The Jazzfest in New Orleans, intended to revive the sodden spirits of the land of legendary jazz greats, went off, oddly enough, with comparatively little jazz. There was, in conspicuous unlikelihood, Bruce Springsteen, who did manage a soulful rendition of When the Saints Go Marching In. Also on hand was the legendary jazz performer Elvis Costello.
While all the misplaced rockers do come as a wakeup call to the people who expect the Jazzfest to feature jazz, the sad truth is that jazz hasn’t been the leading act in New Orleans, or anywhere else in the lower 48, since Bill Haley and the Comets strolled around Preservation Hall, thumping out Rock Around the Clock, ratcheting up that old backbeat rhythm in the first verifiable intrusion of rock and roll into the sensibilities of the former comparatively civilized ears of now extensively deaf humanity.
Of course, there were some performers with a tad of credibility toward the appellation of jazz artist, such as verifiable regulars Dr. John and Allan Toussaint.
It’s time deal with the indisputable encumbrance that we’re living in an age when the big music stars are not, despite their passing pretensions, exponents of the jazz mode, except perhaps in the persona of the skillful New Yorker trumpeter, Wynton Marsalis. The giants of jazz, from raspy voiced trumpeter Louis Armstrong to smoothly elegant pianist Bill Evans, have long been sleeping in the arms of time.
The truth of music in New Orleans has for many years been in the sound of music one hears when he or she strolls through the fabled French Quarter. They have been, not the lilting lines of jazz, but the raucous thumps of rock.
Since popular music is unlikely to return to those golden days of yore, it seems that the least irritating way to return consonance to the Jazzfest is simply to rename it the Musicfest.
Then, while our ears might be just as troubled, at least our minds could ease off the incongruity that persists in troubling them.