Tag Archives: New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival
January 11, 2013
Gregg Allman’s life is a road well travelled for sure. As much thriver as survivor, his blues have the resume to match (40+ years on the road and hard knocks you wouldn’t wish on anyone). Last year’s T-Bone Burnett produced “Low Country Blues” is a seminal record that embodies the sum of Allman’s musical lives in roadhouse ramble, swampy Muscle Shoals drenched horns and his all the way at the bottom looking up vocals. You can feel the miles and hear the fight breaking out in the back.
Like many of his musical peers, Allman has gone open kimono on his life and times with the autobiography “My Cross to Bear” released last year, continuing a trend of influential musicians (Keith Richards, Neil Young, Pete Townsend, most notably) sharing internal reflections, creative insights and the occasionally rowdy it could only happen to this rock star story. Sure, there are more salacious aspects one would expect in these memoirs (and, yes, Richards “Life” is hard to put down), but more powerfully, there is honesty and a peak behind the curtain from guys with less sand in the hourglass and their eyes on the clock. In Allman’s case (as he told Spinner last year), his was not so much of a book as an ongoing journal over 30 years. Seeing Greg Allman on the talk show circuit openly engaging on his life, his approach to the blues, his marriages, his run-ins with former band mate Dickey Betts, was disarmingly real and surreal at the same time. But what struck me was an almost vampiric need to keep playing as long as he has a pulse. That urgency is not unique to Allman, but it is palpable and poignant.
Just after the release of “Low Country Blues”, Allman played the Blues Tent at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in 2011, competing against the orchestral strains of Arcade Fire from the neighboring Acura Stage. It was a sweaty, satisfying and enthusiastically received set with three-piece horns that moved between rearranged ABB material and Allman solo tunes including several from “Low Country Blues” (Allman’s JamBase interview before the Fest is good reading).
Allman had some health issues last year, but he has been road ready for a while with a swing through the south including a New Year’s Eve stop at the House of Blues in New Orleans and a date at Nashville’s hallowed Ryman Auditorium. His Royce Hall performance is part of a California/Nevada stretch that includes San Diego, Vegas, San Francisco, Napa and Tahoe.
Royce Hall is a gracious space (think more jazz and classical, than roadhouse blues) that gave the evening a relaxed feel, and there was a lot of Allman joy in the air as the band strode onstage to B.B. King on the PA. The current band features Scott Sharrard on guitar, Bruce Katz on keys, Jay Collins on horns, Steve Potts on drums, Jerry Jemmott on bass and Floyd Miles on percussion and vocals, and the 2-hour set was a group effort from start to finish. Allman alternated between guitar and his B3 throughout the night and anyone expecting ABB intensity from a Greg Allman show should check their expectations at the door.
The love for the bandleader was apparent after the opener, “I’m No Angel” with a (male) yell of “you sound sweet, Greg!” from the back rows. About a third of the 19 song set was ABB material and the rest from the deeper Greg Allman recorded and touring catalogue, ranging from a cover of Jackson Browne’s “These Days” (with an appropriate weary tenderness) to crowd pleasers “Melissa” and “Midnight Rider”. “Statesboro Blues” appeared early in the set and showed some kick to the delight of the ABB diehards. Floyd Miles, who Allman has “played with since he was 14” took the band through the blues flavors of Muddy Waters “I Can’t Be Satisfied” and two from his 1994 release, “Back to Daytona”. Allman’s daughter Layla held her own on a cover of Elmore James’ “The Sky is Crying” and Dad dug a little deeper swapping vocals with his daughter. “Wasted Words” was punchy as all get out, with Bruce Katz’s spiky keys, Jay Collins tenor and Scott Sharrard’s fretwork fully jelling. Guest bassist Tal Wilkenfeld stepped in for “Just Before the Bullets Fly” (from Allman’s 1988 release of the same name) and “Midnight Rider”(Wilkenfeld is a phenomenal player who was going toe-to-toe with Jeff Beck at barely 20). “Bullets” was another high point of the night and Wilkenfeld’s presence certainly took it up a notch. “Rider” had Collins layering in flute lines and Katz added just the right touch of Rhodes work to evoke the frozen in time feel of the tune. A slow burn of “Whipping Post” was far from the tempest of the ABB (of any era), but Collins’ sax, the rhythm section of Potts and Lamott, and Sharrard’s wah-wah, brought the set to a satisfying finish.
Allman came back with “Floating Bridge” (the Sleepy John Estes cover that opens “Low Country Blues”) and seemed to find something extra in this song about being pulled under the muddy river. “One Way Out” put the show to bed, another horn-centric arrangement of a classic ABB tune and a chance for Sharrard to flash his slide work. Any player in Sharrard’s spot has to beat down the ghosts of ABB slingers past and present and Sharrard brought the right amount of fire, fuzz and respect to the Allman repertoire throughout the night. After all, the ABB is a guitar oriented bunch and the Greg Allman Band is not. Sharrard rose to the challenge.
Allman has hit some rough road along the way and parts of his life read like lines from much of the Elmore James material he plays. While the evening was more subdued then raucous, Greg Allman appears to be on his game and the affection of his fans (not just ABB fans) has only grown. There’s thriver and survivor in all of us. That’s what makes the blues so relatable. Greg Allman is living proof.
September, 11, 2012
Jazzfest’s surprise moments can happen any time. One of mine came this year when The Revivalists kicked off the Fest from the Gentilly stage before noon on the opening Friday. While the band has played the Fest the past few years, I was in the dark until that set. Familiar to many native Orleaneans and carving a broader audience through touring in support of acts such as Dr. John, Trombone Shorty and Galactic (and in the next few weeks, Gov’t. Mule), their Fest set was passionate, captivating, and raised the bar early for one of the better Fests ever. Led by guitarist/vocalist David Shaw, the band puts Ed Williams blazing pedal steel right up front with horns, keys and a committed rhythm section to deliver what the esteemed David Fricke dubbed “a Crescent City-rhythm spin on jam-band jubilee”. To my ear, this is soul-jam influenced rock from New Orleans, with the New Orleans influences taking more of a back seat to driving and occasionally chimey guitars, Shaw’s growl and an undeniable we came to play stage presence (Shaw’s off stage forays and Williams overtopping his pedal steel were sweet spot material for this photographer).
The Revivalists found each other in 2007 and have three CDs under their belt – their eponymous debut EP from 2008, 2010’s “Vital Signs” and this year’s “City of Sound”, which was produced by Ben Ellman of Galactic and mixed by Count (aka, Michael Eldridge), who’s worked with the Stones, Radiohead, Pink, No Doubt, as well as Galactic and Trombone Shorty. Their Mint date is part of a September swing through California and Nevada and I was curious how their Gentilly size presence would fit the room.
The small, but devoted, Tuesday night crowd grew in size and enthusiasm as the band worked its way through a deep 80-minute set. Opening with Zack Feinberg’s ES-335 fueled riffs on “Concrete (Fish Out of Water)” from 2008’s “The Revivalists”, the tune caught fire right away. Ed Williams’ sacred steel wasted no time meshing and mashing with Shaw and Feinberg’s twin guitars. “All in the Family” and “Monster” are new tunes, the former bringing a stomping, rapped up rhythm to a chorus of “I’ve got that feeling in my bones”, and whether playing to a living room or thousands, David Shaw sells that line true. Steel on top of blues driven funk just brings it home. “Monster” is a softer tune built around Shaw’s vocals, Feinberg’s waterfall runs and Rob Ingraham’s sax, and an appropriate lead in to “Not Turn Away” from “Vital Signs” with its shuffle step plea of “I hope that you were listening/when I said that you could be the only one”.
The ghostly, “Pretty Photograph” from “City of Sound,” sounds nothing like New Orleans and was one of best tunes of the night, blending Williams sweet turn up top with Rob Ingraham’s baritone below. The punchy “Common Cents” from “The Revivalists”, and “When I’m Able”, “Up in the Air” and “When I Die” from “City of Sound” followed. “Up in the Air’s” catch up phrasing landing squarely on the chorus and building to a satisfying finish under Zack Feinberg’s uncolored gallop. By this point in the set, tables gave way to the dance floor and a 40ish dude leading the pack made a point of telling me he drove 3 hours to catch the gig. “Let It All Out” was another new tune that bounced between a ragey bridge and more ballady chorus and fell a little short of other tunes. The rest of the set included the reggae lilt of “Sunny Days” from “The Revivalists”, “Catching Fireflies” from “Vital Signs”, and “Criminal” the obvious closer from “City of Sound”. “Criminal” brings many of the band’s best elements together, tearing up the Fest and capping off this night at The Mint nicely.
