Monday, April 30, 2012

Jazz Fest Sunday: non Bruce Springsteen edition

Posted By on Mon, Apr 30, 2012 at 4:25 PM

Debo Band plays the Jazz & Heritage Stage.
  • Debo Band plays the Jazz & Heritage Stage.

From early on Sunday, it seemed that many Jazz Festgoers were there to see Bruce Springsteen. Those camping out early were rewarded with getting to hear sets from Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue and Dr. John. But by the time Shorty raised his trombone, there was barely a free patch of grass as far back as the Crawfish Monica stand.

The wait was well worth it. In a nearly three-hour performance, Springsteen offered up everything he's known to be: 1970s rocker, Seeger-sesssion folk revivalist, spokesman for the working man and cities fallen on hard times (in New Jersey or New Orleans) a la "My City of Ruins" and "The Rising." Just like his 2006 visit, he offered an emotional version of "When the Saints Go Marching In."

Springsteen also seemed to enjoy his show more than the crowd, whether embracing or dancing with audience members, claiming a sign dedicated to Clarence Clemons or inviting Dr. John on stage and telling him that some of the gris gris stuff from the 1970s made him nervous. Even dousing himself with a sponge or throwing a beer on himself, Springsteen seemed right at home and eager for more.

There's more about that set coming in Count Basin's reviews in the May 15 Gambit. But there were other great performances at the fest on Sunday too. One of the hidden gems was the Debo Band on the Jazz & Heritage Stage. The band subtitles itself "Ethiopian Groove Collective," and at times it sounded like a big band review (with a horn section, accordion, guitars and violins) and at times it sounded like an odd and ecstatic strain of klezmer music. Lead singer Bruck Tesfaye sang in what I am guessing is one of Ethiopia's languages, and the band did two of what it described as wedding songs. In energy and spirit, it was totally what one would expect to hear at that stage from a funky New Orleans brass band.

Apparently, there was a pop and jazz movement in Ethiopia beginning in the 1960s, and what later evolved is a genre of Ethiopian pop music called Ethiopiques. Debo Band formed in Boston and is currently signed to Next Ambience/Sub Pop. There are samples of its music on that link, but the live show is much more compelling.

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