Like the city it celebrates, the annual New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival is steeped in local memory. . . .
At this year’s Jazzfest it was clear that New Orleans performances have added a new and possibly permanent custom: an acknowledgment of the scars left by [Hurricane Katrina].
When Stevie Wonder headlined Friday’s lineup, he brought onstage the New Orleans R&B stalwart Irma Thomas to sing his song “Shelter in the Rain,” which she recorded after losing her home and club to the flood. The New Orleans trumpeter Irvin Mayfield, leading the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra on Saturday, ended his set with a hymnlike elegy to his father, who drowned in the flooding after the storm. As Randy Newman performed his song about an earlier flood, “Louisiana 1927,” he drew a heartfelt sing-along on the chorus: “Louisiana, they’re trying to wash us away.” Another New Orleans trumpeter, Kermit Ruffins, doing his version of the optimistic “O-o-h Child,” rapped about growing up in the devastated Lower Ninth Ward, and urged, “Clean up this mess,” while the Dirty Dozen Brass Band added a few words about Katrina to Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On.”
But musicians at Jazzfest didn’t linger over grief. They created a New Orleans party, the kind that simultaneously defies sorrow, affirms continuity, heartens the locals and draws eager tourists.
Monday, May 05, 2008
The New York Times took note of New Orleans' annual Jazz and Heritage Festival, a.k.a. Jazzfest: