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Sunday, May 7, 2017

Sunday at Jazz Fest

Posted By on Sun, May 7, 2017 at 10:41 PM

click to enlarge Gregg Stafford and his Young Tuxedo Brass Band perform in the Economy Hall Tent.
  • Gregg Stafford and his Young Tuxedo Brass Band perform in the Economy Hall Tent.

Following a Saturday featuring headliners Stevie Wonder, Snoop Dogg and Meghan Trainor, the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival had plenty of notable jazz sets on Sunday's schedule.

It didn't get more traditional than the start of trumpeter Gregg Stafford's Young Tuxedo Brass Band's set in the Economy Hall Tent. The band members looked sharp in traditional captain's hats, white shirts and ties. It kicked off the set with "Bugle Boy March," and the Lady Jetsetters Marching club led a second-line parade from the first notes. The band followed with "Paul Barbarin's Second Line," and fans with umbrellas kept circulating in the aisles.

At the Gentilly Stage, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band has shed its traditional look, with no one in matching outfits. Saxophonist Charlie Gabriel held center stage (in a beige suit and pink tie) and led the band through most of its April release, So It Is. Gabriel and artistic director Ben Jaffe led the writing on the album of all original material. The album was inspired by a trip to Cuba in 2015, and Latin rhythms infuse much of it, not surprisingly the tracks "Santiago" and "La Malanga." It was an entirely instrumental set with the exception of the band all singing on "Mad," the final track on So It Is. The band's journey into all original material seems to have the group excited, and trombone player Ronell Johnson, in a bright orange suit vest, never stopped dancing at the front of the stage.

Florida native Jamison Ross studied jazz at UNO and gained acclaim at a young age. He won the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition in 2012, he's recorded with local jazz musicians and on Dr. John's tribute to Louis Armstrong and he signed to Concord Records and released Jamison. As he leads his band from his drum kit, it's his vocals that amaze, from climbing into higher registers while gently working his mallets to his smooth deep voice on other original songs. Near the end of his set, he told the audience he had to play some blues, and he launched into "Deep Down in Florida." Its lyrics include the lines, "where the sun shines every day / I'm going to take my woman to the beach / We're going to sit in the sand and play," and the tone never felt particularly blue, — instead infused with a rolling easy and subtle joy. When Ross was told he had time for one more song, he started with a short a cappella intro and segued into The Beatles' "Yesterday." To anyone listening, it should not come as a surprise that Ross grew up singing in church. The way he turned the song's phrases, it practically sounded like a lyrical sermon.

Ross was followed in the jazz tent by Nicholas Payton's Afro-Caribbean Mixtape. The group performed a few extended versions from their album of the same name. Payton said that last year DJ Lady Fingaz became the first DJ to perform in the jazz tent. She added samples and short snippets of recorded commentary on the African diaspora and the meaning of jazz. But what may have been another first was having two dancers on stage through the whole set.

Payton sat at the keyboards and also played trumpet from his place at center stage, flanked by drummer Joe Dyson and percussionist Daniel Sadownick. The group played their album's title track "Afro-Caribbean Mixtape," "Call and Response" and "Jazz is a Four Letter Word," and the extended versions had a modern jazz feel, repeating motifs and returning after interludes with Afro-Caribbean beats and snippets of recorded commentary.

At Acura, Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue roared onto the stage with a hard rocking instrumental intro. Troy Andrews entered with his arms raised, a trumpet in one hand and a trombone in the other. Orleans Avenue features two drummers, a conga player, a bass and horn section with choreographed moves, and for this set, a trio of backup singers, and they put together a tight, high-energy, jubilant set.

Andrews released Parking Lot Symphony on jazz label Blue Note Records last week. One of its best tracks is a cover of Allen Toussaint's "Here Come the Girls." The band played it early in the set, and delivered a more upbeat, more filled-out version than is on the record, and even if its not clear what identity the record is shooting for (it starts with a dirge), the band is funky rock outfit when playing live. Andrews stands out whether he's playing trombone, trumpet, singing or just leading the band. Andrews  pumped up the crowd throughout, leaving the stage to high-five fans and sort of stage dive, letting them pass him around over their heads as he sang, "Do to Me." He has assumed the mantle of the closing slot at Jazz Fest, and he's comfortable making it his own.

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