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Hail to the Chief 

Whether it's celebrating Mardi Gras Indians, brass bands, rump-shaking funk or wonderful guest artists, the 37th annual Jazz & Heritage Festival, presented by Shell, proves in its second week that it's still large and in charge.

You could well argue that these two weekends -- the last weekend in April, this first weekend in May -- represent the two most crucial weekends in New Orleans' cultural history. They hope to prove that this city not only knows how to put on a party, and a musical one at that, but also that it is, post-Katrina, once again in step with the sounds of the streets.

We hear it in the jazz clubs and rock clubs, both locally and corporately owned, in the fancy theaters and campus auditoriums, even along the riverfront. But it is the sounds that emanate from the streets -- from the second lines, hailing from New Orleans' historic neighborhoods that have been flooded and wind-burned -- that provides the foundation of our music and, hence, the 37th annual New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, presented by Shell. Which is why it's so sweet to see the iconic Mardi Gras Indian gracing this year's Congo Square poster. And which is why I, Count Basin (SM), Jazz Fest's preeminent critic, is grateful for this return to the streets, and to the Fair Grounds.

There is so much to be grateful for; just the fact that the folks at Jazz Fest got this thing back up and running is cause for celebration. But something tells us this second weekend -- what we call a magnificent encore of the first -- will be more than just up and running. We think it will rule -- like any big chief should.

2006 Jazz Fest Index

Alison Fensterstock on New Orleans' gospel choirs

Alison Fensterstock on Basin Street Records

Harvey Pekar and Gary Dumm's graphic comic strip of Fats Domino

Josh Johnson on the Yonder Mountain String Band

Ariane Wiltse on the NOCCA Jazz Ensemble

Samuel H. Winston on Robert Randolph & the Family Band

Maps and Cubes

Frank Etheridge on Warren Haynes

Ian McNulty on Jazz Fest vendors

Congo Square Poster

Big Chief Joseph Pierre "Monk" Boudreaux, 64, of the Golden Eagles Tribe symbolizes the culture, tradition, endurance and defiance of the unique Mardi Gras Indians as well as anyone. For this year's Congo Square poster, Congo Square 2006: Three-way Pocky A-Way, artist Richard Thomas drew inspiration from legendary photographer Michael P. Smith. Here he captures both the vivid costume and the Indian wearing it. The triptych in this work conveys the timeless nature of the tribes and their "pretty" suits. Along with numbered and artist-signed editions, art4now provides a special-edition triple signed by Thomas, Smith and Boudreaux. For more, visit

The name "Count Basin" and the Count Basin character are a registered service mark of Gambit Communications Inc. All rights reserved.

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