The Big Chief of the Golden Blade Mardi Gras Indians welcomed Fest attendees with the standard "Indian Red" on a beautiful day at the Fair Grounds. Of note Saturday:
-Wynton Marsalis both in an early interview at the Music Heritage Stage and in his closing set in the Jazz Tent with the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra made a inspired case for Duke Ellington's point - that New Orleans is the heart and soul of American music, and the source (especially a la Louis Armstrong) of - in Marsalis' words - "our national rhythm: swing." The orchestra played many movements from Ellington's New Orleans Suite. Ellington recruited New Orleanians for his band in the late 1920s because he wanted the "hot" sound of New Orleans music. As late as the 1960s, Ellington defended his music from critics who criticized elements of it as outdated, and he continued to incorporate the swinging sounds of early New Orleans jazz.
-Bruce Springsteen made believers of many when he played music from his Seeger Sessions album/project at the Jazz Fest following Hurricane Katrina. But he has nothing on Pete Seeger himself, who will turn 90 this week. Leading an all string ensemble (plus Preservation Hall creative director Ben Jaffe on a couple songs), Seeger was sweetly inspiring singing protest songs, folk songs and blues. Jazz Fest founder and director was visibly moved introducing Seeger as the grandfather of the Newport Folk Festival.
-Stephanie Jordan made her set in the Jazz Tent a long tribute to Lena Horne. Jordan gave many Rat Pack favorites a bluesy turn. Jordan shared with the crowd that her father played in a band backing Horne, and she was able to get an autographed photo. Her sister Rachel then took the signed picture to school for show and tell, and lost it. Jordan then summoned Rachel (a violinist) to the stage to join her for a number.
-Mr. Okra, the downtown drive-by grocer, parked his folk art painted truck near the Jazz & Heritage Stage and sold fruit to Festgoers. Among his customers today was Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu, who bought a bunch of red grapes. When asked, Landrieu had a tougher time recommending a final act to see (given the multiple choice of James Taylor, Erykah Badu, Wilco or Wynton Marsalis). He deferred, claiming it was too hard to chose.