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At Last! JazzFest Returns to New Orleans

18 May 2022

Last year, I wrote twice about the New Orleans Heritage and Jazz Festival and its meaning for me – first at the prospect of its return last October and again at that return’s postponement to 2022.

But, at last, after a three-year absence and in its historical season, JazzFest did return to us. And in style!

According to the official count, attendees numbered about 475,000, as many recorded in 2019, the last time the festival was held.

The lineup was incredible – Irma Thomas, age 81, showing she’s still got the chops! Germaine Bazzel, at 90 showing she still is the grande dame of jazz vocalists. Are those ladies extraordinary, or what?

The Who, or, at least, Pete Townsend and Roger Daltrey, backed up by the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra. I’d bet that’s the first time the Philharmonic rocked out to Baba O’Riley onstage! Lionel Ritchie, Stevie Nicks. Kool & the Gang, Norah Jones.

We were reminded that COVID is still with us when Willie Nelson canceled at the last minute due to one of his bandmates’ testing positive. The COVID -19 BA.2 variant is currently making its way through New Orleans – there were over 800 new hospital admissions reported in Louisiana yesterday. Please be careful and take care of yourselves and your families.

But the Zac Brown Band stepped in and stepped up, bless them and put on one hell of a show.

As he has for the past several Jazz Fests, Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews and his Orleans Avenue band closed the festival, bringing the New Breed Brass Band, brother James Andrews, and a bunch of Mardi Gras Indians onstage for the finale. Yes!!!

Several special tributes honored such New Orleans legends as Dr. John, Art and Charles Neville, and Ellis Marsalis; their photos were formally added to the display of “Ancestors.”

Having missed JazzFest acutely through the months and years between Festivals, I of course was there with bells on.

I baked hotly and happily in the sun. I reveled in the sounds of a wide variety of music. I devoured crawfish bread and sipped strawberry lemonade. I also carefully positioned some white Burgundy in my backpack, and enjoyed that as well.

I watched Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit (the 400 Unit is a colloquial name for the psychiatric ward of a Florence, Alabama hospital) at the Gentilly Stage with my wife Jennifer, along with one of my favorite friends and his daughter.

And missed, nostalgically and pleasantly, JazzFests past, with my own daughter, Meghan, at my side. Meghan will graduate from college this weekend with a Math and an Economics degree, which barely seems possible – it seems like yesterday I was dropping her off at her freshman dorm.

Of course, I am bursting with pride over everything she’s accomplished and the lovely young lady she’s become.

But, back to JazzFest. Maybe most of all, I enjoyed the simple human contact with my fellow JazzFest music lovers. We are anyone, everyone, kings and paupers, captains of industry and night-cleaners. But before the awesomeness of the music, the deliciousness of the tempting food, the shared enjoyment of New Orleans’ great heritage, we are made equals in our mutual celebration.

JazzFest is such a big part of celebrating our heritage together. I have missed it so sorely. Seeing its return was to know our beautiful city triumphant over misfortune and obstacle. I found it both moving and inspiring.

So, here’s to JazzFest and New Orleans – long may they flourish!

What sparks joy in your life now, as we segue into summer?

Please click here to email me directly – I’d love to hear your stories and thoughts.

Until next time –



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