I caught up with Rob Ingraham after the show for some set forensics. No set lists, just shout outs from the stage. Wouldn’t have known it as it all hung together rather well.
There is romance in the Revivalists sound. Songs feel like love close, beaten or out of reach. Delivered with inspiration and perspiration and a New Orleans heartbeat. A band that also knows where it’s going and determined to get there. I’d count on it.
August 14, 2012
It’s apropos that the Honey Island Swamp Band would return for a summer gig at The Mint following an appearance at Outside Lands the prior weekend. After all, the Bay Area figures so prominently in this NOLA band’s origin story. Stranded by Katrina. Crescent City players a long way from home. Meet up on the west coast. Bond big time. Keep their chops strong. Throw a few songs together. Land a regular gig in the heart of town. Cut their debut in the one and only Record Plant in Sausalito. It could only happen….where?
This is their third trip to The Mint in 14 months. That’s not a bad thing. Whether it’s covering their LA dates, staking their ground from the big stage at the Fest or enjoying their pop up everywhere Fest club dates, I have been a fan since first catching them at Jazzfest in 2008. The Bay Area meets bayou influences are everywhere in the HISB sound. Solid songwriting, tight arrangements and enough room to stretch, their self-coined “bayou americana” is rootsy strings first stuff. Swamp driven, but not dripping, and often sprouting ensemble fed jams from tasty hooks, HISB sets include staples from their first three albums “Honey Island Swamp band (2007), “Wishing Well” (2009) and “Good to You” (2010), and more recently, new material from a pending fourth release.
Guest Robert Walter was on hand to thicken the gumbo a bit. Many an HISB gig add horns up top, so it’s a fresh twist to double down with Walter and Trevor Brooks on keys. Behind the stringed attack of frontmen, Aaron Wilkinson who moves between his Thinline Tele and mandolin, and Chris Mulé’s excellent Strat fed slide work, HISB serves up material reminiscent of Little Feat, Creedence, Black Crowes and many of the band’s NOLA peers, while remaining totally original. Sam Price’s stage energy is only exceeded by the pulsing, bubbling work on his Lakland bass. Garland Paul is a great foil for Price and the rhythm section drives and roots a band that feeds one another with spirited stage IQ in a deceptively comfortable musical setting.
Opening with the country ramble of “Honey” (from “Good to You”), the tune had Trevor Brooks off to the races. “Josephine”, (also from, “Good to You”) is simply a good time song of love on the road with a great hook. Some muscular playing from Price and kick ass exchanges between Chris Mulé and Trevor Brooks drove that point home. Walter’s jazzier inclinations added another layer to the already jammy “Chocolate Cake” (from “Good To You”) and his soul jazz sound on his own “Snakes and Spiders” (from his 2008 release, “Cure All”) and later in the set, “Hard Ware” (from 2005’s “Super Heavy Organ”) and “Quantico, VA”, were an intriguing match for HISB that worked better than expected. “300 Pounds” (from “Good To You”) is a classic tale of weed running that again had Mulé satisfyingly meshing with four hands on the keys. “Slip” from their self-titled debut and “One Shot” (unreleased) were feisty, with the latter beginning with a reggae on the bayou feel and the former featuring some nice wah-wah like effects from Mulé, when the band was not hugging the go to m7/dom 9 change. Throughout the set, Aaron Wilkinson’s mandolin work showed how much that little box can rock, when he wasn’t tangling Fenders with Mulé or working a hot summer day harp in to the mix. His 8-string touch on “One Shot” climbed all around the blues step of the tune.
