  by  |  Jazz Fest
  • Jonathan

    I was at this set –
    Marco Benevento, Reed Mathis & Billy Martin | Le Petite Theatre du Vieux Carre | Friday April 29th and can attest that it was FANTASTIC!!! I also loved Trombone Shorty’s set on April 30th 2am at HOB. Both shows were unforgettable!

    • Clau20874

      Was there too- loved every minute. And I have to say I wasn’t familiar at all with anything going on with the music in NOLA that weekend, but it was the perfect beginning for my first Jazz Fest, and closing it with Worship My Organ was pure bliss for me. Will def be going back next year! Marco got himself a new fan that weekend.

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  • Ruby K

    My favorite part of Jazzfest is that you can make a top ten list of shows you saw, and I was only at one of em and had an incredible fest. Bear Creek All Stars? Karl Denson’s sick Cinco De Mayo show? Going back and forth between McTuff and Karl D, Johnny V and Marco? Amazeballs.

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