Dr. John, Carolina Chocolate Drops, Cheikh Lô Make "Joyous, Colorful" Music at New Orleans Jazz Fest (Times-Picayune)
The 2012 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, aka Jazz Fest, got under way last weekend and returns to New Orleans' Fair Grounds Race Course tomorrow through Sunday for a second round of music. Carolina Chocolate Drops, Cheikh Lô, and New Orleans legend Dr. John all helped make the opening weekend an unforgettable one. This coming weekend sees Dr. John's return and a set from another favorite son of New Orleans, Allen Toussaint.
The Carolina Chocolate Drops' Saturday afternoon set at the Fais Do-Do Stage was "a joyous, emotionally committed show," reports Chris Waddington for the Times-Picayune. "The passion of the Chocolate Drops came through in their playing—the high lonesome wail of [Rhiannon] Giddens' violin and the lithe alto she deployed on vocals; the percussive banjo lines of [Dom] Flemons and [Hubbie] Jenkins, and the clattering exchanges when the men took up the bones. [Leyla] McCalla's cello added a pulsing, accordion drone and some funky walking bass lines ... If other players had chosen to sit in, the Chocolate drops could have easily accommodated everyone from a bluegrass fiddler to a West African griot plucking the kora. If that's not the kind of thing you expect from hip, young African-American musicians—then get to know the Chocolate Drops, and please bring your dancing shoes." Read the complete review at nola.com.
Saturday afternoon also saw a set from Cheikh Lô, featuring music from his latest album, Jamm. The set was "as colorful and unique as his signature patchwork tunic," says the Times-Picayune's Laura McKnight. "The musician, known for his pleasing vocals and prowess on guitar and drums, got an audience at the Congo Square Stage rocking and swaying ... The performance reflected Lô's West African roots while showing off his eclectic musical background. Lô was born in Burkina Faso to Senegalese parents, but grew up listening to sounds from across the globe, including Congolese Rumba and Cuban music. His music blends these influences with funk, flamenco and semi-acoustic styles rooted in West and Central Africa and Latin America." Read the concert review at nola.com.
Dr. John's set Sunday afternoon on the Acura Stage featured songs from throughout the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Famer's storied career, included several songs from his recently released Nonesuch debut album, Locked Down, "the much-acclaimed collaboration with Black Keys guitarist Dan Auerbach," writes the Times-Picayune's Keith Spera, who calls the new album "a return to form," infused with the spirit of "vintage Dr. John recordings from his hoodoo heyday." That spirit "came through" in the Jazz Fest set, which "sounded like a newly invigorated Dr. John." Read the review at nola.com.
Immediately following Dr. John's set, the weekend's festivities came to a rousing close with an Acura Stage set from Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, for which Dr. John returned to add his own unique contribution to the set. "Hometown hero Dr. John helped close out the first weekend of the New Orleans Jazz Fest on Sunday by jumping on piano during Bruce Springsteen's headlining set for a funky rendition of 'Something You Got,'" reports Rolling Stone's Megan Conway. "Afterward, Springsteen acknowledged the Doctor's unmatched piano work. 'It's all about that groove. You can't make that groove exactly in New Jersey. That's all there is to it,' laughed Springsteen. 'He comes down, he sits in that groove, man, and all of the sudden—oh my God, your sexual organs are stimulated! That's exactly what happens.'" Read more and watch a video of the collaboration at rollingstone.com.
Dr. John returns to Jazz Fest this weekend to join the Warren Haynes Band as a special guest for a performance in the Blues Tent on Saturday.
Allen Toussaint, who released The Bright Mississippi, an album exploring the work of his New Orleans forebears, on Nonesuch in 2009, plays two Jazz Fest sets this coming weekend, hitting the Acura Stage Saturday afternoon and then joining the Preservation Hall Jazz Band on the Gentilly Stage Sunday evening for a celebration of its 50th anniversary, along with Ani DiFranco, Jim James, Steve Earle, Trombone Shorty, and Bonnie Raitt, as well as Wendell Eugene & Lionel Ferbos and Jazz Fest creator George Wein.
For all of the festival details, go to nojazzfest.com.