No song captures the musical strengths of HISB like “Wishing Well” (from the 2008 release of the same name). Swampy riffs, a sing along chorus and deep stretches of purposeful jams. At The Mint, the snaky intro, Mulé’s slide and the ensemble spirit had me deja vuing for long lost brain cells. “Till the Money’s Gone” (from “Wishing Well”) is an all NOLA romp and “Jitterbug Swing” (an old Bukka White tune, also unreleased) is fleet footed front porch bluesgrass. “Cane Sugar” (unreleased) and “Country Girl” (from “Good To You”), with its Van Morrison if he could boogie flavor, closed things out.
Singer/guitarist Clarence Bucaro opened the show with a well received set culled from his five albums, including the just released “Walls of the World”.
HISB is deceiving. The tunes feel like your own backyard throwdown, but go deeper. The funk, blues, bluegrass, jam, country, bayou sound they have cultivated will satisfy jam fans and roots devotees alike. Fest vets know what I’m talking about and the thousands who caught them Saturday at Outside Lands do too. And they just keep getting better.
Jim Brock Photography is pleased to have images of the Beach Boys featured at the Canadian National Exposition’s “Rock ‘n Roll Will Never Die” exhibit in Toronto. CanEx kicks off August 17th and draws an estimated 1.3 million visitors during it’s 16-day run. The exhibit is a 50-year retrospective of The Beatles, Stones and Beach Boys featuring rare memorabilia, photos, videos and music.
From the Revivalists passionate opening Gentilly set to the final moments of Springsteen’s plaintive reading of Saints, the first weekend of Jazzfest 2012 was an abundance of special moments. Yes, the draws were the Acura headliners. Petty and Bruce delivered deep satisfying sets (from what I was able to catch), and Springsteen’s presence was a rallying cry of celebration and reflection. A reminder of how New Orleans has healed since his epic 2006 post-Katrina Seeger Sessions appearance, and how far there is still to go. Even the Beach Boys brought their game, judging by the smiles and sing alongs from a nice size Acura crowd. But, hey, did you check out Seun Kuti and Egypt 80 at Congo Square? The four generations of players from 9 to 90+ that filled the Fais Do Do on Saturday for the Savoy Music Center Cajun Jam? How about Bon Iver’s stirring (and unexpected) connection with the Jazzfest crowd? Gary Clark, Jr. absolutely tearing down the Blues Tent opposite the Boss with Texas blues that left teeth marks? Not to mention the Voice of the Wetlands All-Stars and Jon Cleary & the Absolute Monster Gentlemen showing Tom Petty how it’s done in New Orleans. Sure until self-cloning is an app, we all pang for what we missed. Weekend 1 proved, yet again, no matter where you are at the Fest, it’s exactly where you should be.
The days between were not too shabby. Instruments A’ Comin’ on Monday night at Tip’s and New Orleans Musicians for Obama at Generations Hall on Tuesday had my head spinning (in a good way). IAC was loaded this year, as always. The sight/sounds of the best young brass in town marching along a closed Napoleon Ave. is breathtaking, and Shorty, Galactic, HISB and a cast of thousands made for a very satisfying 4:30 AM bedtime. Tuesday night’s “ObamaFest” had some unfortunate ticketing glitches, but once inside Generations Hall, there was a little bit of everything with two stages, multiple bars and a great relaxed vibe. The mostly Meters mini-set with Dr. John was locked in and tight, the highlight of the night by far.
The second weekend of the Fest boasted one of the richest lineups in year. While the Foos and the Eagles were not in the cards for me (my closest encounter was fighting the 65,000 Eagles fans for the exit), the Gentilly Stage and the Blues Tent pulled me like magnets. Thursday can never be a bad day. The crowds are lighter and headliners undemanding. It’s easy to roam, chill and eat. Like a bonus day. Flow Tribe completely entertained, Glen Hansaard sang/played his heart out with a 6-string that makes Willie Nelson’s “Trigger” look new. Honey Island Swamp Band’s “Bayou Americana” keeps getting better. George Porter, Jr. and his Runnin’ Pardners were totally in the groove. Regina Carter’s Reverse Thread was magical and Florence Welch had me completely under her spell. Only at Jazzfest could Florence + the Machine be counterpointed with the earthy grit of James Cotton’s blowing in the Blues Tent. If that’s a down day at the Fest, give me more.
