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New Orleans Jazz Fest — A Little Slice o’ Heaven?

neworleansjazzfestival

Forty years ago an idea was hatched that the mecca for Jazz, actually the birthplace of Jazz should have its own festival. It started from humble beginnings in the French Quarter and such luminaries as composer/conductor Duke Ellington and ragtime composer and pianist Eubie Blake played to sparse crowds.

Those were the innocent days when some folks actually attended the fest all deck out, the men in coats and ties, the women in dresses. There were only a few food booths and there were some artists and arts and crafts booths.

I didn’t get a chance to go in the beginning, heck, like most people I hardly knew it even existed. After the fest moved to the Fair Grounds is when I started to go after I had returned to the city for a time living in Los Angeles and Spain.

I remember the Fais Do Do stage with its bleachers underneath a tree and people dancing in the shade. I remember going to see the blind Doc Watson who previous to my living in Spain and playing guitar with my bluegrass banjo-playing roommate on the streets of Sevilla, I had no idea existed. Sitting on the grass just a few paces from him I revelled in his mellifluous voice and marvelled that here I sat in the presence of bluegrass royalty.

Many years ago when I was living in the wilds Washington State I started to miss my birth city and every year started making a pilgrimage home to attend Jazz Fest. I chose that over Mardi Gras.

Now that I have permanently returned I still make my pilgrimage at least one day each Jazz Fest weekend. One day a week is enough of a sensory overload for me. And of course being that I like to get my money’s worth I have to be at the Jazz Fest from 11-7 beginning to end.

Many years ago when I was still living in the northwest territory and had travelled to New Orleans for a fest weekend I can remember walking through the gate and seeing the colorful Jazz Fest archways that led onto the track and hearing the music wafting from the Jazz tent and getting a whiff of the co-mingled smells from the food booths and seeing the clear blue sky and feeling the breeze from the Gulf of Mexico as it skipped over swamps and buildings and treetops and thinking “this is the closest thing to heaven on earth.”

Posted in New Orleans Culture, New Orleans Festivals, New Orleans Jazz Festival, New Orleans Life, New Orleans Music.

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