The culture sprawl that is the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival came to a close May 7, putting a lid on seven full days of music programming spread across genres including (but hardly limited to) jazz, blues, Cajun, zydeco, rock, pop, bounce and hip-hop. A handful of this year’s headliners returned to, as Stevie Wonder put it, “fulfill [the] promise” of their scheduled performances from 2016, when storms washed out multiple days of the event. They were mostly treated to temperate breezes and blue skies, while crowds meandered among the wide swath of options across 12 stages. As is often the case, many of the Fest’s highlights came courtesy of New Orleans natives.
Though his usual Jazz Tent set was axed this year, saxophonist Edward “Kidd” Jordan brought his horn and keyboardist Darrell Lavigne to his interview at the Allison Miner Music Heritage Stage, where he offered insights into his improvising approach and technique. At one point, a cell phone went off in the audience. Immediately, Jordan’s horn went to his mouth to create a series of warm blues figures, riffing on the iPhone’s “blues piano” ring. “Ya got me runnin’,” he sang with a laugh before working his way up to a series of high-register chirps (“that came from practicing with the birds in the trees,” he later explained). Things got frenetic quickly, with Jordan’s horn skittering ahead of Lavigne’s keys that jumped in to accompany him. Delivering high-voltage phrases that contrasted and then combined with what his keyboardist was doing, Jordan eventually worked his way back to the blues that had inspired him. “See, that’s what jazz is about,” he said.