Friday was a highlight. Grace Potter’s scorching stage presence was topped by the Nocturnals go for broke delivery. Hornsby’s long overdue Fest debut was juicy and this Bruce was loving every minute of it, especially when joined by dem ‘bones. Rodrigo y Gabriela’s metal rooted world nylon string mash up was mesmerizing. Zac Brown showed why he is a festival circuit favorite, and so much more than a solid country rock comer.
Saturday brought a rollicking (and rocking tight) Allen Toussaint set. Anders Osborne, fresh from the release of “Black Eye Galaxy” dug deep and raw, then vulnerable. Dropping the guitar and backed by strings, “Higher Ground” was simply beautiful. John Boutte brought the house down with a triumphant Jazz Tent performance and running between My Morning Jacket, Herbie Hancock and the Warren Haynes Band (with Dr. John) sums up why there is nothing like Jazzfest. The Haynes Band especially shined in the slot originally scheduled for Levon Helm. Levon’s spirit was all over the Fest, whether it was Hornsby covering “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” or Mavis Staples bringing the crowd to tears in the Gospel Tent with “The Weight”.
By the time Sunday rolls around, you tell yourself the tank is more than half full, not running down fast. You believe the flight home is just a scheduling mistake, rather than a cruel joke. Then Galactic overpowers the Acura crowd. Glen David Andrews brings out that red horn and everyone rises a few inches off the ground. You go to church with the entire Boutte clan. David Sanborn and Joey DeFrancesco seize the Jazz Tent crowd before the final coming together to honor 50 years of Preservation Hall, with guests that celebrate all that is New Orleans music. Go shake it with Sharon Jones and her Dap Kings before the reality sets in that there are only 355 more sleeps to Jazzfest 2013. Now that’s a life. Thank you Quint and every human who make Jazzfest possible.
Jim Brock Photography collaborates with New Orleans artist Steven Sweet for Jazzfest Shabbat project
April 18, 2012
Touro Synagogue’s annual Jazzfest Shabbat service is a tradition that has featured the likes of Irma Thomas, Marcia Ball, Allen Toussaint, Irma Thomas and Jeremy Davenport over its 21 years. This year, John Boutte will grace the bima for this uniquely New Orleans gathering. Anyone who has heard John sing knows the beauty and soul his voice will bring to the service.
The event is commemorated by an illustrative interpretation of Jim Brock Photography’s image of Mr. Boutte by New Orleans artist Steven Sweet. The piece was commissioned by Touro Synagogue and features the singer dramatically set against a backdrop of the synagogue. The original source image was previously featured in the April 2011 USA Today print article, “New Orleans is back, and so is the talent”.
Jazzfest Shabbat is a very special event, bringing together Judaism, and the warmth and community of a Shabbat service, with the best in New Orleans music. See Touro Synagogue JazzFest Shabbat 2012 for more information on the service and performance.
April 18, 2012
Jim Brock Photography is donating prints to raise funds for the Tipitina’s Foundation Instruments A Comin’ on April 30th. Each year, Instruments A Comin’ (IAC) purchases instruments for school band programs in the greater New Orleans Area, and to date, has raised over $2.5 million for 75 schools. The 11th Annual IAC features a stellar line up including Galactic, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, BIGI (Ivan Neville, George Porter, Jr., Ian Neville, and Russell Batiste), Honey Island Swamp Band, Johnny Sketch & The Dirty Notes Shamarr Allen & The Underdawgs, Big Sam’s Funky Nation, Anders Osborne, Brass-A-Holics, Johnny Vidacovich, Al “Carnival Time” Johnson, Mia Borders, Walter “Wolfman” Washington, Donald Harrison & The T.I.P. Interns (and more). Other events include a silent auction, battle of the marching bands, walk and wall of fame induction ceremonies and more. In addition to the silent auction, items are available for bidding online now. If you believe in the City, have a love for the music and want to make a difference from wherever you are, please considering bidding. Two Jim Brock Photography prints are currently available for bidding, with more to be added.
Prints are 16 x 24 on Type-C Kodak Endura paper and verso signed for authentication.
