News from the Tennessee Valley Living Today
FRIDAY, MAY 11, 2007

George Plummew performs at the New Orleans Jazz Festival.
AP photo by Cheryl Gerber
George Plummew performs at the New Orleans Jazz Festival.

Jazz Fest celebrates spirit, community of New Orleans

By Lily Puckett
Special to The Daily

Picture this: Thousands of sweaty people waiting in line in 90-degree weather for tickets. Rows and rows of catered food with lines for Alligator Pie, crabmeat poboys, crawfish bread and muffaletta. Families and friends laughing, dancing, eating and parading together like they've known each other for years.

Now, listen closely for the jazz, blues and gospel music declaring with every note the Big Easy is alive and revived.

For two fantastic weekends this spring, the New Orleans Fair Grounds became the Jazz and Heritage Festival, a community within itself. Better known as Jazz Fest, this energized mix of natives and visitors is home to arguably the most unique blend of food and music in the U.S.

Van Morrison, who performed on one of the festival's 12 stages, played a duet with legendary Dr. John, blending old and new songs in what the crowd later learned was a concert Morrison promised directly after Hurricane Katrina.

Other headliners at the festival included John Mayer, Arturo Sandoval, John Legend, Jill Scott, Brad Paisley, Norah Jones, Rod Stewart, the Allman Brothers, Counting Crows, ZZ Top, Joss Stone, Steely Dan and New Orleans native Harry Connick Jr.

Even rapper Ludacris contributed to the family-friendly environment. He said he would not bring his usual vulgarity to the stage. The controversial performer kept his promise, editing distasteful language from his songs. Two stages over, Norah Jones teased the crowd by asking whether Ludacris could hear "her crowd like she could hear his." The answer was no.

The atmosphere at Jazz Fest is in control, fun-loving and spontaneous. The sunken spirits and cautionary moments so widely publicized were virtually nonexistent. The only link to Katrina at Jazz Fest was in the spirit behind the arts — the rebuilt spirit of those who truly love their city and their community.

One of the festival's traditional parades was led by an 84-year-old native. The dancing and singing leader had returned, alone, to the Ninth Ward to gut his house and move back in as soon as he was allowed.

The heavy rain in the second weekend, thought to ruin the event, was merely an excuse for patrons to crowd into the covered jazz, blues and gospel tents, or simply throw on a poncho and rid the heat for a day or two.

New Orleans is not the same New Orleans, that much is true. But the city is not defeated. This incredibly diverse and kinetic city is not run by fear or hatred. It's run by history, culture, community, love and hope. And if Jazz Fest is any indication, no amount of water could possibly drown New Orleans' spirit.

Lily Puckett is a junior and an International Baccalaureate student at Decatur High School.

Lily’s Jazz Fest music guide

Rebirth Brass Band

TBC Brass Band

Theresa Anderson Group

Burnside Exploration

CJ Chenier & The Red Hot Louisiana Band

James Carter Organ Trio


Mose Allison Trio

Richie Havens

Tab Benoit

Dr. Lonnie Smith Trio

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