They call it Jazz Fest, but really the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival is about much more than jazz – it’s a celebration of all kinds of music, food and art. The festival features food booths that serve cuisine rated very highly by festival goers, cooking demonstrations, interviews and art exhibits. For its arts displays this year, Jazz Fest mounted a major retrospective exhibition of black and white prints by the great jazz photographer, Herman Leonard.
The 2011 edition of Jazz Fest also reached out to aid Haiti, a country ravaged by a natural disaster in much the way that the event around Hurricane Katrina dealt such a heavy blow to NOLA. To honor Haiti, the Fest created a Haitian Village that included art displays and craft vendors whose sales helped support rebuilding efforts. The village’s stage highlighted Haitian artists and Wyclef Jean, the Haitian musician, record producer, and would-be candidate for Haitian President, headlined that stage the first day.
To be sure, however, music is the major focus of the festival as demonstrated by the 12 stages of near continuous music for seven days. Housed in a race track, the stages range from large to small and include three enormous tents – the huge Blues Tent, the Jazz Tent, and the Gospel Tent. Jazz Fest also uses the air conditioned interior of the grandstands as a small stage for interviews and workshops. Surprisingly, unlike many other festivals, Jazz Fest has very little sound bleed among the stages. The great lineup for the first day included performances by the popular acts, The Avett Brothers, Mumford & Sons, Jeff Beck, and Robert Plant and the Band of Joy.
Photos by Steve Hopson