March 1, 2012
Dumpstaphunk is slippery, stinky, smelly, funked up stuff. It says so in the name. We get it, but just to make sure nobody misses the point, Nick Daniels III and Tony Hall lock up dueling basses at every D-phunk gig. The prowess of the players is unquestioned, the history and Neville legacy familiar. Ivan’s indulgences and 14 years sobriety. His time as a Stones/Richards sideman. The fat Hammond sound and rich vocals he’s cultivated with Dumpstaphunk since 2003, along with numerous other projects and collaborations. Cousin Ian carrying the torch with the Funky Meters. Tony Hall’s double barreled Strat/bass attack and emcee theatrics. Nick Daniel’s III’s powerful digits. New addition Nikki GIaspie’s huge resume and Berklee chops. It all adds up to a solid unit that puts it in the dumpsta night in, night out.
Back in the day, Ivan Neville had more than a few residencies at The Mint and he’s no stranger to LA these days, either. The last time I caught Dumpstaphunk in town, they headlined a double bill with Rebirth at the Roxy and the energy was crazy. This time around, they were playing a room half that size over two nights. Scary. The LA dates kicked off a March tour schedule more demanding than a 2012 NBA road trip (14 dates in 24 days in California and the southeast). Dumpsta’s latest, Everybody Want Sum, was released in November and Jazzfest is around the corner, so I was counting on a good night. And with tunes like “Greasy Groceries”, “Stinky”, “Standing in Your Stuff” and “Everybody Want Sum” in the repertoire, I’m pretty sure ballads were checked at the door.
The Thursday show I caught didn’t get going until minutes before Friday. From the get go, the band was sticky tight. Between the Hall/Daniels III twin bass attack and Ivan’s clavinet, the ‘phunk felt plenty good. “Everybody Want Sum” from the new album has a perfect R&B soul hook that could be easily mistaken as a Sly Stone cover and featured nice Hammond work from Ivan Neville. The rubbery dual bass mixed well with Ian Neville’s right on top of the beat rhythm work. With “Blueswave”, Dumpsta moved to an almost Texas like stomp and some gritty Strat slinging by Tony Hall.
The stew really started to simmer closer to 1 AM, as affirmed by a crowd yell of “taking it to a whole other level!” And that was before the band even launched into “Deeper” (from Everybody Want Sum) > “Put It in the Dumpsta” (a D-phunk staple). Ivan Neville and Tony Hall turned “Dumpsta” into the best kind of group therapy, totally groove heavy with some healthy demon exorcising for good measure. “Living in a World Gone Mad” (from the 2007 EP, Listen Hear) brought guest Val McCallum to the stage (Jacksh*t, Lucinda Williams), and McCallum tore into his solos with sufficient fury to smoke out the room, clearly enjoying trading lines with Ivan’s Hammond. The gloppy dual bass interplay was especially pungent with the jam rock feel of “Lt. Dan” and the pre-encore set closed with the almost gospelly hinted call and response of “Meanwhile” (from Listen Hear).
Over the years I’ve been to my share of Dumpsta shows, and often took them for granted as just another NOLA side project that dependably delivered. The Mint gig brought me back into the fold with deeper appreciation for the band. High energy and high impact, drawing funk influences from the best of the Meters, James Brown, Sly Stone, Prince and countless others to shape their sound with precision and soul. Meaty stuff. Don’t miss them at Jazzfest.
February 25, 2012
The cultural reach of New Orleans music makes for a different kind of eclectic. Blender eclectic. Not every combination hits the sweet spot but the willingness to try anything out mirrors New Orleans resilience, roots and diversity to a tee. Where else could native Swedes Anders Osborne and Theresa Andersonn plant themselves and flourish like native Orleaneans. Or birth the New Orleans Klezmer All-Stars with their devoted legion of revelers to what can only be described as ethnically steeped music that approaches jam rock peaks, while remaining firmly grounded in both their New Orleans roots and Yiddish melodies. You couldn’t make this stuff up.
