May 13, 2021

2021 Brought New Orleans’ Jazz Fest to the Airwaves Again

2021 Brought New Orleans’ Jazz Fest to the Airwaves Again

Thanks to one Crescent City radio station, the annual New Orleans Jazz Festival might have looked different and sounded familiar, as per a Nola.com feature.

The appropriately-titled event, “Jazz Festing in Place” was an 8-day broadcast organized and distributed by WWOZ 90.7 FM, the community radio station operating out of the historic French Quarter district. The New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Station took it upon themselves to broadcast infamous, archival Jazz Fest performances from years past. The station broadcasted these memorable performances from 11 am-7 pm over the 8 days of April 23-26 and April 30-May 3, which was to be the originally scheduled days (and hours) of Jazz Fest.

Throughout both late April weekends, the New Orleans station played notorious festival sets from legendary headliners like Fats Domino, Professor Longhair, Trombone Shorty, Dr. John, The Radiators, The Neville Brothers,Irma Thomas, and Allen Toussaint. The broadcast’s first weekend featured recorded performances from the first-ever New Orleans Jazz Festival as the infamous Mahalia Jackson and The Meters graced the airwaves. Also from the inaugural, 1970 Jazz Fest was April 30th’s broadcasted recording of Duke Ellington and New Orleans trumpeter Al Hirt from their concert at the Municipal Auditorium.

Last year, New Orleans Mayor Latoya Cantrell inevitably announced Jazz Fest’s cancelation as a result of Louisiana’s mandated stay-at-home measures. Originally, the festival was postponed to the Fall of 2020 after Louisiana’s initial outbreak, but soon afterward, on April 14th, Mayor Cantrell announced that the city would not host any large events for the remainder of 2020. After this decision, plans were put forth to guarantee some time of Jazz Fest would occur in 2021, and WWOZ brought those plans to life.

Though it was “virtual,” the scheduling of this year’s Jazz Fest mirrored its traditional habit of saving its” heavy-hitters” for the second weekend with listeners being treated to the 1992 Carole King performance in which she brought out Guns ‘N Roses’ Slash as a surprise guest. And at end of the final Sunday of “Jazz Festing in Place,” tradition was upheld with a 2003 show from the Neville Brothers, who have a history of closing out Jazz Fest on the sunset-laden Sunday afternoon of the festival.

One of the highlights of the broadcasted event was the broadcasting of the historic Allman Brothers Band performance on the Acura Stage in 2010. The performance was heralded as a two-hour powerhouse of energy, and though only a thirty-minute excerpt of the show played on WWOZ, the complete archival recording is available for purchase at munck-music.com. The company, which sells official bootlegs of classic Jazz Fest performances, had provided several recordings used for many of the “Jazz Festing in Place” broadcasts this year.

Nola.com Staff writer Keith Spera wrote a descriptive, moment-to-moment testament to the historic Allman Brothers Band on August 25, 2010 performance by successfully recapturing the atmosphere of both the energetic audience and the packed stage that afternoon, just as the airwaves did by replaying the performance for those dancing along at home.

One specific moment from the performance, as retold by Spears via Nola.com reads, “At the outset of “Whipping Post,” Allman shed his sunglasses. The setting sun burned right into his face and eyes — the better to appreciate the song’s anguish. In “No One to Run With,” his percolating organ bumps belied the melancholy of the lyrics. He stepped out front with an acoustic guitar for “Melissa:” Behind him, Haynes carved out a solo as sharp as cut glass.”

It was the hope of WWOZ 90.7 to recapture the magic of those performances, like the Allman Brothers Band, that has been lost to time, and thanks to the available archives, thousands were able to relisten to classic “had-to-be-there” live music in a year where that’s been too far and few.

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