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Field Notes: NOLA Jazz Fest Part 1

Evan Christopher, Irvin Mayfield, Trombone Shorty and more at this must-experience festival

Trombone Shorty (left) and Dave Koz at New Orleans Jazz Fest 2012
Treme Brass Band at New Orleans Jazz Fest 2012
Treme Brass Band at New Orleans Jazz Fest 2012
Don Vappie at New Orleans Jazz Fest 2012
Slavic Soul Party! at New Orleans Jazz Fest 2012
Big Chief Monk Boudreaux at New Orleans Jazz Fest 2012
Irvin Mayfield at New Orleans Jazz Fest 2012

It’s tempting, particularly if you’ve never been, to count New Orleans’ Jazz Fest among the herd of annual warm-weather music fetes. But it’s neither a place to take the pulse of jazz at large (Newport) nor an overwhelming hodgepodge of buzzed-about rock and pop acts (Bonnaroo). Like the city of New Orleans, what Jazz Fest offers is wholly singular; also like its city, it deftly blends its party-hearty atmosphere with cultural education.

On Jazz Fest’s first weekend of two, it was business as usual with better-than-usual weather: highs in the 80s, drifting clouds to periodically hide the sun, not a drop of rain. From around 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. April 27-29, 11 show spaces boasted a peerless range of blues-derived music. Even the requisite main-stage headliners-Bruce Springsteen, in his first Jazz Fest show since his historic post-Katrina performance in 2006; Tom Petty; and the newly reunited Beach Boys, sounding curiously strong-came off as strains of Americana rather than commercial concessions.

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