New Orleans Wraps Up Jazz Fest With Raucous Performances

Raucous performances by New Orleans hometown hero Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews, rocker Lenny Kravitz and rising country star Kacey Musgraves closed out the 2015 on Sunday.

Photo: Gerald Herbert/AP
2015 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.

The seven-day celebration of Louisiana’s heritage features music stages dotted around the city’s fairgrounds, booths selling food and stalls showing art and handicrafts.

Kravitz, hot off his 2014 album Strut and roles in the “Hunger Games” movie franchise, might be the headliner at most music festivals. But in a city where jazz reigns supreme, Trombone Shorty and his Orleans Avenue band closed out the main stage.

Even before his set, Trombone Shorty came out to perform a few songs with Kravitz. The two have a connection. Trombone Shorty performed in Kravitz’s horn section on a 2005-2006 tour.

“We love you New Orleans. I love you New Orleans!” Trombone Shorty shouted to the crowd gathered under the hot sun. He later came out to do an encore – New Orleans Saints quarterback, Drew Brees in tow – singing “When the Saints Go Marching In.”

Trombone Shorty’s music incorporates various musical styles from New Orleans – jazz, gospel and R&B – along with hip-hop and rock.

“I love this city because of the music,” said Jerica Snyder, attending her second Jazz Fest since moving to New Orleans. “We love Trombone.”

Closing out the Jazz & Heritage Stage was the Stooges Brass Band, headed by band leader Walter Ramsey, an institution in the New Orleans music scene.

Speaking to The Associated Press ahead of the festival, Ramsey said it’s an opportunity for local residents to see national artists and for visitors to experience the city’s music, culture and food.

“That’s the importance of Jazz Fest to me,” he said.

Every year, concert organizers highlight a specific country or cultural institution. This year it was the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts, a high school for the arts that’s marking its 40th anniversary this year.

The school’s graduates include Ramsey, Terence Blanchard, and Wynton and Branford Marsalis. Students and recent grads such as Sasha Masakowski performed throughout the day at the NOCCA Pavilion.

Masakowski and fellow NOCCA grad, Cliff Hines, sang songs from their new, art rock album titled Hildegard. Masakowski said the title was both her middle name and the name of a female German composer, Hildegard von Bingen.

“NOCCA encourages you to feel comfortable as a performer and with your own sound,” said Masakowski, speaking after her show.

The next generation of musical talent also was on display in the Zatarain’s/WWOZ Jazz Tent.

Jason Marsalis, his father Ellis Marsalis and brothers Wynton, Branford and Delfeayo are often referred to as the city’s first family of jazz.

Telling the crowd that he had been fortunate enough to play with his father when he was young, Jason Marsalis called to the stage his 10-year-old daughter. She played the piano for a song.

Photo: Gerald Herbert/AP

Other acts performing Sunday included country singer Kasey Musgraves. She wore blue cowboy boots and a white skirt and vest while she sang “Step Off” and “It Is What It Is.”

Jazz Fest is not just a musical celebration – it’s about food as well. But the food went far beyond the standards of pizza and hamburgers. Festival-goers noshed on Louisiana delicacies – made by local restaurants and caterers – such as spinach artichoke casserole, creole sweet potato pone and BBQ brisket sandwiches.

“The food here is just incredible,” said Terryl Simeina who was eating jambalaya and fried chicken while his friends watched Lenny Kravitz. “It is really, really good stuff.”