>>>The Woodstock of jazz and blues
Photo: New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival

The Woodstock of jazz and blues

Every year more than half a million people come to New Orleans to be caught up with swing at its macrofestival. Over 130 artists will be taking to the stages.
M
ore than a parade of musicians, the Shell New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival is an encounter between roots and new sounds, Creole and Cajun food stalls, indigenous artists who grew up on the banks of the great Mississippi and even ghosts like Louis Armstrong. His velvety voice is always present in the streets of the French quarter where he collected scrap metal when he was a child.
The birth of the festival, like that of jazz, has its own legend. In 1970 Mahalia Jackson, also known as the queen of gospel, was in Congo Square, where slaves used to play their drums in the early days of jazz, while the Eureka Brass Band approached, followed by a crowd of people. Someone gave her a microphone and just like in a musical, she began to sing to the beat of the band. It was the first spark of a festival attended by more musicians than spectators. Now the horse racing track where the event has been held for four decades is getting too small.
The same plate of New Orleans Creole food can include crayfish, rice, Italian sausages and sweetcorn.

Creole art in New Orleans

The festival will feature the Louisiana Folklife Village pavilion where you'll really be able to see the influence of indigenous and creole art (from descendants of French and Spanish settlers) in the region's crafts, with accordions and canoes carved from cedar wood, as well as on the wrought iron bars on the balconies around the French quarter.

Pilgrims come from all corners of the world, especially from jazz meccas like New York and Chicago and where New Orleans evokes the aura of a mother who must be visited from time to time. The economic impact of the event exceeds 300 million dollars, a figure that the city anxiously awaits since hurricane Katrina flooded it in 2005, prompting almost half the population to leave.
This year the festival is being held from 22 April to 1 May and the lineup includes Stevie Wonder, Pearl Jam, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Van Morrison, Elvis Costello, Beck, Steely Dan, J. Cole and Maxwell. It’s not all about jazz; rock and pop are also invited, as well as blues, gospel, Caribbean music, rap and all the genres connected with the city’s history. The festival will have five stages and two large areas for crafts and gastronomy from the State of Louisiana.
New Orleans is the cradle of legendary musicians like Louis Armstrong, Harry Connick Jr. and Wynton Marsalis.
Photo: Ken Durden/ Shutterstock.com
There’s music outside the festival site too. New bands and experienced musicians alike take to the streets to improvise tunes with old double basses and trumpets. As always, jazz swirls around the French quarter but during the festival local musicians feel inspired and want to show they can play too. You only have to venture into places like The Spotted Cat Music Club, The Three Muses, Buffa’s Lounge and the veteran Maple Leaf Bar and the Snug Bar, the oldest and most legendary of all. There it’s all sweat, martinis and lengthy jazz sessions.
The New Orleans festival is also experienced in its bars and clubs. The Spotted Cat Music Club is one of the classic venues on Frenchmen Street.
Photo: NewOrleansOnline.com
Some people still remember when Armstrong walked these streets like an exterminating angel leading the way with his trumpet. Neither poverty nor racism nor the slavery suffered by his grandparents could ever stop him. His “What a Wonderful World” is always played at the festival like an anthem.

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