The latest in this jambalaya tradition of mixing cultures and sounds to catch my ear is Red Baraat (Baraat is the Hindi word for wedding procession). Self described as a “Brooklyn dhol n’ brass band”. The Village Voice dubbed them “raucous Indian bhangra and funky New Orleans brass”. My best shot to the uninitiated is NOLA brass’n’drums strained through hot curry. The adjectives fly hard and fast with these guys, and for good reason. Perhaps the band’s web bio says it best “… led by dhol player, Sunny Jain, the nine piece comprised of dhol (double-sided barrel shaped North Indian drum slung over one shoulder) drumset, percussion, sousaphone and five horns, melds the infectious North Indian rhythm Bhangra with a host of sounds, namely funk, go-go, latin, and jazz. Simply put, Sunny Jain and Red Baraat have created and deﬁned a sound entirely their own.” Yikes (and couldn’t agree more)!
So, I caught Red Baraat at the Jazz and Heritage Stage at last year’s Jazzfest upon hearing they “killed it in Lafayette” the day before and were not to be missed. Heck, they had me at traditional Hindi drums and trumpets, but “killed it in Lafayette” put me over the top. Throw them in front of a Jazz and Heritage crowd towards the end of the first Sunday and I was there, even if as much out of curiosity as musical expectation.
I’ve been anticipating how my Red Baraat experience would translate from the Louisiana sun to the living room intimacy of The Mint, ever since the show was announced in mid-January. With one studio album to their credit (2010’s Chaal Baby) an imminent follow-up (Shruggy Ji) and a live album (Bootleg Bhangra) from their Brooklyn turf, Red Baraat has plenty of material to draw from. This is a band I am getting to know by feel and infectious spirit, not a set list.
As the 10 PM start time pushed closer to 10:30, the crowd filled in and not your usual Saturday night Westside mashup for a change. This was the first real West Coast swing for the band with dates in Santa Cruz and San Francisco before their Mint gig.
Sunny Jain stood center stage flanked by reeds on his right, brass on his left and percussion behind him. From the get go, the room was filled with swirling brass and horns fed by blazing eastern rhythms and a sousaphone anchor. Yeah, it made perfect sense. “Chaal Baby” from their debut of the same name jumped straight into a deep percussive groove mixing Tomas Fujiwara’s traps, Jain’s dhol and Rohin Khameni’s percussion that had everyone’s hands up and feet moving. “Baraat to Nowhere”, also from Chaal Baby, was chunky enough to bring sousaphonist John Alteiri to the front to blow and rap (both part of his job description, according to his band bio). The fast and furious “Tunak Tunak Tun”, from Chaal Baby, featured some dazzling soprano turns by Alex Hamlin. At the end of the tune, the vibe of the crowd was nicely expressed by a distinct “fuck, yeah!” from the floor. “Shruggy Ji”, from the soon to drop second album of the same name, started with a brief dirge-like decoy, then kicked into a brass driven bluesy swing that wouldn’t be out of place at a second line funeral. The set closed with “Private Dancers” featuring the brass section of Sonny Singh (trumpet), MiWi La Lupa (bass trumpet) and Ernest Stuart (trombone) in high gear. The rap infused piece showcased Mike Bromwell’s baritone growling at just the right bandwidth (as he did all night) with Sonny Singh putting his jazz chops on full display (more impressive as he was somewhat under the weather). The encore capped the nine-song set with more dexterous soprano work by Alex Hamlin.
Time changes were rare – rather, Red Baraat swung and stayed with their beats from the beginning with start/stop tension gratifying enough to bust out a smoke and ask for their number. Sunny Jain was the perfect host for this affair, the complexion of his dhol adding rhythmic texture and pulse not traditionally found in a brass heavy context, yet echoing a marching band’s snare in other moments. His energizer spirit was uncontainable throughout, both band and audience in perpetual celebration.
A band like Red Baraat shows us that music is truly a world party and that borders are overrated. Who’d a thunk? This is a buzz in the best sense of the word. Live from planet earth, not to be missed.
Three Jim Brock Photography prints raised over $1,100 for the Tipitina’s Foundation as part of this year’s Instruments A Comin’ event during Jazzfest. The featured images were of Donald Harrison, Jr., James Singleton and Snooks Eaglin, with the Snooks image well exceeding the maximum suggested bid. Jim Brock Photography is very pleased to have contributed to the Tipitina’s Foundation mission and encourages visitors to this site to support the Foundation and learn about Instruments A Comin’, the T.I.P intern program, Sunday workshops and more at www.tiptinasfoundation.org.